Author Archives: oresen

C.S. Lewis on War

As we commemorate today what is known in various parts of the world as Veterans Day, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day (a celebration of the end of World War I and a time to reflect on the sacrifices of all soldiers), it seems fitting to take some time to consider what C.S. Lewis, a man who served in both World Wars, thought on the topic of war. This is especially fitting in as we look back on the centenary since the start of the first World War.

By Oresen

CS Lewis is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His wise mind and linguistic skill have garnered a following of millions of readers around the world even today. As such, it is no surprise that many have wondered what his views on war were.

There is no shortage of places where we can find war in his writings and from which we can draw reasonable conclusions on what he thought about war. We will focus on just two examples, and briefly discuss certain passages and themes within them. However, first it is important to note Lewis’ background as a British soldier.

Lewis was conscripted as a 19-year old and stationed in France during WWI. He survived it with only a shrapnel wound to his chest, but the experience was nonetheless horrible. [1] He described it as memories of

the smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of sheer earth without a blade of grass, the boots worn day and night till they seemed to grow to your feet. [2]

He then served in WWII, but this time domestically as a Home Guard at Oxford. [1] How then did Lewis’ opinions, having experienced first-hand two World Wars, manifest themselves in his books?

About a third of the way through The Screwtape Letters, an experienced demon, Screwtape, mentors a newbie, Wormwood, on how to use a new, upcoming “European war”; Lewis meant WWII.

Consider whether we should make the patient [a young Christian man Wormwood wants in hell] an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, are to be encouraged…Whichever side he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of the partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him into the stage at which religion becomes merely part of the “cause” and his [faith] is valued chiefly for the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war effort or of Pacifism.

It seems that Lewis saw that war was breaking out whether Christians would accept it or not, and the proper response was to still keep the faith’s values with utmost allegiance, yet join the fight for the cause of the country. Don’t let Patriotism consume to the point where fighting fueled with hatred and bloodlust, but don’t use religion to condemn those breaking the creed of Pacifism, either.

Another place war shows up in Lewis’ books is within The Chronicles of Narnia. All but The Magician’s Nephew and The Silver Chair have at least a couple of battles, after which Aslan usually appears to commend the various protagonists for their sacrifice and bravery on behalf of Narnia. In The Last Battle, Aslan even credits Emeth, a soldier from the enemy country Calormen, as being a seeker of good.

To those familiar with Narnia’s allegorical nature it may seem that Lewis is condoning war as some sort of test of allegiance to one’s country. Indeed, the land of Narnia, in its fight against neighbors who seek to subjugate it, represents the Kingdom of God on earth and the Christian’s fight to remain loyal to God and His commands whilst everywhere else society now ridicules the Bible and those who live by it. In The Screwtape Letters Lewis also writes that war is a very powerful reminder to all humans that death is coming, that the self is not omnipotent, and that focusing only on this life is foolish because of how short and uncertain it is. So did Lewis condone war over peace?

Lewis lived in a time probably all of us reading this can’t even imagine – a time where a dozen countries sent soldiers and bombs to fight and kill as many people as possible, twice! Based on the books of his that I’ve read, my conclusion is that Lewis, the author who came up with beloved fantasy worlds, was also a realist, and when and where he was born made it impossible for him not to see war as unavoidable, as being upon humanity whether or not anyone wants it to be. What he thought about how Christians should fight, however, is a whole other discussion.

You can find out a bit more on what Lewis thought of War in his essay “Why I’m not a Pacifist” published in The Weight of Glory and Compelling Reason.

Author’s note: I do know I’ve picked two examples of Lewis’ that happen to shine a pro-war light on him. There are surely works of his against fighting and against war, and if you know of any feel free to mention them below.

[1] CS Lewis Institute
[2] ABC Australia

David Magee, screenwriter for The Silver Chair, on writing a screenplay

By Oresen

It was announced a while back that David Magee would be working on the script of the new Silver Chair film. In January  2013, he was interviewed by Tavis Smiley about one of his other projects, the highly acclaimed film adaptation of Life of Pi. Below are three interesting facts about Magee that shed light on his work as a screenwriter and give us a glimpse into what we can expect from him in The Silver Chair. The information and quotes below are taken from the inverview with Tavis Smiley.

