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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 November 2005, 17:42 GMT
Narnia Christian link played down
Warning: This story contains plot spoilers

By Neil Smith
BBC News entertainment reporter

A scene from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Aslan the lion is often interpreted as a Christ figure
Cast and crew members of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have played down the significance of Christian symbolism in their version of CS Lewis's novel.

The Narnia books are often viewed as a religious allegory, with Aslan the lion representing Jesus Christ.

But director Andrew Adamson said it is "open to the audience to interpret".

"Faith is in the eye of the beholder," added British actress Tilda Swinton, who said the original book was more "spiritual" than religious.

"You can make a religious allegory out of anything if that's what you're interested in," she told the BBC News website.

Swinton, who plays the White Witch Jadis in the film, was speaking at a press event held at Cliveden House, Berkshire on Wednesday.


In the film, the first in a planned series based on Lewis' Narnia Chronicles, Aslan sacrifices himself in order to save the life of a human boy, or "Son of Adam".

He later rises from the dead to lead his troops in an epic battle against the White Witch's forces.

Tilda Swinton in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
British actress Tilda Swinton plays Jadis, the evil White Witch
But New Zealand-born Adamson - director of the Shrek films - said resurrection was a common theme in the fantasy genre, citing The Matrix and Star Wars as examples.

"The religious aspect is something the press is more interested in than the world at large," he said.

"When I read the book as a child I accepted it as a pure adventure story."

"When I first read it, it never occurred to me Aslan was anything more than a great lion," agreed producer Mark Johnson.

"Christian themes were very important to CS Lewis and imbued everything he did, but he himself denied any religious implications."

Despite the producer's comments, his film has already received pledges of support from evangelical groups in the US, many of whom say Lewis did create the story as an allegory about the life of Jesus.

"We believe that God will speak the gospel of Jesus Christ through this film," Lon Allison, director of Illinois' Billy Graham Centre, said last month.

'False issue'

Other parties have been less embracing, with author Philip Pullman calling CS Lewis's fiction "racist" and "misogynistic".

"If the Disney corporation wants to market this film as a great Christian story, they'll just have to tell lies about it," he told the Observer.

James McAvoy in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The cast also includes James McAvoy as the faun Mr Tumnus
Johnson, though, said any controversy surrounding the film was "a false issue".

"We're not selling the movie to any particular group," he added

"With a movie this size, we're trying to sell it to everybody."

Swinton, meanwhile, described the themes of the story as more "classical" than overtly Christian.

"It feels like an ancient myth," she said.

"It's about finding self-sufficiency in difficult circumstances and finding the capacity to dig deep, survive and prevail."

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe opens in the UK on 8 December.

Narnia plans spark anger
05 Jun 01 |  Arts


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