A never-before-seen passage from “A Wrinkle in Time” has hit the web. For those eagerly (or hesitantly) anticipating the Disney movie adaptation of Madeleine L”Engle”s beloved sci-fi/fantasy book, the question arises, Could these newly discovered pages influence the direction of the film?
“A Wrinkle in Time” – which would be likely classified as YA today, though L”Engle once said her books were for people, not just children – follows 13-year-old Meg Murray and her wunderkind five-year-old brother Charles Wallace as they traverse between planets to find their missing scientist father. Jennifer Lee, who co-directed “Frozen,” is set to pen the script for Disney”s upcoming big screen take on the book.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal posted the cut passage, three typewriter-composed pages discovered by L”Engle”s granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis.
In these pages, which you can read here, Meg asks her father how the Black Thing (pure evil Mr. Murray has been fighting) managed to take over Camazotz (the planet where he”s been held captive). This leads to a conversation about totalitarianism, the lure of feeling secure, and dictators like Nikita Khrushchev and Adolf Hitler.
Published in 1962, “A Wrinkle in Time” certainly has themes of conformity and elements that are allegorical of the Cold War, communism and totalitarianism, but it never was as explicit as this cut passage.
The Wall Street Journal invited scholars to review the cut passage. They, and Voiklis, said that the passage offers insight into L”Engle”s thinking, that these pages are “the most direct discussion of politics in her writing” but that it was best to leave this part out of the final edit of the book.
In a stage production of “Wrinkle in Time” that I saw last year at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – which was excellent, by the way – there was one costuming/production design choice that made the Cold War backdrop a little stronger than in the book, and that felt just right: The color red pervaded Camazotz. The residents” clothes, their houses, kids” bouncy balls, the lighting in Camazotz scenes – all red.
Though Mr. Murray”s didactic conversation with Meg about totalitarianism was cut from the book, there remains in the published book a similarly edifying chat between the children and Mrs. Whatsit about the people who fight evil. L”Engle”s political views may have been less explicit in the final cut of “Wrinkle,” but her Christian faith was prominent in that conversation with Mrs. Whatsit (and throughout her writing), as the kids list off Jesus, St. Francis, Michelangelo and others as those who have brought light into the darkness.
This also raises the question of when the Disney film will take place. I certainly hope Lee and co. don”t feel the need to transfer the story to the 21st century. I”d like to see Cold War-era fears of totalitarian rule present in the film, though subtly may be the way to go about that. It”s clear that Hollywood still believes audiences want to see new movies set in the Cold War (“X-Men: First Class,” this summer”s “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” big screen update). It would be wonderful if Disney realized that they can indeed make a film relevant to and enthralling for modern young audiences that includes the Cold War setting and references to L”Engle”s Christian faith – both integral parts of the book.
I'd hate to see a simplified, watered-down adaptation that doesn't trust kids to handle some of the more complex themes, and I bet L”Engle would have too. She slammed the 2004 ABC TV movie adaptation of “Wrinkle” (“I expected it to be bad, and it is,” she told Newsweek.) It”s about time Hollywood delivers an adaptation of the book true to the late author”s vision.