Film’s stars dispute claims of anti-religious themes
It was supposed to be a relatively straightforward, high-budget adaptation of a hugely popular children’s fantasy novel, but producers of The Golden Compass have found themselves mired in controversy after the novel — the first in author Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and the basis for the movie — was deemed anti-religious and even anti-Catholic by some.
The Halton Catholic District School Board and the Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District have pulled the book from library shelves and out of the reach of students over the past month, with the novel subject to committee review by both boards in the coming weeks.
The Carnegie Medal-winning book, first published under the title Northern Lights in 1995, tells the story of Lyra, a young girl from an alternate universe where individuals are accompanied through life by “daemons,” animal manifestations of their soul.
When the powerful Magisterium — an organization which some claim is a thinly-veiled substitute for the Catholic Church — attempts to seek total control, Lyra and her allies try to find a way to thwart their plans.
Author Pullman is a self-proclaimed atheist.
“It’s not the author being reviewed so whatever the author’s beliefs are, they’re not in question,” Halton Catholic District School Board spokesperson Lisa Stocco said.
Stocco went on to explain that officials received a request to have the book reviewed last month and while that process continues into the new year, she said the book will remain off library shelves but still available for students to borrow by request.
In response, the film’s stars are dismissing the controversy and insist the novel and the film are anything but anti-religious.
“It’s almost an alarmist approach right now, but I think when you see the film that’ll be dissipated,” the film’s star Nicole Kidman said.
“I don’t want to be in a film that’s anti-religious or anti-Catholic,” Kidman continued. “I come from a Catholic family so that’s not something that my grandmother would be very happy about and I don’t think that’s something that I’m involved with.”
Daniel Craig (Casino Royale), who plays the scholarly Lord Asriel, argued that discourse would only help the film and enhance understanding of different spiritual philosophies.
“I genuinely believe that the morals and the lessons for children in this book are good and strong and secure,” Craig said, adding, “It’s good that it has that controversy, but it’s a debate and that’s what maybe there needs to be more of.”
The Golden Compass opens in theatres today.