What Does Watching the Film “Shadowlands” Bring Up for You?
This was posted a week ago for a day with comments put off until this re-posting—the writing gets into what that’s about. If you missed this post the first time around and want to participate in the comments section, you have time. This will be on the site a week or so before being archived.
* * *
Much of getting clear about something and figuring out what to do about it involves reactivity. You stay vigilant to what’s going on in the world and what people are saying and writing about it and what is going on inside you—physical sensations and thoughts and memories and images in your head—and put words to what you make of all of that, and give it articulate meaning, get specific about its significance, what it implies for you, your goals and actions with regard to it and what you think it implies for people collectively.
This contrasts with uncritically taking in what others put in front of you—the media (movies and TV, etc.) and what politicians, journalists, professors, advocates, podcasters, and such insert into the public discourse—and go, “Yes, that sounds good” or “Nah” and leave it at that or offer an off-the-top remark to people around you or on social media or in comments sections in webzines like this one.
Especially if the second paragraph above characterizes you more than the first, I’d like to push up against that a little in this writing. This post is an invitation to respond in depth to something.
* * *
I streamed a movie the other day that prompted responses in me that made a difference in how I see things, including myself, and that have stayed with me, and I think it might do the same for you. It’s “Shadowlands,” a 1993 British based-on-a-true-story drama about the mid-life relationship between the British Oxford and Cambridge academic and popular Christian theologian and writer C.S. Lewis—he’s best known for his children’s Narnia stories—and the Jewish-American poet Joy Davidson. The story takes place in Britain in the 1950s. It’s directed by the Brit David Attenborough and stars Anthony Hopkins as Lewis and Debra Winger as Davidson.
I found “Shadowlands” a superb film. Hopkins’ and Winger’s performances, wow. If nothing else comes out of the activity I’m going to suggest, you might see a good movie. But the big thing in this context, I think “Shadowlands’ is nutritious food for thought, so to speak, including about mortality, though I don’t want to go into themes or possible perspectives more than that because I don’t want to channel your engagement with the film. I’ll leave it that it seems to me that if you’re of the sort drawn to reading a publication like this one, there’s a lot for you to work with here.
You can stream “Shadowlands” on Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Apple TV, and I’m sure other places, and you can buy it inexpensively—you know where to go for that. You can watch it free as a YouTube, though the resolution isn’t very sharp on that print and I’m concerned that that will keep you distant from the reality of what is being depicted, including the breathtaking landscapes that dot the film; better to pay the $3.95, or whatever it is, rental and get the full measure of the “Shadowland” experience.
Here’s what I’m thinking: This post is only up for the day and no comments allowed. This same post will be up a week from now with the comments section open then. The time between now and next week will give you the chance to pay the dues required to comment—namely, to see the film and work with it so that your comment can go into some depth, offer more than the opinion spurt so prevalent in this text-and-social-media-conditioned age.
I realize you may not be up for either watching the film or giving over time to discerning what it prompted in you and sharing that, and that’s perfectly fine, you may well have better things to do with your time, but that’s the invitation. What’s behind making it is my hope that, in a small way, for some people, this exercise will move them toward becoming more of a participant in the meaning-making and public-dialogue-and-debate process rather than remaining essentially a recipient and yea-or-nay reactor to the pronouncements of others.
* * *
So, if you’re up for it, watch “Shadowlands” over the next week and share the best of your thinking as a comment when it’s back on this site. Let’s say that what you give the rest of us is within the focus of this webzine, that you believe it will contribute positively to us, that you write at least one crafted paragraph, and that your response(s) to other commenters are of this same sort. I’ll respond to every comment that meets those criteria.
I hope this turns out to be an enjoyable and productive time for you. All I know for sure is that I was engaged by “Shadowlands” and respected it as a film and that it prompted thoughts and feelings that matter to me—I’ll get into some of them in the comments section next week—and that the idea of week-delayed, in-depth comments had enough weight for me to put energy today into writing up this post. But that’s me, you do you.
Perhaps you and I and some others will meet up here next week. In any case, have the best week you can in the one chance you’ll get to live it.
I feel bad there are no comments here, bc I was prompted to watch the film and was very glad I did. I enjoyed it immensely. There are very few movies I care to see anymore, and actually haven’t seen any for many years now.
