Most of you are probably aware that on the surface, The Chronicles of Narnia are a beautiful, fanciful story. And most of you know that CS Lewis did have a MUCH deeper meaning in it. So, I am always surprised at how many are completely shocked at the fact that Aslan represents Jesus. I love watching the light bulbs go on as the whole film moves from a fanciful story to a story of the Passion with that one small revelation. I even know one person who had heard the correlation, but refused to believe that Lewis had such a motive saying it was too good a story for that! But, we know Lewis took a lot of heat for writing such a “Christian” tale, so much so that J.R.R. Tolkien specifically tried to avoid it in his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings novels although he said something to the effect that each iteration became more and more Christian. But, for the Easter Season, this barely disguised Christian tale seems a perfect one to look at through the lens of movie ministry. The movie opens with scenes of war and the children are sent away to escape the bombings. In their new home, during an innocent game of “hide and seek” little Lucy hides in a wardrobe and as she moves to the back of it, she doesn’t find a back, but a whole new world, Narnia. The children end up in a battle of good versus evil. So, what questions and correlations can we make as we go deeper into Narnia? Two worlds at war: First, we see the physical war – the war of the world. The daily fight in the most extreme terms. The children feel pulled back to the world they came from…its comforts, and the safety they’ve found there. Then we see the war in Narnia, the spiritual war. The battle for eternal life. Narnia is even on a different time continuum than the world from which they came. Ten to fifteen years in Narnia is only a minute or two in the world the children call home. Narnia has been in the winter for many years, as evil seems to have taken over. The inhabitants all live in fear of the White Witch. Narnians are instructed that any “son or daughter of Eve” found wandering in the woods must be turned in to the White Witch under punishment of death. Wandering in the woods: How often do we find ourselves lost, trying to figure out where to go? We’re searching for God and what he wants for us. We are wandering in the woods. There are those along the path who take us in the right direction… and those who lead us the wrong way. Part of the journey is learning to see which ones are which. We also have an obligation to help any wanderers and keep them out of the clutches of the White Witch. Some things are beyond logic: I know, duh! But, that’s still the hard part, isn’t it? There are always some things that are easier to accept than others. Think about some aspects of our faith… the trinity – 3 parts of God in three different forms… Think about changing water to wine – or yet, the changing of the wine and host to the Eucharist. How about the assumption of Mary, the transfiguration of Jesus – or just wandering the desert for 40 years… So much of our faith requires faith. We have to leave logic behind and take it on faith. Reconciliation: When Edmund returns to his siblings, he must face Aslan. He and Aslan appear to be in a staring contest, or at least a deep conversation, but you can tell that Aslan is not angry, and Edmund is repentant. When they finally come down to the others, Aslan says “No need to speak to Edmund about what has passed.” Then when the White Witch demands the blood of the traitor, Aslan tells her that his offense was not against her, but leaves it at that! He never gives any detail, no shaming… just forgiveness. Why do the see Aslan as a Jesus figure: When we first meet Aslan, he emerges from the most beautiful tent of the campground. Everyone kneels before he comes out. Sort of like a tabernacle and the reverence we show for His presence in it. He tells us he was there when the Deep Magic was written. There’s also the forgiveness Aslan gives Edmund as well as his sacrifice – trading himself for the traitor. Demons crowd around him, but all are powerless against his mighty roar… yet he allows himself to be taken. Much like the jeers of the soldiers in Jesus’s passion. They shame him by cutting off his mane (equated with stripping Jesus of his clothes), after they tie him down and drag him up to the stone table (equated with carrying the cross). And he is killed. However, if you know the Easter story, you know what happens next. Aslan’s explanation of “sacrifice” sums up the rest, so pay close attention if you haven’t before. We all have gifts! Each of the children is given a gift to help them in the battle and instructed that they are “tools, not toys.” I found this to be an interesting parallel with the gifts of the Spirit. No one says we can’t have a little fun with them, but they are tools. Tools for growth – and not just our growth, but tools we should use to help others. And practice is required! We’re just scratching the surface. What details did you pick up on? The Chronicles of Narnia is rated PG. So there’s no language issues, nudity or anything like that. It’s unlikely that a little one would find it all that interesting. Also, the battle scenes and some of the witch’s henchmen could be a little intense for some children. But for older children, teens and adults, The Chronicles of Narnia can be a great movie, and a great way to talk about Christ’s Passion. One might also find someone it a good icebreaker in talking with someone who may not be open to religious discussions, provided they don’t think the story is too good to be “Christian.”
