Sunday, January 24, 2010

Surprised by sehnsucht

Yesterday I surprised myself by ordering the two Narnia movies on disc. This was something that, before yesterday, I had been quite sure I would never do, because the Narnia books have been my favorites since I first read them at age seven. I wasn’t sure I wanted the movies’ vision of Narnia to displace the one in my head, so I’d decided to limit my exposure to them.

As it turns out, it took only the tiniest of things to change my mind on this. Friday night (well, Saturday morning, actually, just before I awoke), I had a dream in which I saw part of one of the movies and, in the dream, changed my mind and decided to buy them. Later in the day I remembered the dream, and suddenly realized that, despite the films' shortcomings, I receive from them the same overall feeling that I get from the books--the feeling C. S. Lewis refers to as "joy" in Surprised by Joy.

While looking at a couple of reviews of Prince Caspian (trying to figure out whether the three-disc version had anything to recommend it over the two-disc version), I saw one that mentioned Lewis’s use of the German word sehnsucht for that same feeling. Apparently it has a significantly deeper meaning than the usual translation of “longing”; but I’ll let you check out its wikipedia page for more details on that. It’s probably the best reason I can think of for buying a movie (or a book, or an album, or whatever).