I realized about halfway through that I had seen it before, but it was long enough ago that I recalled very little. Just a few things in it connected with my memory. I realized, too, that I had no idea until the very end what the title “Shadowlands” referred to, and this was my biggest gain from it. It is, of course, that this world (of the living) is necessarily a land of good and bad, of light & darkness mixed together — sometimes seeming more of one and other times more of the other. And that to fully appreciate our life experience here, we need to realize that. Wishing it to be all good, or resenting the part that is bad (as if being singled out) is to miss the point altogether. This is mysterious and wondrous when one thinks deeply about it.
The reason it strikes me as so important is because it’s something I **realized** about a year & a half ago, and it’s been a huge insight for me ever since. Very helpful. So the term Shadowland (land of shadows — for me light & shade which I find very beautiful) is now understandable. I would leave off the ‘s’.
I agree with everything Robert Griffin liked about the film. It is a masterpiece, and I could watch it again tomorrow … but I watched it on Youtube and, as he said, it was a little “fuzzy” and I missed little bits of the dialogue bc the volume was just too low. I thought the ending was perfect, couldn’t have been better done … leaving me with scenes from the film passing through my mind for two nights (!) following it. Scenes I didn’t even consciously remember! But I recognized them. I also had no bad or sad feelings on recalling or re-seeing them, nor happy or joyous feelings either. Just neutral. Even though it kept me from sleeping, I didn’t mind, and they kept coming. I couldn’t turn them off.
Yes, that film is special and I guess it expresses Truth on multiple levels. Thanks Robert, for being true to yourself and writing about it. I hope you get a few more comments.
So good to meet you in a way. I’m a very sensitive type and have never been able to get myself to read the comments to anything I’ve written for TOO. I wouldn’t have read any comments to this Shadowlands blog if it hadn’t been part of the concept of the writing.
What you say about the world being lightness and darkness mixed together, as you put it, is so perceptive. Reality isn’t this or that, it’s this and that. There were and are Jews and whatever can be said about them, including negative, and there was the unique, and dear, human being Joy Davidson. There is what one might write in a book about Christianity and God’s love and there is the contrasting, conflicting, immediate experience of losing someone very dear to you.
Art is an exchange between a work of art and a particular human being at a point in time in his/her life, in this case you and me. I’m sure Shadowlands resonated with who you are at this time in your life and what’s going on with you. I have cancer and am very weak and ending a cycle of chemotherapy and hoping for remission and realizing that remission does not necessarily mean cured. I was taken by the depiction of a man being affirmed and, really, given new life by a woman as Lewis was by Joy, uplifted by that example, that possibility. I was moved and inspired with the illustration of a life without the media and without racial and ethnic discord and with connection to the magnificence of nature. Earlier in my life, I was an actor, and the film affirmed–Hopkins’ and Winger’s performances–that acting can transcend craft, that it can rise to the level of art and be a gift to us all in the same way great writing and poetry and painting can.
Everyone portrayed in Shadowlands is gone, as we will be. They lived as they did and then it ended. My current illness has taught me that time is the only currency that matters, and that we have a finite amount of it and that we spend it as we do and that it will never be replenished. The film underscored that hard, and at the same time challenging and energizing, fact of existence for me.
All the best to you,
“Reality isn’t this or that, it’s this and that.”
That sums up what I am saying, Robert. I also find very true: “I’m sure Shadowlands resonated with who you are at this time in your life and what’s going on with you.” But to the first, I want to elaborate just a little more on what I said about the light-dark relationship, since I usually tend to think I haven’t made myself clear enough, lol. I’m happy you used the word ‘Reality’ in that sentence. What we know as ‘Reality’ can only exist because of the interaction between light on dark, which can also be thought of as good-bad (evil?), true-false, etc. In pure light nothing can be seen, the same in pure darkness. The mingling produces visible forms, which can go all the way to exquisite beauty. But we wouldn’t be able to see it without the darkness mingled with it. Thus is our reality. When we can see everything that happens as equally a part of “what is”– as integral to the whole– we have fully “awakened.”
I agree that this *particular* time and place (and opportunity) will never be repeated; every moment is unique and once only, even though we ourselves are eternal and always have another chance. That’s what the film said to me. I’ll watch it again one of these days, just to enjoy it.
Again, thanks so much for this particular opportunity you provided.
