Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Those names, those perfect little names...

I have loved the movie so much that I can’t write straight. Words are just tumbling out from everywhere and there’s no reason, really, to hold them back. Yes, the outcome is a bit chaotic but what the hell? It’s not everyday that a film like this gets made.

‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ is the most exquisite, delicious, scrumptious swirl of an adventure with chopped bits of mesmerism and dollops of pounding drama.

I want to remember everything about this movie and remember it forever. Every single moment that I sat through was filled with that tremble that you can only feel as a child about to embark on something new and happy – like getting home to read a new book or putting sparkly stickers on a letter to a pen-friend, or finally eating a huge bowl of jelly and ice-cream.

There is something ageless about innocence. The excitement of a child that is so piquant and dreamy at the same time. ‘The Chronicles..’ captures that essence very artfully. You first hear the footfalls of adventure when the children decide to play hide and seek one rainy afternoon. And after that, it’s just a dazzling ride.

The littlest child hides in a wardrobe swathed in fur coats. She moves back one step at a time, pushing through one coat after another. Finally, she stumbles and falls into the white, white world of snow.

What is remarkable is that the sequence of a child moving through fur coats and falling into winter wonderland is repeated four times – once with each child. And with each child, you see that world anew.

Equally impressive is the way snow is used in the adventure’s landscape. To show a fantasy – a pristine world cloaked in lyrical phantasmagoria (a poem by C.S.Lewis, by the way), there is gentle snowfall. To show the evil spell of a witch, there is a vista of cemented snow. To show the extreme ‘take no hostages’ sentiment in the confrontation scenes, there is ice.

And the drama is…what can I say, pulmonary.

The way the perfect piece of Turkish delight squishes in Ed’s fingers when he has it. I was licking my lips rather noticeably then.

Or the way the music swells when Aslan, the lion, makes his very first appearance.

In fact, when the witch’s wolf pounces on Ed (who has mistaken it for a statue), my heart just leaped to the right and then skipped back in place.

And then there’s the stunning scene when the witch freezes the creatures to death. That’s awesome.

Try not to feel something when Aslan walks to his sacrifice amidst trolls and ogres, when he lies helplessly as they pull off his mane. Try not to feel something when the armies confront each other at battle. The drums roll and the witch’s army rush forward – the giants, cheetahs, gnomes, and other bodies of distorted strength. Peter raises his sword to beckon the falcons and the sky is filled with spans of birds carrying rocks. Just try not to feel anything then. Just try.

And the exquisite part is how you get that ‘dream within a dream’ feeling. Fantasy and reality segue seamlessly. You’re left in that haze you feel when you’ve napped for a long time and you don’t know whether it’s still afternoon or night.

But verily, absolutely, completely, most of all, is the impeccable choice of names. ‘Peter’, ‘Susan’, ‘Edmond’, and ‘Lucy’ – just the proper names for regular kids who could have extraordinary turns of events one rainy afternoon.

Then there’s ‘Jadis’ – perfect moniker for this icy cruel witch who swans around in glacial splendor wearing gowns worthy to be seen in Academy Awards.

And ‘Aslan’ – quiet, deep, roaring magnificence. Aslan – see how proud and refined it sounds?

Finally there’s ‘Narnia’. I’m reminded of this bit in West Side Story where the boy falls in love with Maria. He sings, ‘Maria – you say it loudly and you hear music there; you say it softly and it sounds like a prayer.

Narnia – so bejeweled a name. It’s the name of a dominion for which pride would clash with power. It sounds like the muted descent of a snowflake that would get fixed on a girl’s eyelashes. Narnia – this place wouldn’t have legends or stories or myths or tales. It would have ‘chronicles’.

Narnia. Narnia. Narnia. You say it and you feel your voice getting italicized.

Narnia. Sigh! Narnia.


Ashish Gupta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ashish Gupta said...

consider writing (movie) reviews? You are gonna get paid handsomely :D

you are making me hunt for the movie!! nice to read abt it. I hope it will be equally splendiferous to watch!

Nonentity said...

yeah! it was nice. but i missed all the emotions with my eyes, ears, and all other senses watching, looking out for my own little ogre running around in the wide, dark, open spaces of the hall. :)

my best scene: when they all grow up. peter looks out of this world. that handsome, handsome face with the blonde beard. did you see the similarity with aslan's mane?

Anonymous said...

Well, the way u have reviewed the movie is just amazing. U are definitely gifted when it comes to writing. Ur review has definitely prompted me to go and watch this movie.
I really look forward to reading ur posts.


Red said...

Perhpas I am hyper sensitive but the heavy Judeo-Christian preaching got a tad boring in the end. I loved the books though

Anonymous said...

Nice review but wish you had stressed a bit on the Christian preaching that the movie tries to portray. The books that Lewis wrote themselves were always seeped in deep Christian propaganda which the movie tried to curb but still comes out at a lot of places.

