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The Great Divorce

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I did have a really nice nap during the Seeker.

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I'm reserving judgment. I happen to like the book, but in my experience, movies that purport to deal with the "afterlife" in any extended fashion are almost inevitably either creepy, mushily sentimental, or both. If Cunningham's version of The Great Divorce turns out something like What Dreams May Come, I will be seriously annoyed.

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If Cunningham's version of The Great Divorce turns out something like What Dreams May Come

This was my immediate thought as well.

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I read the book maybe 15 years ago. It wasn't a story, was it? As I recall, it was Lewis doing what Lewis does best. Reflecting on life.

So -- kinda like the Blue Like Jazz film -- how does one put this to film?

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I read the book maybe 15 years ago. It wasn't a story, was it? As I recall, it was Lewis doing what Lewis does best. Reflecting on life.

So -- kinda like the Blue Like Jazz film -- how does one put this to film?

It's a story. Not a tightly unified plot, it's episodic and thematic, but with a definite narrative structure. Bus drives through gloomy city picking up lost souls; bus takes them to the outskirts of paradise; lost souls (with one exception) don't like it and go back; night comes to gloomy city and Day to paradise. If anyone ever made it right, it might be an intesting double feature with Wings of Desire.

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It's a story. Sort of a Divine Comedy, a tour through a world gone berzerk.

Ken Wales has been talking to me about his dream to produce this film for years and has called me to brainstorm on it a couple of times. I wonder if he's involved with this. I would assume he is. For a while, he was saying that it might be adapted into something like a Bruce Almighty-style comedy.

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It's a story. Not a tightly unified plot, it's episodic and thematic, but with a definite narrative structure. Bus drives through gloomy city picking up lost souls; bus takes them to the outskirts of paradise; lost souls (with one exception) don't like it and go back; night comes to gloomy city and Day to paradise. If anyone ever made it right, it might be an intesting double feature with Wings of Desire.
It's a story. Sort of a Divine Comedy, a tour through a world gone berzerk.

I have absolutely no memory of any of this. The only thing I remember is that I really loved the book, as I loved all of Lewis' books, and that this one at the time really felt like a blessing to me. Maybe I should re-read it.

Edited by Persona

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For a while, he was saying that it might be adapted into something like a Bruce Almighty-style comedy.

So there is hope! :)

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Who's writing the adaptation?

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FWIW, the website for the company producing this, Beloved Pictures, lists its four top executives as Michael Ludlum (CEO), Caleb W. Applegate (President), Robert Abramoff (Vice President) and Meg Dondero (Director of Operations). No idea if any of them are connected to Ken Wales.

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It's a story. Not a tightly unified plot, it's episodic and thematic, but with a definite narrative structure. Bus drives through gloomy city picking up lost souls; bus takes them to the outskirts of paradise; lost souls (with one exception) don't like it and go back; night comes to gloomy city and Day to paradise. If anyone ever made it right, it might be an intesting double feature with Wings of Desire.
It's a story. Sort of a Divine Comedy, a tour through a world gone berzerk.

I have absolutely no memory of any of this. The only thing I remember is that I really loved the book, as I loved all of Lewis' books, and that this one at the time really felt like a blessing to me. Maybe I should re-read it.

If you do re-read it, you'll find SDG's synopsis is more accurate. I don't know where Overstreet got the "world gone berserk" thing--maybe from some scenes in That Hideous Strength?

TGD is one of my favorites, too, and the thought of it as an "Bruce Almighty-style comedy" makes me cringe, so I do hope that doesn't happen.

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TGD is one of my favorites, too, and the thought of it as an "Bruce Almighty-style comedy" makes me cringe, so I do hope that doesn't happen.

Anything thought of as a "Bruce Almighty-style comedy" makes me cringe.

Edited by Persona

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Links to threads on David Cunningham's previous works To End All Wars (2001), Little House on the Prairie (2005) and The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (2007).

Cunningham is now working on an adaptation of C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce.

Meh. THE GREAT DIVORCE isn't the most cinematic story, and really should just be left on the page.

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Meh. THE GREAT DIVORCE isn't the most cinematic story, and really should just be left on the page.

Not so sure. There is a lot of description in this book. Purgatory (or its approximation) is described in dramatic detail. It is drab, frenetic, a phantom equivalent of a London suburb. There is a lot of visual detail tossed out about the actual trip, the first impressions of Heaven's welcome mat. In the third act, there is a great deal of description of how hard it is to interact with the substance of this new place, and some of these paragraphs are Lewis cranking on all his fantasy author cylinders. And then the finale is among the most cinematic moments in Lewis' corpus. (Which I later found out expresses an interesting perspective on hell that can be found in Strong, Edwards, and other early modern theologians. Lewis must have been reading them at the time.)

This is the book that started my brain gears grinding towards the need for grace and mercy as expressed by Christianity. Other than some of the works of fiction I had read as a kid, I hadn't encountered any Christian document that so thoughtfully engaged my mind at such a primal visual level, which at the time was the only way I could really think. I could finally start to see what some of these great Christian ideas I had heard for so long actually meant, because The Great Divorce incarnates them with a great degree of imagination and precision.