Your interplay of darkness and light concept is profound and thought-provoking. My personal take from just watching the film is that shadowland refers to the darkness—sadness, despair, illness, loss, pain, impending death—that accompanies us throughout life, it’s always there, in the shadows. Our challenge is to live well in spite of that reality; or better, to live more fully because of it. Make a gift of life’s hit, as it were. Lewis and Davidson had four years together while she was in remission, which, my guess, was enriched by their awareness that their time together likely wouldn’t be very long.
I was glad Dr. Griffin invited us to watch Shadowlands (1993). Of course I found it to be a very beautiful movie, with high caliber actors giving majestic performances. If I am not mistaken, the movie was nominated for best movie of the year but unfortunately did not win. What struck me the most is how particularly effective this movie is in demonstrating how simple, elegant, polite, classy, respectful society and life were before Western Civilization began to crumble during the 60’s onward, to reach the unfathomable depth of decadence it has now reached. Compare Shadowlands to the average visual-effects-laden depraved movies of 2022 and the conclusion is inescapable : we, as a society, are in big trouble, known and unknown forces have succeeded in destroying it. Gone is the beauty, simplicity, peacefulness, intelligence and happiness of pre-60’s society. Oh, of course we had our problems and difficulties back then, and big ones at that, but the societal cohesion, the faith in ourselves, in our Church and in our leaders, kept us all hopeful of resolving and surmounting those problems. We did not have the pessimism of today. Life seemed “lighter”. I am very pessimistic of our future.
Yes indeed, the contrast between the life depicted in the film—“simple, elegant, polite, classy, respectful”—and, I’ll personalize it, my life now. I share your pessimism about society as a whole. I hold out the hope, though, that individuals can manage to create lives that, at least to some measure, approximate the dignity and honor depicted in the film. In my TOO writing, including an article this week, I’ve been emphasizing the singular individual and the process, the possibility, despite what’s going on in the world, of living well. It comes down to what you and I are going to do with the rest of today. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. They hit home with me personally.
Thank you Doctor.
I watched it from start to finish. That in itself was a little bit of a treat all things considered since I haven’t been able to fall into a movie as well as I did this one in a while. I think the invitation to watch it, with a request to report back here with my thoughts on it, made it more special. It’s probably the first time I’ve been involved in anything distinctly for Caucasian gentiles, on a group level. Which means we’ve made great progress towards fair and balanced fulfillment distinctly to our own people and all that means. The tools that are required for constructiveness in reinforcing our western culture is in our hands and now we know all of the differences we need to, to hold our values as we go forward into a future of promising prosperity.
back to the movie; Ripe for a sequel as we don’t really know how things developed for Jack and little Douglas (Douglas is Jewish and presumably going to be reared from then on by an Oxford gentile) and the ending implies a promising bonding between the two of considerable value yet left me with more questions than answers so then again maybe not, on that sequel. Truthfully, I think I would have liked it better if Joy had not been Jewish but all considered it was written in a way that spanned any quagmires tidily and the hard work involved to a final product paid off as an enjoyable story and motion picture.
It made my day to hear that you were able, as you put it, “to fall into” Shadowlands, and that my invitation to report your thoughts made it more special. I picked up on your optimism in your comment. I’ve got a writing making its way through the featured articles at the top or the page that ended with the thought that we’ve internalized some poisonous notions, outlooks, from our adversaries, including–and this applies to me–pessimism, hopelessness, about our racial and cultural future.
Thank you for that acknowledgment Robert it really means a lot to me. I’ll keep in the loop here and yes a whole new -rather challenging- level of growth for us to become distinctly more (not less) of what we white gentiles are and will be and must journey forth because I know I don’t do pessimism or jadedness well at all so thank you for That reminder as well as for the invitation to participate in this column. Brilliant idea to get the juices moving again and very supportive whether you realize it or not. And again thank you to Professor KM for his support in bringing a strong blip on the radar to know we’re not alone in this world.
I never saw Shadowlands…just not into the C.S. Lewis deification, and missed it. Maybe I could watch, but I’ve got s lot going on. Now, as to there being no good movies now…I disagree. There are three recent films I’ve greatly enjoyed that are literate, well-acted, and touch on themes we read on this site. They are Bardo, by Alejandro Inarritu, The Banshees of Inisherin, and Tarr.
All three are recent, and all of you should give them a look. Bardo and Tarr are reviewed at Countercurrents, and Banshees will be if they print my review.
really, there are good movies now, you just have to look for them.