So here I am writing a review about a movie that’s almost three years old (released in 2006), based on a book that’s even older (2003). “Why bother?” some would say… Why indeed? After all, it isn’t the best movie out there by a long shot, and I usually write about movies that move me in some way, or that have something interesting to say. A friend told me once that I should go read the book, because supposedly it was about things I’m interested in. Things such as art, culture, history, mythology, symbolism, religion, intelligence to name but a few. But ironically it is precisely because of these interests that I dislike movies (and books) like this one, ye readers be warned!
Since “Angels & Demons” is now hitting the cinemas they decided to air Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” on television again last Sunday, and that’s when I decided to see what all the fuzz was about (the movie was originally banned in many Catholic countries at its release). After watching the movie it did indeed arouse my interest and certainly moved me, but not in a particularly good way. It made me think about a lot of things, but not exactly in the way Dan Brown intended me to, I think. To come back to my reasons for writing this article, it is to: 1. Generate more visitors to my little blog – yeah, shoot me, I need the exposure – and 2. to disentangle the truth and fiction in the movie (and book) by consulting real historical, textual and archeological evidence. This review deals with my frustration the story – for the facts read my article The Da Vinci Claims. Please, sit back and enjoy the ride!
What’s “The Da Vinci Code” about? A man named Jacques Sauniere has been murdered in what seems like a Satanic ritual inside the Louvre. An American expert on religious symbology who’s in Paris at that time, is called in by the police presumably for his expert knowledge on this high profile case. This man being Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks). Langdon gets help from a cryptologist with the French police named Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou, from the fabulous movie “Amélie”, 2001), and together they embark on a wild goose chase… Unbeknownst to Langdon is the fact he was actually called in because he’s the prime suspect in this murder investigation, since Sauniere wrote Langdon’s name in his own blood before he died. Supposedly in a last attempt to identify his murderer.
But Langdon and Neveu give the police the slip and get chased all over Paris – romantically lit by moonlight – while pausing now and again to crack some ridiculous codes scattered around the place. These codes are hidden for example in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci for “those who know and want to revel in the truth” as well as in the cryptic message written in Sauniere’s blood. These clues subsequently lead them, as it will later turn out, on a quest for the Holy Grail! A man named Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) enlightens them on this specific subject because he’s an ‘expert’ on the Priori of Zion. I guess these days you can be an expert on anything that grabs your fancy. The Priori of Zion is a mysterious sect whose members carry a key marked with a Fleur-de-Lis. One such which Langdon and Sophie discover behind the “Madonna on the Rocks” by Da Vinci. Leonardo being of course a member of this highly secret organization, as well as the late Jacques Sauniere, Isaac Newton, and other nondescript people.
Apart from the police, these scholarly boy scouts get hassled by yet another secretive organization with too much time on their hands. This organization being the Opus Dei of the Catholic Church and they are after the exact same thing, that is: the secret location of the Holy Grail (the whole charade made me think of “National Treasure” only with the slight difference that the second is a more entertaining and believable movie). They even have their very own holy hitman called Silas on the case. This avenging angelic albino with an attitude, is trying very hard throughout the movie to eradicate every last shred of evidence of its existence. Because it is a secret that would SHAKE THE VERY FOUNDATIONS OF THE WORLD!!! Yeah, it’s exciting stuff, hold on to your pants. yawn…
Oh, you’re still here? If you are, kudos to you! Perhaps you should consider doing something in accounting. “So what’s the dealio with this sacred grail thingy? Wasn’t that about King Arthur and his spherical table?” I hear you asking. Yes, you’re absolutely right my perceptive friend, but you’ve to understand that everything you’ve ever been told is a big fat lie! For in this movie the true nature of the Holy Grail is revealed for the very first time! It isn’t the cup Jesus drank from during the last supper, no, that would be too obvious wouldn’t it? No, expert Teabing explains to us that this is a common misconception with the incurably misinformed, because what the grail really, really, reeeeaaaaalleey is, is of course the vessel of Jesus’ seed. uh, Yuck!?! Or in other words, his holy consort Mary of Magdalene (the vessel) with whom he was happily married and had a child (the seed) as it turns out. And the plot thickens…
Yeah, the plot gets pretty thick from there on. It’s like the red pill you don’t want to swallow, because if you do your whole world comes tumbling down along with the Church it was build on, or so they say. Rather it’s the pill that gets you admitted to Looney Ville if you swallow too many of them (no offense to the “Matrix”, 1999, which as a matter of fact is a great movie). Maybe you get lucky and they pump your stomach in time, or you manage to put a finger down your throat. Anyways, the Priori of Zion in their infinite boredom decided to keep this stupid secret alive and reveal it at the appropriate time. Somewhere between the 1st century and the 2nd millenium to be exact. When the time was ripe to blow everyone’s mind! Except for the fact they decided not to reveal it at the said time for reasons unknown.
Enter Leigh Teabing the cripple, alias the teacher or rector. A plot twist that’s as unimaginative as the way these otherwise respected actors decided to play their given roles. We can only hope they decided to work on this movie for the money, and that it was worth it… Of course we can’t really blame them for their uninspiring performances when they’ve to work with this kind of material. To make an unnecessary convoluted story blessedly shorter: Teabing is the bad guy pulling all the strings. Setting the Opus Dei and our friends on the trail of the Holy Grail so he could finally reveal “the dark con of man” to the world. The dark con being the fraudulent institution, that is the Catholic Church.
The million dollar question is of course, how it is possible people lose their faith after seeing so much crap? A related sub-question would be, how stupid the people are who watch these movies. Is it really possible you can tell people anything and they’ll believe it? This movie doesn’t reflect kindly on these sort of queries. The problem isn’t of course, as any public relations person can tell you, with the intelligence of these people per sé, but rather with the mis- and disinformation about Christianity. The less people know about a subject the more easily they are swayed by sophism, Plato taught us that already.
It is a fact, that Christianity plays a marginal role at best in today’s mainstream affairs, and usually a seemingly negative one at that. It isn’t, to use Pierre Bourdieu’s terms, “cultural capital” anymore, or to put it plainly: its money isn’t worth a dime. You don’t need to know anything whatsoever about Christianity to get around in daily life – or about history for that matter. Of the faith shaken by the people who watched this movie, you can thus only conclude they never really believed a word of it anyway, if it was that superficial to begin with. Which is symptomatic for this day and age. Just for the record: I am a nonbeliever.
And on that friendly note I’ll end venting my frustration, I meant, sharing my reflections on this particular film. A film which if it didn’t spew such incredible amounts of virulent nonsense while simultaneously generating so much attention, wouldn’t even have registered on my radar. For the facts behind Dan Brown’s fiction, or should I say the fiction behind Dan Brown’s facts? I suggest you read my article The Da Vinci Claims for further information. A tip for to the wise: if you want to lose your faith, do it for good reasons and not made-up ones. There are plenty to go around. Perhaps the only good thing I can say about this movie is that it creates some sort of interest in art and culture, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Lets all hope “Angels & Demons” will be way better, and I still like my friend who recommended me the book. Everyone has his or her ‘Da Vinci’ moments…