In 1990, the BBC produced a film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, the fourth installment of the Chronicles of Narnia (or 6th , if one is reading them in chronological order). Though the special effects are obviously less convincing than what CGI can now do, 20 years later, the film’s greatest asset is that it remains remarkably faithful to Lewis’ book.
Although Walden Media’s 2005 release of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was a success, Prince Caspian didn’t succeed as well either commercially or critically. The most common criticism is that it departed far too much from the book. Let us hope that Hollywood’s version of The Silver Chair, which is tentatively scheduled for 2012 follows in BBC’s footsteps and sticks with the book.
The BBC film stars Camilla Power as Jill Pole, David Thwaites as Eustace Scrubb, and Tom Baker as Puddleglum the Marshwiggle. Not being able to stand the bullies at their school a moment longer, Eustace and Jill long to visit the land of Narnia (which Eustace visited the previous summer with his cousins, Edmund and Lucy). They call on Aslan, the Great Lion who rules Narnia, and find themselves mysteriously in a new world moments later, discovering that, though it appeared they’d initiated the entrance to the magic land, Aslan himself had called the children for a special purpose. “You wouldn’t have called for me if I hadn’t been calling for you,” Aslan tells Jill (a profound illustration of the Biblical doctrine of predestination).
It turns out the mission Aslan has for Jill and Eustace is to find Prince Rilian, the long lost son of King Caspian. On their quest, they are joined by Puddleglum, the “eternally cheerful pessimist.” Though constantly expecting the worst, Puddleglum is actually very brave and noble, and if not for him, Prince Rilian would’ve never been rescued.
One of the most moving times of the story is when the heroes finally do come upon Prince Rilian (but they do not yet know it is him). He’s in an enchanted chair, from which he cannot get up. Shortly before sitting in the chair, he’d warned the children that he was about to have a mad spell where he completely lost himself. The chair would keep him bound and it was imperative that, no matter how much he pled, the children not unloose him—if unloosed, he would turn into a serpent and kill them all. In reality, the “mad spell” was his rare moment of sanity—he’d been bewitched by an evil sorceress, intent on destroying Narnia and ruling it herself.
Aslan had given Jill a list of “signs” to look out for, things that would help them complete their task. The final sign was to obey the first person they met on their journey who asked them to do something in Aslan’s name. When Prince Rilian implores the children to release him “in the name of Aslan”, the children are torn—this is Aslan’s sign, but what if they release him and then are eaten by the serpent he becomes? Is it safe? Here Puddleglum comes in with one of the most moving lines of the story: Aslan never told us what would happen if we obeyed the signs. Maybe we will die, but it’s still better to obey and die than to disobey Aslan. A very poignant portrait of what it means to obey Christ, even when it is costly.
Not to spoil the ending, but know that all turns out well in the end (except for the witch). Fans of Narnia will enjoy this film, and even if you’re unacquainted with Lewis’ Chronicles, it’s still sure to entertain. The acting is solid, so much so that audiences will be able to overlook the fact that Aslan, Glimfeather the owl, and other characters are “puppets”, not real animals.
To learn more about this film, click here.
· Looking for C.S. Lewis books and don’t know where to start? Check out the bookstore at Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church. For more information, call 601-353-8316.