samedi 15 octobre 2011

Oh my, what a difference!

Going from Prince Caspian by C S Lewis to Prince Caspian by Walden media is like going very much further than Electra from Choephoroi.

In CSL, Lucy is having visions, like Lucy of Fatima, later sister Lucy. She is having visions and all the trouble the Fatima children had of making heavenly orders heard by the concerned. Film makers reduced that to a moment or two that the public never sees as a vision, and a dream that she wakes up from. That is about as far more human far less divine action than the novel as Electra is less divine and more human than Choephoroi.

But, apart from a humanistic undevout angle, Sophocles respects the stages of the plot in Aeschyl. Not so Adamson with C S Lewis.

Let us forget all and sundry changes in story line, and look at how Telmarines are protrayed, I am quoting wikipedia, that is information from consecutive as good as anonymous contributors, but the article has a good deal of fottnotes to links, I think it might be trusted:

The filmmakers interpreted the Telmarines, including Caspian, as being Spanish because of their pirate origins, which producer Mark Johnson noted made Caspian "a contrast to the lily-white [Pevensies]".[60] Production designer Roger Ford originally wanted the Telmarines to be French, as they had a confrontational history with the English, who are represented by the Pevensies. This was scrapped as the crew were unable to shoot at Pierrefonds Castle, for Miraz's lair, so they went for the Spanish feel.[61] Weta Workshop created masked helmets for their army, and faceplates for the live horses on set. The stunt soldiers wield two-hundred polearms in two different styles, two-hundred rapiers of varying design, over a hundred falchions, two-hundred and fifty shields and fifty-five crossbows. Caspian's own sword is a variation of the Royal Guard's weapons.[59] Costume designer Isis Mussenden looked to the paintings of El Greco to inspire the Telmarines' costumes.[51] She wanted to use colours that looked "acidic and hot and cool at the same time", unlike the red and gold seen in the Narnian soldiers.[31] Their masked helmets are based on conquistadors and samurai.[62] She visited the armour archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for inspiration.[35] An eagle emblem was incorporated into the characters' lairs to make them feel fascist.[63]

Skin colour can go, no problem. The Pirates took native women. That would make Telmarines a European with South Sea mixed race, no problem, no offense, nothing wrong if a little darker. But the story is so reminiscent of Pitcairn, I find it hard to believe C S Lewis must have excluded English from the role as pirates. I mean, being Irish, though an Oxford man, he might have seen in some moods English as such.

Conquistador cruelty in Perú or Mexico has very little to do with Telmarine idiocy, superstition, and cruelty against Narnians. It has nothing to do with pirate origins - remember Telmarines descend like pirates from the South Sea - either.

Fascism - especially Spanish such - is very unlike the mood of the Telmarines.* I mean Cara al Sol as sung by Franco's men means they were looking forward to peace, not just to extermination of anyone or anything. And to dying with honour, if they die before the end of the war, not just serving the general for fear. They were, often enough, defending someone against getting killed by the reds. Telmarines, now there is traditional animosity, a bit like between the two sides of the Irish conflict (that has been going on between Battle of the Boyne and Good Friday agreement, some three hundred years), and there is also Miraz' tyranny.

The fact that C S Lewis did not get that point about Spanish fascism* - confer JRRT's letter about Roy Campbell and Spanish War - does not mean C S Lewis based Miraz (though the name is a Spanish place name, and the acors in the film use the spanish name's accent, on final syllable!) on Spanish contemporary history. I mean, he was not the kind of writer to be overly topical on recent newslines. And he does not - apart from Miraz, which is a Spanish name, but not a very typical such any more than a typical Telmarine onegive them names like Caspiano or Caspián, but rather Caspian, with a clearly English tilt of the accent, though syllables may have been chosen in Spanish-French style.

The closer model for Miraz' tyranny are more like the Communist take overs in Eastern Europe leading up to the Cold War. OK, Miraz was hereditary monarch, but Communism had its personal cult too. It is very much a remake of Peter the Great's monarchy with "rational" reforms. A "rationality" that does not square with believing in God and Jesus Christ (Communist case), or in Aslan. A "rationality" that does not square with being fair to the other side, but blackwashes it (Chesterton said whitewashing may be ok, provided there had arguably been a blackwashing), a "rationality" that does not square with being true to history, either national or personal:

And the history in the textbooks was as boring as the most truthful history you know, and as made up as the most exciting story you ever read.

That was a history lesson, going on in the book version - i e the original - of Prince Caspian. The scene ends with the school mistress being turned into a tree and the school girls getting a holiday, along with Bacchus and Silenus. In the film, satyrs were only there to be a feature in battle scenes, Bacchus and Silenus were gone.

Indoctrinating false history was indeed as much a Communist as a Miraz priority, and so was - therefore obviously - school compulsion. In Telmarine Narnia, there being no industrialism that made very young apprentices very unpractical in very many and especially big workplaces, and therefore the need to keep school age children somewhere else than in liberty, the only applicable motive for enforcing school obligation was thus indoctrination. In Communism school obligation was enforced also in rural areas, showing it was their chief motive. By contrast, Fascist Spain and Italy come across as pretty free countries in this respect: there was no compulsary school under Franco (I had blamed him for enforcing a school obligation on children of the beaten side, thus humiliating them, but in reality if they did want their children to be proud of them having fought for Azaña, they had no obligation to send them to Franco's and the Church's schools), and in Italy at least it was not very much applied under Mussolini.

