C.S. Lewis Book, The Great Divorce, Coming to the Big Screen

The following is from Alex Birko of the A.V. Club reporting on C.S. Lewis‘s book, The Great Divorce, being produced into a movie:

Last week marked the arrival of the trailer for the third “Chronicles Of Narnia” movie, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, and as everybody knows, C.S. Lewis news always comes in twos. It appears that Lewis’ religious allegory The Great Divorce is the latest of his work be slated for the big screen, according to Variety’s announcement that production studios Beloved Pictures and Mpower Pictures are joining forces to co-produce. Children’s author N.D. Wilson, known for the 100 Cupboards fantasy trilogy and his parodies of the Left Behind series, is attached to adapt the screenplay. With luck, the arrival of Mpower (The Stoning Of Soroya M.) will jump-start the project, and let it avoid the seemingly never-ending gestation plaguing the film adaptation of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, which was announced back in 2006, scheduled for a 2008 release, and delayed until 2010. It’s seen little discernable progress since.

Lewis’ 1945 book The Great Divorce finds an unnamed, first-person protagonist accompanying fellow residents of hell on a bus ride to heaven, and exploring the notion of choice after death. While The Great Divorce is a much more straightforward philosophical exploration of Christian themes than his Narnia series, Lewis’ unconventional views on hell and heaven, plus the book’s lack of narrative structure, could lead to an imaginative exploration of the afterlife on film, or at the very least one less dependent on CGI and Cuba Gooding Jr. than What Dreams May Come.

For the article click here.

12 Responses to C.S. Lewis Book, The Great Divorce, Coming to the Big Screen

  • GodsGadfly says:

    OK, now, technically, Lewis was a universalist, like George MacDonald, who serves as the Virgil to his Dante. However, the views of _The Great Divorce_ are “unconventional” only to Protestants, as it is really Lewis’s take on Purgatory.

  • Eric Brown says:

    Lewis was a universalist? I wasn’t aware that it was his soteriological view at all; in fact, I have a hard time — given my knowledge of his other views — believing that Lewis was a universalist. He explicitly says things that would lead one to conclude otherwise particularly when talking about Hell.

  • Eric Brown says:

    I should note that the Christian hope for salvation for everyone–for no one deserves or earns on their own accord the gift of Heaven–is not the same thing as the so-called doctrine of universalism.

    There is a difference for holding onto the radical hope that no one should ever have to face the reality of Hell, a reality so unimaginable, undesirable, and horrendous that there should be a deep fervor in all Christians that we should hope and pray fervently that by responding to God’s grace and/or God’s unfathomable mercy that all poor sinners are delivered from the menacing threat of eternal damnation. This view does not necessitate the heretical assumptions that there is no Hell, that no one goes to Hell, or that eternal punishment is incompatible with God’s mercy.

  • Eric has it right on Lewis (and why Balthasar consistently quoted Lewis in his works when dealing with eschatology). Lewis isn’t a universalist, because he made it clear universalism would lead to a rejection of free will. But he did hold out that the intuition of George MacDonald would be shown true — that while it is not necessary that everyone will be saved, it is possible that everyone will. This hope is what is expressed at the end of The Great Divorce. Lewis directly questions MacDonald in it, and MacDonald says, quite rightfully, “We don’t know the end.” That is indeed where we stand, and why we must work out our own salvation with much fear and trembling while hoping that Christ’s grace will lead us to that salvation.

  • I don’t know how I feel about this. I love Lewis, but I think there’s less room to be artistic (as opposed to Screwtape, which i thought could have the gaps between the letters filled imaginatively). Being less room, I fear room will be created. Oh well; let’s hope it comes out well.

  • JohnH says:

    From the synopsis provided by Mpower:

    Story centers on a man who learns that the sprawling, dim metropolis where he’s been living is actually Hell; he hops on a bus headed for the outskirts of Elsewhere, only to discover that the one place worse than Hell, for a self-absorbed ad executive, just might be Heaven.

    it sounds like it might be headed into clicheville. Is there any lazier Hollywood shorthand for bad guy in need of redemption than “self-absorbed ad executive”? Variations included businessman-who-works-too-hard, salesman-who-has-no-time-for-his-kids, etc. (Not CEOs, though. In Hollywoodland, CEOs are beyond redemption and have no souls.)

  • R.C. says:

    I am not optimistic.

    The protagonist of the book was, of course, Lewis himself, with the book taking place as a dream, and the solid blocks of light crushing his ghostly existence during Heaven’s dawn at the end are only the books of his reading-table which, in his slumber, he had pulled down on his own head.

    So, “self-absorbed ad executive” indicates right away that they’re taking liberties.

    Lewis was no universalist.

    But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that Hollywood’s version of The Great Divorce is a lot of universalist, “all religions are the same” claptrap.

    Certainly they’ll have to put in a Christian who got damned for believing too much in the exclusivity of his faith. (Now if that Christian should happen to be Father Feeney, fair enough. But they wouldn’t stop there: They’ll make it a “reactionary” Catholic bishop whose sin was a lack of charity, exhibited by his exclusion of a pro-choice politician from communion, or some such thing.)

    One of the best characters in the book is the heretical Anglican clergyman whose apostasy, far from derailing his career, won him book deals and a bishopric.

    A true-to-Lewis film would take this character, self-consciously pattern him after Shelby Spong, and make it utterly unquestionable (as it was in the book) that the man is ultimately a damned soul, and deservedly so.

    But will they do that, in a film?

    C’mon. What’re the odds?

    And what’re the odds that the woman who loved her son too possessively will still, in the movie, be a woman? Nah. She’ll have become a man. Probably a distant father who wasn’t sufficiently accepting of his son’s homosexuality, or some such thing.

    Lewis’s book makes it clear that a person who rejects Christ is in hell, and that it’s deserved, and their own fault. And that Purgatory is the process by which a soul filled with self-love is purged of that self-love because as they themselves, wrenchingly, finally relinquish the last poisonous bits of it, they are thereby choosing to love Christ above all else, and thus become, for the first time, truly human souls.

    If that message gets past Hollywood’s Satanic censoring, it will be such a miracle as to possibly presage the imminent Second Coming.

    Which event I anticipate much sooner than any cinematic version of The Great Divorce that does it justice.

  • Ike says:

    I don’t know Henry; I want to be optimistic about this, but Lewis’s estates’s executors did let that diluted and shallower version of Prince Caspian go to production.

  • David says:

    R.C.,

    I wouldn’t be too worried about it. One of the producers is a former executive for Icon (i.e. Passion of the Christ) and the screenwriter is solid Christian whose father is a pastor and huge Lewis, Tolken, Chesterton, Sayers fan. I imagine that some liberties might be taken in translation from book to film, but only because of the difference in medium.

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