Mukta said...

Hi Ashish,

Thank you! 'Paid handsomely', eh? Well, that bit makes me consider anything. But actually, I don't know how good a reviewer I would be since I mostly like whatever I watch. Do let me know if you liked the film. A lot of people haven't. :-)

Hello NON!

Hmmph! I read that the ogre won a gold medal in a race and why wasn't I told? You may remember that the ogre used to run about with me while you sauntered around like a Brazilian on a beach. Really! But no. I had not noticed the Aslan mane resemblance. Thanks for bringing it to my notice! :-) Kindly write. Many thanks.

Hi Sachin,

Thank you but again, watch the film and let me know whether you liked it. I definitely want to know how many people share my tastes in movies. :-)

Hi Red,

I haven't read the books. I suppose I was so taken in with the visuals and phonetic that I skipped right over the Judeo - Christian bits.

Hi Anonymous,

I'll pay more attention in the future. Usually, if I like one thing then I get all glowing and effisive about it blacking out everything else. I'm not much of a reviewer, really, as you can tell. he he! :-)

Tafosi said...

I can sense your passion as I read this. I read the book for the first time 7 years ago. At that time, I was desparate for someone to come along and make a movie on the series. Unfortunately, after that, Lord Of The Rings happened and the world of fantasy cinema was forever altered. Narnia suffers terribly from this comparison. It is still a splendid series and the film-makers worked really hard. But that charm was missing. Make no mistake though, I will still be there on the first day to see Prince Caspian.

Mukta said...

Hi Tafosi,

I must read the book now! Hmm, it seems to me you've read the book more than once. :-)

Ashish Gupta said...

Nopes i haven't watched the movie.
have mid terms round the corner - will catch the movie sometime late in feb or march. thanks for the suggestion.

when it comes to movies I go by word of mouth followed by ratings@imdb ;-)

Nandhu said...

Chronicles of Narnia
The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe

C.S. Lewis along with J R R Tolkein are the two authors who hugely influenced fantasy writing in the 20th century. Peter Jackson's adaptation of Lord of The Rings (LOTR) has now become the standard against which all such fantasy films will be measured in the near future. This first film in the Narnia series is in many ways more difficult to visualise than LOTR, especially because a large number of live action scenes have to be mixed with animation.
Narnia was released by Disney amid a lot of hype about its allegorical content. But kids unaware of its sublime messages and intellectual baggage are the ones most likely to enjoy the movie.
I haven't read the book, but some of the background against which the kids' passage to Narnia is set is in more detail in the film than in the book, apparently. Four children of the Pevensie family of London are packed off to the countryside when Germany begins the bombing of the city during World War II. Jim Broadbent appears early in the film in the role of the children's professor uncle who owns a large mansion full of empty spaces into which the children move in. Old, mellow and kind hearted, this is a role Broadbent can now perform with his eyes closed. And he seems the only one initially to believe in Narnia ironically when Susan and Peter - the two older kids - are disinclined to believe in Lucy's tale of the world hidden in the wardrobe. Edmund, meanwhile, is already caught up in the battle between good and evil.
Lucy's passage into Narnia, the first of the memorable scenes in the movie, is captured in a series of breathtaking shots. A promise is made here to reveal a new land of wonder and magic, but then that is reneged. The children's search for Mr Tumnus and Edmund, both captured by the White Witch, especially the run through the tunnels and the snow-capped cliffs, is too much like LOTR. Lucy's scenes with Tumnus are some of best in the movie, the two really playing off each other.
The children finally find Aslan, flowing mane, a deep voice (Liam Neeson) and all, just as he is trying to regain Narnia from the White Witch who has banished the land to an everlasting winter. His death, I thought came too quick, just a few scenes after we get to see him for the first time. It's a bit like there is lot of talk of Aslan in the first half and then he appears and is almost as quickly knocked off.
Nevertheless, his sacrifice is superbly shot and performed in the scene that Tilda Swinton is really at her evil best and delivers probably the film's best lines. Compared to that, Aslan's lines, if I may call them that, are really lame.
Georgie Henley potrayal of Lucy is rivetting. She is not very pretty, but is cute. She tramples on the snow rather than walk on it. It's a restrained performance far better than any other on screen. The only who actually holds his own against Georgie is Skandar Keynes, partly because his conflict between the Witch's tempting offer and the good within him is so ingrained into the movie. His weakness for sweets, the gleam in his eye as he yearns for power, his bitterness in being separated from his father, Keynes really bites into whatever potential the role offers. Compared to the performances from the younger kids, the older ones played by Anna Popplewell and William Moseley are trite.
The battle scenes are not much of an improvement from Braveheart. It's hard to explain what could have been done better though.
I watched the movie in a theatre full of adults who seemed to be tremendously enjoying the movie and ultimately I believe this is the greatest success of the film: To make something which children see one way and the adults another.