May 10, 2004

Madeleine L'Engle on ABC and God

Posted by Ed

This evening, ABC will present a made-for-TV movie based on Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Here's an exchange from a recent Newsweek interview with L'Engle:

NEWSWEEK: So youíve seen the movie?
Madeleine LíEngle
: Iíve glimpsed it.

And did it meet expectations?
Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.

Aging, L'Engle says, isn't all bad: "I can say what I want, and I donít get punished for it." When Newsweek asked what controversial things she wanted to say, she responded "I sometimes think God is a s--tóand he wouldnít be worth it otherwise. Heís much more interesting when heís a s--t."

The ads for the Wrinkle in Time movie looked horrible, and I was amused that they advertised "an all-star cast featuring Alfre Woodard" (wow!), but I'll have to tune in to see how bad it really is.

Incidentally, A Wrinkle in Time is arguably the best work of literature to begin with the sentence "It was a dark and stormy night." The other leading contender is Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford, which is more famous for that opening line.

Posted by Ed at May 10, 2004 12:34 PM

In 6th grade (1963-64), a few fellow students actually adapted a portion of 'A Wrinkle in time" as a stage play. They made that section a dream sequence. That was my first encounter with a bad adaptation, but at least they were pre-adolescent. And they did love the book.

I have no idea what this new adaptation is like. There would be challenges. The vision of a shadowed Earth would have to be explained differently now. And, all titillation aside, Calvin and Meg's relationship might have to be handled differently because of shifts in mores.

But since L'Engle disliked it, I suspect that the big problem is that the video makers lost track of the moral core.

And that is so important. My 6th grade friends and I were entranced with "Wrinkle" when our 5th grade teacher read it to us. (Do they still read books to kids that age in school, or are 5th graders at the computers?) I don't know if they or I understood how much of its richness came out of that core. But I think I disliked their play because the end invalidated the experience.

I wonder if the producers of the new version understand that core. I doubt if I will tune in to find out.

Posted by: Oscar at May 10, 2004 08:04 PM

The movie was as bad as I feared: it felt like an after-school special, and even though the producers tried to stick to the book's moral core, the script just ended up feeling like it was loaded with platitudes. That's especially disappointing for an adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time; the book was a quirky story touching on issues like individuality and conformism, but when you give these themes the after-school-special treatment, the story loses its own identity and sense of itself. Luckily, I only found the movie unintentionally hilarious two or three times.

I'd probably have more to say about it if I remembered the book better, but I don't think I've looked at it since 1989. Perhaps it's time to hunt down a copy...

Posted by: Ed at May 10, 2004 10:30 PM

I wasn't paying a lot of attention to the movie, but it seemed to deviate significantly from the book. And (most annoying to me) they misdefined "teratoma" in the part where Charles Wallace is looking at the giant books.

Posted by: susan at May 11, 2004 08:36 AM

How might the relationship between Charles and Meg that might be treated differently? I loved the book as a kid, but like Ed, I haven't looked at it since 1989. I was probably too naive to appreciate why contemporary readers might look askance at the relationship.

Posted by: Lindsay Beyerstein at May 15, 2004 06:03 PM

The movie screams divine feminine after reading The Da Vinci Code. Is is just me? Teratoma? Equal parts male and female? Meg's got it hard. She's not one thing or another.

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