Miraz after murdering his brother Caspian IX, like the Communist new rulers, also felt a sting about just criticism from just people - so much that both resorted to sham trials. Aloizije Stepinac was found guilty of forcing Serbian Orthodox priests to convert to Catholicism or else kill them - although the Franciscan heading Jasenovac was in fact excommunicated both by Franciscan order and by Roman Catholic Church and Stepinac was not at all giving him any orders. The sham trials under Stalin are another example, though there I do not know who were the victims, except they included Communists who had remained enthusiastic for Stalin's previous plan or for the plan previous to Stalin. No one is to my knowledge even pretending that Franco, when trying people for war crimes like Paracuellos massacres or Carcel Modelo massacres or raping nuns or pillaging Churches was conducting sham trials. These facts are pretty acknowledged on the other side too.

Danger and tyranny do come in many varieties, and replacing one variety with another completely changes the atmosphere. When King Solomon's Mines the book by Rider Haggard had a long dark suffocation threatening and the film replaced this with a more urgent volcanic eruption, this annoyed C S Lewis so much. The tyranny of Miraz is not the same kind of tyranny. C S Lewis was not concerned so much with militaristic tyranny as with lying, sham trials, indoctrination of school boys, lack of civil courage becoming a condition for survival. And though Miraz is contributing to that by being thin skinned about truth, he is not the only one. In the film, he comes out as the chief reason for the rule of treason over reason. In the book there were such a lot of Iagos, not unlike the abetters of Henry VIII and Elizabeth during the Reformation and loot of Church property. Or, of course, Communist politruks. Or, again, Nazis, who were in that respect closer to Communist mores than to Spanish fascism (confer "Night of the Long Knives" 1934 in Germany - which has parallels as bloody in Soviet Russia, but not anymore than peaceful régime shifs - within Franquismo - between 1939 and 1975 in Spain).

Soldiers in the books are pragmatics. Soldiers in the film are bossed about in a way reminiscent of Hollywood filmography featuring WW-2 Wehrmacht or SS soldiers.

Miraz in the film is less of a Communist and more of a Fascist. He is also more lovable in the film than in the book - unlike most other characters. His wrath in the film version is snappy, and a version of his general poisonous attitude. In the book, he merely becomes furious when deciding to take the duel. In the film he "rails" in the French and probable older English sense of "railler" - taunt. In the book he really rails in the modern English sense close to "râler" (I have spelled it rale, believing this to be the real spelling) - lose one's temper and start cussing. In the book also, King Edmund is not one taunting him with cowardice without saying the word, he is taunted by only his own, who have planned to have him killed (really or apparently in the duel) and break the promise to the Narnians.

Caspian has arguably suffered more than any other character. There is the scene where he wants Miraz to tell the truth - in the book he is informed about it by Dr Cornelius - and there is the quarrel with High King Peter (tranferred from a lesser quarrel between Trufflehunter and Nikabrik in the book, whether Caspian was good or bad at commanding, and the Pevensies had no part in the failed battle). There is also a longer hesitation on his part before rejecting the Witch-Craft offered by Nikabrik's "friends".

A kind of flirting with Queen Susan - less to her credit than to his - debases his marital fidelity in the future romance with Ramandu's daughter. Narnian or Narnian English couples, where both names are known, are totally faithful ones, though not necessarily quarrelfree: Digory and Polly, Shasta and Aravis, Caspian and Ramandu's daughter, Mr and Mrs Beaver, Frank and Helen - the "Adam and Eve" of the Narnian world, nearly - none reconstituted couples. Even in respect to mere romance. Not even an Eowyn loving Aragorn before meeting Faramir in sight. Film makers blew that. Not that Anne Applewell and Ben Barnes are not pretty, but actually they are too old for the roles in Prince Caspian. If Lucy was 9 in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, she was 10 in Prince Caspian. Georgie Henley was 10 in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and 13 - probably the precise age of Queen Susan, or even High King Peter - in Prince Caspian. Peter and Susan actors were too old already in the first cast. Caspian became that too.

In the Dawn Treader we should be meeting Edmund age thirteen and Lucy age 12 taking a farewell from the Narnian world. Aslan is basically telling them, once they get back they must get going to Catechism and meet Him again in the Eucharist (if they had been Roman Catholics after Pope Pius X, this scenario would not have made sense, but Anglican and Lutheran Protestants generally approach the altar when leaving childhood, unlike Romans now, who do it when entering school age, or Greeks and Russians, who do it right after Baptism, as eight day old babies). Hence, Peter 14 and Susan 13 would be the right age for Prince Caspian. In the film, the two and Prince Caspian and Edmund are closer to full grown young adults, with Lucy 13.

Here, as with abolition of the two school scenes - the one alluded to and the mistress plagued by idiotic and ill behaved school boys - we face a Hollywood with mores relating to childhood, school age, quite other and more responsabilist than those of C. S. Lewis.

Could it have something to do with a Red Star over Hollywood? More probably, the Hollywood sense of ethics is ingrained so much that it is shared by even "Conservative Christians" over there, by now. Although the real conservative Christian was C. S. Lewis.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Georges Pompidou library
16th of October, Sunday
Memory of Queen Marie-Antoinette
Year of Our Lord 2011

*This malpractise of adopting children away against their parents wishes without their knowledge is of course very much more like Miraz. It also involves Apostasy on part of Catholic religious (at least from Christian morals, since the commandment says "thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother" - as in thy own, not someone else). But it originates from well after the properly so called fascist period of Franco, I hope. It is probably taken over from Argentina or Chile, when Franco was looking abroad for inspirations relating to Hispanidad ...

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