As my family, friends, and I walked out of Theater #10 of our local multiplex cinema last night, through the hallway that would take us to the lobby and out the front doors, I was quiet. I frankly didn't know what to say. I was thinking too much and I was feeling too much for me to be able to identify any one thing to articulate.
I had, in fact, sat mostly in silence while watching The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, various reactions washing over me as its classic story, with a few alterations, unfolded.
The first time I saw the beautifully-animated Aslan emerge from his tent and noticed the breeze catch hold of his glorious golden mane, a chill overtook me, every hair on my arms seeming to stand in awed attention, and tears came to my eyes.
Smiles and laughter inevitably rose in me when characters joked about commonplace things like a husband's expanding waistline. This movie is seasoned with generous, gracious humor.
Tears came again as I watched Aslan, the great Lion, give his life on the Stone Table for the once-treacherous Edmund.
I felt the same pang of sadness registering on the faces of Tumnus and Lucy as, shortly after the latter's coronation as one of Narnia's royal persons, they watched Aslan walk away, remembering that while Aslan wasn't a tame lion, he was good.
And as I watched the movie's final scene, I found myself yearning, like Lucy and Professor Kirk, to go to Narnia, not for Narnia itself, but for the chance that I too might encounter Aslan, the beautifully-wrought version of Christ created by writer C.S. Lewis in the seven books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia.
It's a yearning that fairly approximates the intense, soul-deep desire that literally haunts me every day of my life that I may one day see my Savior Jesus face-to-face, although like the characters in Lewis' wonderful books, I know that when I do finally gaze at Jesus, I'll feel overwhelming fear as well as overwhelming love until the moment I hear Him say to me, "Peace" and a pure love, unlike anything I've yet experienced in this life, will flood my being.
While those who brought The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to the screen have made a number of changes in the telling of the story, none of its substance has been altered. (If you would like a more literal dramatic adaptation of the books, I advise listening to these CDs, to which I've listened many times. But of course, nothing can replace reading the original books by Lewis who, a professor of English at Ohio State once told me, wrote "like an angel.")
One of the most interesting additions the film makes to the story is its prelude, showing us something of the lives of the four English children who are the book's main characters just prior to their being sent to the country to avoid the German aerial bombardments of World War Two London. Later, in a Medieval-like battle scene, Peter, the oldest of the four children, soon to be enthroned High King of Narnia, uses talking birds to drop stones on his charging enemies, looking like the bombers we saw pictured at the movie's beginning.
The film though, is true to the book. It remains, in the hands of the filmmakers, a story of good versus evil; of redemption; of the importance for people of action to rely on Someone greater than themselves; and of unexpected, undeserved, unmatched, inexplicable grace.
The film is, in short, a moving adaptation of one of the greatest works in literature. I don't throw around superlative accolades, but I believe that it's destined to be regarded as a classic.
Even now words fail me in describing this film, though. Let me tell you instead what happened in that hallway as we left the theater. Several of our group and others around us were sharing their reactions to the film, when my wife turned to me and asked, "Well, Mark, what did you think?"
I tried to speak. But to my surprise, I began to weep. I was embarrassed, but the tears kept coming. Finally, all I could say, almost in a whisper, was, "It's beautiful. It's just so beautiful."