Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Wrinkle In Time (Great Expectations)

Newsweek: So you’ve seen the movie?
Madeleine L’Engle: I’ve glimpsed it. 
And did it meet expectations?
Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.
A precise, and (assuredly) approved, depiction of the story within.
L’Engle isn’t around to give us her frank opinion of the latest attempt to bring her book to screens. But if there is critical consensus it might be: It was the best of movies, it was the worst of movies. David Edelstein casts a gimlet eye on this hemming and hawing, and suspects his colleagues of soft-peddling their displeasure for fear of being read as un-woke. Taking a stab at same, he concludes, “Let me put a more positive spin on a negative review. The book is still out there for people to read: Please do so.”

Amen to that.

Any openness I might have had for this latest movie was quickly revoked when I saw the first trailer. I had zero issues with the casting of the Murry family — in fact, I was thrown by just how perfectly Chris Pine embodied my own conception of how the father appeared and behaved. The three witches and the worlds they introduce, however, seemed to come directly from current Disney stock (one daughter said, “Tim Burton’s Alice? — ugh”). I can’t imagine our beloved, contrarian bard summoning much patience for such predictably tawdry visual opulence.

I haven’t read everything L’Engle wrote — her best stuff is incomparably wondrous, but she wrote plenty that’s not. Regardless, I can’t recall from what I’ve read anything that suggested she was much impressed with movies in general. Stage, on the other hand, was a very big deal to her.

There is a great difference in kind between cinema and theatre. Audience experience of theatre is, by its nature, participatory and liminal. Everyone involved is filling in the blanks in their own unique yet communal way. Film is, by and large, “a wrap.” I suspect L’Engle reflexively distrusted the cinematic impulse to put definitive parameters on the beholder’s imagination.

Whatever the case, Madeleine clearly believed there was nothing more powerful than a girl reading — and loving — a book.

Amen to that, too.

Leah Schnelbach glories in “the sheer weirdness of [L’Engle’s] work” — please read. It is an excellent articulation of the esoteric power of L’Engle’s invitational fiction. That said, I was particularly struck by a single, digressional paragraph Schnelbach feels compelled to add, which begins, “I should mention that not all of this craziness was necessarily great. She did have a tendency to equate ‘light’ with good and ‘black’ with evil. She also perpetuated a really odd Noble Savage/Celt/Druid thing, and also some of her books promote much more gender normativity than I’m comfortable with . . . (etc, etc)” Reading this equivocation, it occurred to me that perhaps the most subversive idea L’Engle sowed within her readers’ consciousness was that they, like she, truly possessed the power to forgive not only beloved authors but parents, siblings, lovers,  — you know: the people who seem to wound us the most deeply.

Might I get an “amen”?

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