Ride the Magic
sweetmolly | RICHMOND, VA USA | 01/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The sheer beauty of this film is stunning. Scenes of Oxford and its magnificent medieval buildings are breathtaking. The famed splendor of the English countryside beguiles. Add to this the spectacular performance of Sir Anthony Hopkins playing revered author/philosopher C.S. Lewis, and you have a stellar movie.Shadowlands is set in the early '50s when Lewis was a middle-aged bachelor. All is well in his world. He is a huge success as an author, teacher and speaker. His life is well ordered to the point of being hum drum, and it is exactly the way he likes it. He meets an American, Joy Gresham (excellently played by Debra Winger) who turns his life upside down. Probably for the first time in his life, he does something really foolish. He marries Joy to give her "green card" status. The marriage is supposed to be "only technical." He lives in Oxford, she in London. Joy becomes ill, and Lewis realizes the depth of his feeling for her. Only when she has received a death sentence, does he fully and reluctantly give himself over to his love for her. When he loses her, his grief and pain devastate him to the point where he actually loses his faith. Joy has tried to prepare him, "We can't have the happiness of yesterday without the pain of today. That's the deal." but nothing in Lewis's life has readied him for it.Yes, "Shadowlands" is a two-hankie affair, but not in the usual sense. It is a path and a journey and a reawakening. Hopkins is so powerful in his role that the viewer sees Lewis as multi-faceted: a shy man, almost naïve in many areas, detached but armored with huge intelligence and cosmopolitan skills. Debra Winger plays off him with a wonderful chemistry. (I had to wince at her perfect '50s wardrobe. It was impeccably "right" in authenticity, but so terribly unbecoming!) I also much admired Edward Hardwicke who played Lewis' s brother Warnie. His warmth and genuine kindness set off Hopkins's detachment and shyness. Richard Attenborough made "Shadowlands" a seamless experience.The DVD pkg. was good, particularly liked the behind-the-scenes feature. The picture was sharp and clear. My only complaint was the sound. The dialogue was frequently hard to understand.
"The pain then is part of the happiness now. That's the dea
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 02/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""I seem to play men who are sort of imprisoned in themselves," Anthony Hopkins comments in an interview included on this movie's DVD. And although this adequately characterizes a mere fraction of his work, roles like that of butler Stevens in Merchant/Ivory's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's "Remains of the Day," Henry Wilcox in E.M. Forster's "Howards End" (also by Merchant/Ivory) and even Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter, illustrate Hopkins's minimalist approach to acting, which makes him so uniquely qualified to play emotionally restrained men, locked up behind the walls erected by convention, trauma or madness. Thus, while bearing little physical resemblance to the real C.S. Lewis, atheist-turned-Christian scholar and bestselling author of the famous "Narnia Chronicles," Hopkins was a natural choice for the role in this movie about Lewis and his wife-to-be, American poet Joy Gresham (Debra Winger).
Albeit subtitled "based on a true story," "Shadowlands" doesn't purport to recount the couple's relationship in its full complexity - that would take much more than a 2 hours, 15 minutes-long film, if it were accomplishable at all. On equally strong intellectual footing, Joy Gresham and "Jack" Lewis were bound to each other not only by a joint interest in literature and because Joy challenged all assumed bases of Lewis's scholarly life, but also by their personal geneses as convert Christians (he coming from atheism, she from Judaism, at least partly influenced by Lewis's writings). Obviously for reasons of dramatic streamlining, director Richard Attenborough and screenwriter William Nicholson - who adapted his play for the big screen after having already scripted the 1985 BBC production featuring Joss Acklund and Claire Bloom - chose to cut down on several facts and persons, such Joy Gresham's second son David (who is not mentioned at all), Lewis's 1954 move from Oxford's Magdalen College to similarly-named Magdalene College at Cambridge (likewise not included), the alcoholism of Lewis's brother Warren ("Warnie") (which is substantially downplayed, as is the abusiveness of Joy's first husband Bill Gresham) and Lewis's complicated friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien (who surprisingly is not at all among the featured Oxford scholars). Similarly, at least according to some accounts Lewis was not quite the bachelor he is shown to be here, possibly having shared more than tenancy of The Kilns (where he and Warren still lived when he met Joy) with Janie King Moore, 25 years his senior and mother of his college roommate Edward "Paddy" Moore, who died in WWI. With regard to Lewis's and Joy Gresham's relationship itself, the movie espouses the view of some biographers that the couple's April 1956 wedding was merely a marriage of convenience designed to allow Joy to stay in England - and that Lewis only fell in love with her after she had been diagnosed with cancer (although she had evidently been taken with him for a considerably longer time) - but here, too, much remains disputed: inevitably so, as this goes to the very heart of their romance; a romance, moreover, growing in an environment not exactly encouraging to the baring of one's soul to outsiders.
