Last week I squeezed into a seat at a local movie theater, along with my teen daughter and a group of friends, to watch A Winkle in Time. Based on the classic children’s book by Madeleine L’Engle, the movie portrays the cosmic clash between good and evil. I’d read the book as a child and at least three times as an adult, sharing it with my own children. So I was curious how the director, Ava DuVernay, would depict the author’s Christian faith.
Sadly, she didn’t. While I loved certain adaptations in the story line – the urban West Coast setting, the multiethnic characters and inclusion of adoption – I was sorry to see that the Christian foundation for the story had been completely erased. L’Engle was an expansive thinker, using science fiction to probe the mystical elements of faith and stretch the reader’s imagination. But the underlying truth she sought to convey was grounded on the belief that the ultimate good came from a loving God.
L’Engle’s story follows 13-year-old Meg Murry, her little brother, Charles Wallace, and pal, Calvin, as they travel through time and space to rescue the Murry’s father, who has been taken captive on an evil planet. Throughout the universe, the book reveals that a battle is being waged, “a grand and exciting battle,” fought by “some of our greatest fighters.” When an otherworldly character, Mrs. Whatsit asks the children who those fighters have been, she quotes from John 1:5 (KJV), “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
“Jesus!” Charles Wallace replies. “Why of course, Jesus!”
Regrettably, the screenwriters themselves didn’t comprehend this light and eliminated the passage, leaving a smattering of other “great fighters” mentioned by L’Engle and adding one of their own. But the greatest deviation from the original story is in the very nature of the fight itself. In the novel, to overcome the source of evil, an disembodied brain, which is seeking to control the universe, Meg is given a gift: the reminder that she is loved. The movie, however, eliminates this gift, leaving it up to Meg to find the source of love inside herself. “Have faith in who you are,” she is told.
L’Engle, however, recognized that the source of love doesn’t come from us. Rather, it shines through us. Without a source of light, how much light can you have? The obvious answer: none. Just so, there can be no love apart from the source of ultimate love.
As much as I enjoyed the movie – which has a wonderful cast – it lacks the book’s power, having denied the very source. L’Engle was correct when she quoted I Corinthians 1:5, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men.” Or modern movie producers, it seems.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.