Wednesday, October 26, 2005

God help us.

I sincerely hope the planned movie adaptation of Milton's Paradise Lost never hits the screen.

I can think of no scenario which will end well for this poem and its legacy. If the Christian Right sends its peons in droves to see it, we'll get them all whining on about how it strays from the literal biblical texts, about how it makes Satan a hero. Or, perhaps worse, a few might attempt to claim the poem's more conservative content (Eve's centrality in the Fall, anyone?) as possessing the authority of scripture... which it don't have.

What the film won't have is the awesome density and restraint of the text. The article's parallels to Troy (2004) are appropriate: it is not valid to present this text by dramatising it, just as a silent 168k GIF version of Star Wars is an echo of an echo of an echo of the original's grandeur.

I won't even start on how the producers intend to convey the political, theological and personal context of this blind, penniless, king-killing zealot's work. Paradise Lost may well be the most complex piece in English literature outside of Joyce or Hamlet, and the thought of mega-churched hicks appearing on Fox to denounce it after investing only 100 minutes of their lives fills me with impious rage.

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