1) He has written multiple movie adaptations of books before, including 2004’s Finding Neverland and 2012’s Life of Pi, both of which earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Screen Play. His adaptation process starts with finding

one kernel of what this book means to you, what you want to focus on. Because a book can be 300, 500 pages, and it can explore a lot of things. But first of all you have to find that one notion, that one idea that excites you when you get up each morning to work on it.

He then grows the various themes needed in the film from that starting point.

2) He only accepts job offers from studios for movies he is passionate about and feels he can write a strong script for.

There has to be something that when I first read the material, or when I first heard it, I said, ‘Oh yes, I want that, I want to explore that idea,’ or ‘I want to show that to my kids,’ or ‘I’ve felt just like that’, or ‘That really moved me.’

Early in his career he once was pressured through flattery to accept a project he didn’t really feel, and from the disappointing result of that film he has now learned “to be polite, and say no.”

3) He knew he wanted to be a storyteller since he was a little kid. Whether it was watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, movies about high school romance, spiritual stories, or stories in particular historical or geographical settings; that world, the world of stories, enamored him.

Those things can really widen your view of the world… [Through the films I watched growing up] I learned about cultures, about people and places far away from me. I’ve always wanted to be a part of this.

See more of his eloquent interview here:

Three Great Places to Shoot The Silver Chair’s Underground World

by Oresen

One of my favorite parts about The Silver Chair is Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum’s foray into the underground realm. Half the action in the book takes place beneath the earth, and Lewis’ crafted descriptions of that unseen world will have to be one of the many things to look out for on the big screen when the upcoming film is released.

The three ways the crew might shoot these underground scenes are by building a set to look like the underground, shooting using motion capture and converting it into CG, or finding a cave somewhere in the world that would mirror what Jill and her friends saw underground.

Here are three government-owned “show caves” that would be great places to film the various underground scenes:

1) Grottes de Han Caves

Grottes de Han Cave

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Location: Belgium

Why they would be great:

  • Half a million people visit these caves annually, so safety-issues are most likely not a concern
  • The caves aren’t near any major cities, but there is the village of Han-Sur-Lesse nearby, which could offer the crew food and housing during their shoot in the caves
  • The largest chamber of the cave is noted for having great acoustics, which wouldn’t hurt filming

2) Ohio Caverns

Seneca Cave

Source: Photo by and ©2007 Dustin M. Ramsey. Wikimedia Commons.

Location: United States of America

Why they would be great:

  • These caverns are known for having giant stalagmites and stalactites, which in the right lighting could appear very frightening, and present physical obstacles for Jill and her friends to have to pass through
  • They are overseen by the National Caving Association of America, so setting up logistical details would be simple and straightforward
  • There are full-time tour guides able to assist the film crew with setting up a scene, or just general navigation
  • Ohio’s geographical location gives it mostly favorable weather; it is not in the East Coast so that hurricanes hit it, or in the South so that searing heat and humidity affects it, or too far north to receive feet of snow like the Northeastern U.S.

3) Jenolan Caves

Seneca Cave

Source: Toby Hudson. Wikimedia Commons.

Location: Australia

Why they would be great:

  • The caves that make up the Jenolan are known to have layers – the depths can reach the equivalence of three-to-five story buildings. These layers could be very useful in shooting the character’s dreary and lengthy trek downwards.
  • Australia is quite generous in giving tax exemptions for film projects due to the economic boost the film shoot’s region will gain. (One recent film that was shot there due to tax benefits is Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.) The savings from the budget can then be implemented in marketing or set design or some other field.
  • Although they are several kilometers long, they are lit well by the lights built and scattered throughout. Shooting could commence at any time of the day.

There are, of course, other numerous, wonderful locations The Silver Chair could use to shoot. If you know of a place that would be perfect to shoot the above or underground sequences, leave a comment below.