Be that all as it may, however, "Shadowlands" is an emotionally and visually stimulating, tremendously powerful production, centering on the recognition that there are only two ways to deal with love: either to shut it out, thus avoiding pain as much as you're foregoing bliss, or to embrace it, thus also allowing for the sorrow it may bring. As a boy, Lewis chose the former: Unable to cope with his mother's death and reconcile it with the idea of a benevolent God, he chose atheism over religion and, later, a scholar's protected, emotionally unchallenging existence over matrimony; this remaining his choice even after having accepted Christianity, now explaining human suffering as "God's megaphone for shouting at a callous world." Yet, all that was called into question when he met Joy who, with her outspoken nature, progressive views, ex-communist background and New York Jewish upbringing was the most unlikely match conceivable for him; and soon made herself unpopular with his Oxford colleagues, e.g. by pointedly rebuking Christopher Riley's (John Wood's) remark that men have intellect where women have souls (which incidentally could well have come from Lewis himself, who had once explained his refusal to marry by noting that then "all the topics of conversation would be used up in a fortnight"). Yet, what had started with a courtesy meeting over tea with a self-professed admirer soon blossomed into a stimulating intellectual exchange and, based thereon, friendship - although Lewis still clung to the idea that there was nothing more to their relationship. Indeed, just *because* Joy was a woman with whom he could have the intellectual exchange he had heretofore only known with men, he could accept her as a friend while keeping her at an emotional distance ... or so he thought. Only the realization that he would soon be losing her forever (at least, according to this movie's interpretation) cut through his armor. Still, although he believed he had now understood that happiness and pain are inextricably linked in love, his faith was again profoundly shaken by her death, giving birth to of his most personal works, "A Grief Observed."
Magnificently framed by its Oxford University background and featuring a tremendous cast, from the two leads to Edward Hardwicke (Warren Lewis), Joseph Mazzello (Douglas Gresham) and top-tier actors even in minor roles (to name but a few, Julian Fellowes, Michael Denison, Peter Howell, Julian Firth and Peter Firth), "Shadowlands" received Oscar nominations for Debra Winger and William Nicholson's screenplay (Anthony Hopkins was only nominated for "The Remains of the Day"), but in a year that also saw strong competition from "Philadelphia," "Age of Innocence," "Short Cuts" etc., ultimately lost out to "Schindler's List" and "The Piano" (Holly Hunter). Nevertheless, this is a powerful testimony to the love between two truly unusual individuals; one of Oxford-s pre-eminent scholars and the woman who was to him, as he wrote in her epitaph, "the whole world ... reflected in a single mind."
Through the Shadowlands: The Love Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman
C. S. Lewis Signature Classics: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, A Grief Observed, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and The Great Divorce (Boxed Set)
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community
84 Charing Cross Road
The Remains of the Day (Special Edition)
Howards End - The Merchant Ivory Collection
Terms of Endearment"
A movie catharsis....
R. Earle | 08/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Only 2 movies I have seen in my life have made me cry out loud. This was one of them. This is the ONLY movie I have ever seen whose lesson has not left me, even after several years. "The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal". An incredibly profound concept, but so true. No wonder Lewis said of her that she represented to him the whole world in a single mind. The lesson of this film is mind-blowing for anyone who has ever tried to shield himself from the prospect of pain that comes with just living and engaging in human relationships.
Hopkins completely disappears into the role. It is probably the finest acting performance I have ever seen from anyone in any film.
This is one of those films that belongs on the bookshelf at home, right alongside "Mere Christianity"."
Please See BBC Version!
Michelle Beers | California, USA | 01/07/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I admit that this movie was visually interesting & performaces were very good, but I repeat my review of the BBC Version here: I watched this movie in the BBC version on encore, when I had been ill a long time. It was very difficult to watch at places, but was also extremely helpful to me during a painful time. I would recommend it to everyone, but most especially to anyone who is ill or cares about someone who is ill. I do think that it needs to be watched at least twice because, I find that each time I watch it, I pick up even more nuances. In my view. it beats the Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger version, hands down. I once bought the BBC 70 minutes version that was aired in the U. S., thinking that it was the same but, it was not. With 20 minutes edited out, it does not compare either. Too much of the man's faith is missing from both movies which leaves it with a watered down effect and less significance. I don't know what possessed them to take away the essence of this man in the other versions but, after anxiously anticipating them, I found myself greatly disappointed in both. If you want more of the real man's story and less hollywood story telling, then I recommend the 90-95 minute version by the BBC, with Joss Ackland & Claire Bloom. You may find that you still like both versions but, that is my definitive favorite! :)"