So, in the right hands, this could be a great film. From a cinema perspective, it would be easy to adapt given that Lewis describes everything so plainly. But I can see a film getting bogged in the talkier parts of the book.

Edited by MLeary

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Sorry. "World gone berzerk" was only a very poor way of describing what I remember of that surreal tour through hell and purgatory. I was only thinking of the vivid imaginings of a humanity lost in sins and suffering. Better to focus on its Divine Comedy parallels, its initial descent into hell and eventual ascent. It's been about 15 years since I read it, but at the time I was certain that I'd found my favorite C.S. Lewis work. I should read it again.

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There is a lot of description in this book.

Yes, and as you've pointed out, it could be visually satisfying (though, let's face it, the visuals of Lewis' THE GREAT DIVORCE aren't that striking; Purgatory would just be a rather rainy, dreary town/city, and Heaven's largely gloriously pastoral; this isn't something with the variety and detail of Dante's DIVINE COMEDY, or even some of Lewis' other fiction works). But would the actual narrative itself--which is simplistic, bogged down in long, didactic speeches about theology, and ultimately doesn't have much to it--be effective in most hands? I'm sure that such an unconventional narrative could work in the hands of a master artist who can find a way to really recreate the work for the cinematic medium, but it's by no means an easy transition.

And personally, I've always considered THE GREAT DIVORCE to be one of Lewis' lesser fictional works, so maybe my lack of enthusiasm for the project stems from my lack of enthusiasm about the work itself. While I appreciate its theological ideas (even though I disagree with them on occasion), I don't think THE GREAT DIVORCE's literary qualities are particularly noteworthy, even when measured against the rest of Lewis' canon. It's not in the league of, say, TILL WE HAVE FACES or the SPACE TRILOGY.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Oh, I hope they do a decent job with it. I dearly love the book.

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I'm sure that such an unconventional narrative could work in the hands of a master artist who can find a way to really recreate the work for the cinematic medium, but it's by no means an easy transition.

I can think of many directors who could, as Tim Gunn says, make it work. It would be high concept, involve a lot of serious CGI, and some creative integration of the thicker dialogue. 1984 comes to mind as a film that pulled this transition off with aplomb. I would be thrilled to see an adept director take a classic of Christian spirituality so seriously.

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I can think of many directors who could, as Tim Gunn says, make it work.

So can I, but I doubt any of them would leave Lewis' ideas intact.

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Producers wed for 'Divorce' fantasy

Mpower Pictures ("The Stoning of Soraya M.") and Beloved Pictures are teaming to co-produce C.S. Lewis' fantasy novel "The Great Divorce."

Veteran producer and Mpower CEO Steve McEveety will lead the production team. Childrens' book author N.D. Wilson ("Leepike Ridge," "100 Cupboards") is attached to write.

Lewis, who wrote the "Chronicles of Narnia" books and often wove Christian themes into his works, published "The Great Divorce" in 1945. 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.

Mpower was created by McEveety in 2007 after he'd been a longtime exec at Mel Gibson's Icon Prods. He produced "The Passion of the Christ" and "We Were Soldiers" and exec produced "Braveheart" and "What Women Want." . . .

Variety, June 22

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It's a story. Sort of a Divine Comedy, a tour through a world gone berzerk. Ken Wales has been talking to me about his dream to produce this film for years and has called me to brainstorm on it a couple of times. I wonder if he's involved with this. I would assume he is. For a while, he was saying that it might be adapted into something like a Bruce Almighty-style comedy.

The best hope the film has is to be made by people who love the book. As a modern adaptation, I'm guessing we lose George MacDonald from the story right? I wish there was some way of keeping him.

At this point, I guess there's just no way of knowing. Unlike other Hollywood film ideas that are guaranteed wastes of time from the moment of production, this has the potential to be a great film, and it also has the potential to be worthless, except in, you know, Screwtape's eyes (because, if they mess it up, it will guarantee that anyone who watches the film will never ever read the book).

I'm guessing there'd be no way for Terence Malick and Tim Burton to co-direct this thing together?

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I'm guessing there'd be no way for Terence Malick and Tim Burton to co-direct this thing together?

That is a beautiful sentence. In many ways.

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I guess someone should mention the recent George Drance stage adaptation. I had my doubts as to whether it would work on stage, but I was pleasantly surprised ... even if the recent Taproot production left some of the story's theatrical potential untapped, as this reviewer points out (and while I agree with him that there was room for improvement, I think he's much too harsh). Anyway, methinks that with this story, a stage adaptation is a more difficult stunt than a screenplay, so I do not doubt the story's cinematic potential. It is a sad irony, however, that directors known for the kind of visuals this story would need (Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Peter Jackson) are not necessarily also known for their fidelity to the storylines in their source material.

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If you're going to make a movie from this, take liberties. Take lots of liberties. I like the book, but I like it as a book. I can't see that a straight adaptation would make an interesting movie: it is highly episodic and is dominated by long expository speeches.

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