By Mike V.Derderian
Ever wandered off into a closet? I mean can’t you remember the dark and stuffy atmosphere of that place where an 8-year-old child so often finds refuge in. The place where the spicy aroma of old leather blends with the dry smell of fabric as your nose gently brushes with the dusty surfaces of the hanging clothes. You can barely move an inch; yet, you enjoy every minuet’s stay in that shadowy secluded place where one’s vivid imagination slowly brews.
For a child like John, the upper cabinet was always the best hiding place. No one would expect that he, “the little rascal”, had climbed all the way to the top and managed to lock himself up in the upper bin.
Cowering himself like a frightened porcupine, both feet up, leaning on the cabinet’s sidewall and arms above his head, which is safely tacked between the ankles, John’s mind begins to wander off into another place.
Imagine what would happen if he finds a trap door, behind the cramped cloths, that leads to another parallel world? A place called Narnia. Sadly, as the years passed by John grew bigger and bigger, thus, he no longer could fit into the closet. The magical world, where he happily dwelled in with his imaginary friends, soon vanished without a trace into Shadowlands and was completely forgotten.
You might ask: what exactly am I talking about? Well, if you haven’t guessed then you have never been a child in the true sense of the word.
Other than eluding a beating by angry parents for suspecting that their dear child was smoking in the bathroom despite the fact that the latter did it, a youngster finds his way inside a wardrobe seeking a magical world like the one created by Clive Staples Lewis.
The 1993 Shadowlands directed by Richard Attenborough is about C.S. Lewis’s life and the true magical moments he’d experienced with Joy Gresham in their short-lived romance.
Based on William Nicholson own play and screenplay, the film chillingly transmits the angst a renowned author such as Lewis would experience despite of his reputation as an eloquent public speaker.
Thanks to Sir Anthony Hopkins (the man who gave evil a new look: intelligent and calm, yet scary like-hell—Hannibal the cannibal in Silence of the Lambs) the film is given that dose of Hopkins charisma and magic that easily fuses with C.S. Lewis’s own. At one point of the film one would think that Lewis was actually more like Anthony Hopkins.
Apposite Hopkins’s reserved portrayal of Lewis, Debra Winger provides the sultry and passionate element in the film through her portrayal of Gresham, an American fan of Lewis, who later becomes his love interest.
Also costarring in the film were Edward Hardwicke, John Wood and Joseph Mazzello, who played the role of Douglas Gresham, Joy’s only son and a big fan of Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles.
Lewis who is known among his closer circle of friends by the name Jack is a prominent Oxford teacher, the kind of man who finds himself more eloquent in writing and conducting public lectures and less in confiding his personal emotions to those surrounding him.
That will all change with the arrival of Cresham and Dougals into Jack’s emotion-free solitary life despite of his sharing a house with his brother Warnie (Hardwicke).
Attenborough’s opening sequence of the film is simply benign, for its places the viewer amidst a world we fail to recognize as worldly or capture with our own eyes—the world of early morning shadows.
Lewis lives within the boundaries of his own shadows, secluded in a zone so impenetrable that the only light which escapes its darkness is the one coming out of his writings, morals and teachings.
The only thing he fails to attain and express is unconditional love in fear that he would re-experience the pain resulting from his mother’s death at the age of nine. However, as Joy puts it, “We can’t have the happiness of yesterday without the pain of today. That’s the deal.”
Despite of the film’s slow pace in relation to character development, Shadowlands is a great film that allows us to scour deep into the human soul that we so often lack and witness how our own personal experiences in life qualifies us all as writers.
“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret, and would have been ashamed of being found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up,” wrote Lewis in 1952 On Three Ways of Writing for Children.
C.S Lewis Chronicles of Narnia that was written over fifty years ago will soon hit the big screen with the adaptation of the first of the chronicle’s books, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
Lewis wrote six more Narnia books, which according to those who read them are similar in fantasy and magic to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and J.K Rollings’s Hary Potter, so if I were you, I’d stock up some Narnia Chronicles.
Shadowlands is a philosophical film that brings into question the complicated relationship of love and existence, reminding us that life is better shared with a person you love.
The best scene in the film is near the end when both Jack and Douglas go up the attic and sit opposite the magical wardrobe to only experience an emotional breakdown having shared the loss of a loved one, where Douglas first went up when he and his mother visited Lewis’ home to make sure that the wardrobe is real.