Young Ed Bloom: There are some fish that cannot be caught. It’s not that they are faster or stronger than other fish, they’re just touched by something extra.
Will Bloom: That was my father’s final joke, I guess. A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him. And in that way he becomes immortal.
Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor both play Edward Bloom in this mix of fantasy and reality that leaves you wondering what was really true and what wasn’t. Edward is dying, apparently far enough along that his son Will (played by Billy Crudup) has come to be with him. Will thinks his Father’s stories are all tall tales (or at least not “short ones” as Edward says), each one more extreme than the last. The viewer is flipped back and forth between Edward’s deathbed and flashbacks to his youth up through adulthood.
I honestly still don’t know if I fully “get” Big Fish, but I really like it and watch it on a regular basis. It’s a beautiful film and watching it (more specifically the stories Edward tells) remind me of all those far out bible stories we’re taught from the time we’re kids. Sometimes, I identify more with Edward – that the stories are necessary, something to draw attention to an otherwise boring event. But sometimes, more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself identifying with Will, saying “just get to the point.” There’s even an exchange where Will hears the real story of the day he was born from Edward’s doctor. Will comments that he likes the boring version, but even the doctor says if he had the two stories to choose from, he’d pick the elaborate one.
So, let’s be honest. How many of us find ourselves identifying with Will? Do we want God to just get to the point? Do we doubt what God is telling us – either in Sacred Scripture or in our lives? How do we deal with it? Have we had any experiences that might make us lean a little more to Edward’s side? Will thinks his Dad tells these stories to steer attention to himself. Since the primary event that splits the two is Edward’s toast at Will’s wedding, is it so much that Edward steers to attention to himself, of that Will feels like he’s not the center of things? How does that relate to us? And when we identify with Edward, what is it about him that we identify with?
This is also a good time to reflect on some of those bible stories we think are pretty impossible. Did Moses really live to be 120 years old, or was that just an issue of calendars? What about Jonah and the whale? Would we have paid attention to the birth of a savior without all the angels, shepherds, wise men and a death threat? Do we think these stories are a case of poetic license or a statement of fact? And, if you see it as fact, then what about the stories with differing details? Or do the details really matter?
As Edward is dying, he keeps saying “That’s not how I go.” He supposedly saw his death in a witch’s eye when he was a child. Does he really know how he goes or is it just his way of reassuring everyone? What do you make of it? If you knew how you would go, would it reassure you, or scare you?
What about the reoccurrence of water? And Edward’s statements that he’s thirsty – or drying up? Can the water have a reference to baptism? Is his thirst physical or spiritual? What sort of case can you make for each?
What or who are the big fish in our lives? Do we bait it / them with gold or something else? Edward finally catches his fish, but he lets her go. What do you make of that? Could Edward letting the fish go be equated with God’s Mercy somehow?
What story or stories would you want to be remembered for? What story should you tell your children – or remind them of? What happens when you tell or retell your stories? Do your listeners believe you? Do you have storytellers in your life? What sort of stories do they tell? What role does storytelling have in passing on our faith?
As you can see this is a film that leaves us with more questions than answers (even without my spin on things). There’s just enough truth to everything that you just don’t know what all to believe (like when Will finds the deeds to Spectre and the visitors at Edward’s funeral). All we really know is that Edward Bloom is a social person and Big Fish is full of stories! I guess the final question is, “Does it matter?” I’m still finding things (possible meanings, glimmers of meditations and ideas for discussion) in Big Fish – and somehow like Edward’s stories, I think there will be plenty here to think about for a lifetime!
It is rated PG-13 for some brief scenes involving nudity although not sexual. There is also a headed exchange between Will and Edward – and one sexual reference, so if watching with a young audience, you will definitely want to preview it first… but on the whole, it’s a fantasy with adventure, laughs and drama and Tim Burton’s classic style of cinematography.
For more info, check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319061/