Appellate Judge James A. Stewart knows Narnia tales aren't merely about talking animals.
"First and foremost, he was a Christian. Second thing he was a scholar."—Douglas Gresham
Best known today for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and his other Narnia novels, Clive Staples Lewis was a leading writer on Christianity. Mere Christianity, the book drawn from his wartime BBC radio talks on faith, is still available today, as are all his books.
Thanks to his books and the movie Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis' life has become a classic tale of redemption and duty. As The Life and Faith of C.S. Lewis: The Magic Never Ends explains, Lewis returned to Christianity from an atheism sparked by his mother's death from cancer; his late life romance and marriage with Joy Gresham was cut short by her death from cancer.
The basics of that classic tale are covered well in the 56-minute Life and Faith. The talking heads, including stepson Douglas Gresham and Shadowlands actress Debra Winger, are interspersed with tranquil and beautiful scenes of the places in Lewis' life—Oxford, Cambridge, his home at The Kilns—and graceful music. The picture is sharp and clear, as is the sound.
Those beautiful images stand alone, with music, in "Tour of The Kilns" and "Tour of Oxford and The Cotswolds," two shorts that accompany the documentary. There's also a brief introduction, which tells Lewis' story in just 3 minutes. Note that the "Approx: 85 min." runtime on the DVD cover includes extras.
In an interview, director Chip Duncan points out that Lewis was "a pretty quiet guy…His work was what drove him." Dunham had to work hard to create visuals, since no film and few photos were available of Lewis. "His life was not filled with lots of arcs and dramatic moments," Duncan says.
If you're familiar with Lewis and his work, that may be the shortcoming of Duncan's documentary. While it's not bad, Lewis covered the turning points of his life in his own writing; they were also part of Shadowlands. There's some scholarly debate over how much the Narnia series reflected Lewis' faith, but that's something readers can decide for themselves. It's possible to do a solid introduction to Lewis—and Duncan did—but the director couldn't add to or improve upon Lewis' own words.
Since viewers who've seen a Narnia movie but don't know anything about this
Lewis guy will find it worthwhile, I'll give Life and Faith a not guilty.
Viewers more familiar with the author will find it well-done but not
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