Sunday, May 28, 2006

Duh-Vinci Code movie reviewed

Please keep in mind while reading this that I caught the 9:50 pm showing of the movie, and it's around 2 1/2 hrs long, so I was a bit slap-happy anyway.

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I'm one of the last 3 people in the English-speaking world who has not read Dan Brown's smash-hit book The DaVinci Code. However, reviews of the movie indicate that it is slavishly faithful to the text of the book, so I'm not really worried about what I'm missing. (Okay. To be honest with you, I wasn't worried about what I was missing before I saw the movie. This is a pity, since the general sense of the story is geared to people who are worried that they are missing something.)
Let's start with the general stuff that any review ought to contain.
-Acting: Eh! What was Tom Hanks thinking? He's just not convincing as a professor of "religious symbology." Admittedly, this is partly due to the wooden script he was given. Lines that look good on paper, and sound good in the mind's ear, do not seem to translate well to believable dialogue. Of course, Hanks seems to try to be playing Dr Langdon as a likeable, human character. His observations of paintings like, "The artist representation of the unattainable through curvilinear, disconnected imagery is astounding!" just come across as bland reads. I don't believe that he believes these things, or that he is as brilliant as I perceive his character is supposed to be.
Now, I'm about as far from fashion-conscious as possible, but the hair, Tom! The hair! What was up with that HAIR?!
Ian McKellen plays the grandfatherly stereotypical Englishman that seem to be his only roles these days--but then again, how many actors are still working and successful in films at his age?
Audrey Tautou seems to do alright, but she doesn't really seem to actually struggle with the internal conflict her character, Sophie Neveu, is apparently experiencing. When she finally makes the conversion from unbeliever to believer, it is utterly unconvincing and undramatic. Of course, I've never seen her in any other movie, so she may be playing her full-range of ability. I don't know.
Is there supposed to be a smouldering romance budding between Hanks and Tautou? I couldn't tell--which is probably a bad sign.
Paul Bettany is believably wacko, Jean Reno is French, Alfred Molina plays Alfred Molina (though his role might have been improved by some bionic Doc Oc arms), and Jurgen Prochnow--whose presence is indicative that this is a religious thriller that probably won't be orthodox or believable--is creepy as always. For once, he's not cast as a mad homicidal priest/monk--Bettany's character.
The grand dramatic moments fail to move me--or anyone else. The music swells, the camera zooms gently in on the actor's faces, but no one feels anything. Oh well.

"The DaVinci Code" is one of the best comedies I've seen in awhile.
What do you mean, "It wasn't supposed to be a comedy?" It sure made me laugh!

Let's see...
The movie opens with Robert Langdon giving a lecture on how symbols must be interpreted within their own historical, artistic context. A swastika wasn't always a symbol of the Third Reich, for example. However, the movie's great mystery hinges on the "fact" that there are certain universal symbols for all time. The ^ has "always" represented the masuline, while the \/ has "always" represented the feminine. (I will never look at the letters "M", "N", and "W" the same way again!) So, which is it? Context or universality?

Judaism began with sacred sexual rites in the temple so that men could experience the "sacred feminine," (Just consider the Star of David as a symbol!) and that this practice carried over into early Christianity until it was quashed by chauvinistic mysogynists in church leadership. So purports the movie.
While it is true that there was a great deal of ritual prostitution going on among the other nations that surrounded Israel, a great deal of time is spent in the Hebrew Scriptures instructing Israel not to be like the nations around them. This separation even extends to how a sacrificial altar is to be built: "And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it." Ex 20:26 These do not sound like the words of a faith that began with ritual prostitution. Any sexual activity going on in the tabernacle or temple would almost certainly have been punished by death!
Christianity, too, sprung up in the midst of a culture that accepted--even promoted--ritual prostitution in the temples of various deities. However, Christianity--like Judaism--placed a high emphasis on being different from their culture. It is possible that there were some twisted off-shoots of Christianity that promoted sex as a key to divine experience, but this is not the plain teaching of Jesus and the apostles! Such ideas would've been considered false doctrine or worse, and never sanctioned as true Christianity!

The secret society "The Priory of Sion," doesn't actually exist, despite Brown's claims to the contrary. It was invented, based on forged documents created in the last century. There is no such group protecting the "big secret" about the holy grail.

*******SPOILER ALERT!*******
As if you hadn't already heard or read, the big secret about the holy grail is that it's not a chalice, it's a person! Jesus, asserts author Brown, was just an ordinary guy--an inspirational leader at best--who married Mary Magdalene, who conceived before he was arrested and crucified. Thus, the bloodline of our Lord was carried out through her descendants down through the ages, and, Big Shock! Sophie Neveu is the last surviving descendant of Jesus!
This is nothing new. The Merovingian family of french kings invented much of this story to validate their kingship. It was barnyard fertilizer then, too.

*******END SPOILER ALERT!*******
Leonardo DaVinci comes into the story & title, because he was supposedly a member of this secret society and spilled the beans through his paintings--specifically "The Last Supper." In this great painting, he depicts, supposedly, not the apostle John, but Mary Magdalene. Since they are leaning away from each other and the gap forms a V-shape, this must be proof that
A] that's a woman in John's spot (Just wondering... If that's Mary Magdalene at Jesus' right, where is the "beloved disciple" John?), and
B] "she" is the "grail"--also a V-shaped object!
Naturally, a heretical document that would never have been accepted as Scripture is brought out to "prove" Jesus was romantically-attached to Mary M, and intended her to be his successor!

Brown contends that Jesus was not considered divine in the beginning and that it wasn't until the 300s AD, when Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicea, that this was set in stone as orthodox doctrine. (Explain to me again why they crucified Jesus?) And this was done as a political move to unite the empire! (actually, there may be something to that last bit, but it doesn't change the facts of history)
The deity of Christ was central to the Christian faith from the very beginning! If he was not God in the flesh, there is no Christianity! The Nicean Council was convened to clarify (if I remember correctly) the "how" of his incarnation. Was he made of the same stuff as God or did he have a different nature? His divinity was not up for debate, just one aspect of it.

The end result of all of this is that Jesus is depicted as just a regular guy with no divinity at all. When this "truth" finally comes to the front, Langdon tells Sophie, (I'm paraphrasing here) "It may be true, or it may not be. What matters is what you believe."
Wait a minute! You've spent 2 1/2 hours searching for "the truth"--a fact that would turn Christianity upside down--and end up telling me that it doesn't really matter whether it's true or not?! And this from a movie promoted with the tagline "Seek the Truth"!
Of course, in a last minute stinger, the tomb of Mary Magdalene is discovered, thus somehow proving the "truth." Does this negate the comment about my belief being all that matters?

But this is all just fiction, right? Well, yes, of course it is. And left at that level, it's an entertaining story. But Dan Brown keeps insisting that the whole thing is based on fact. As best as I can figure, except for the names of a few historical people and places, there's very little reliable truth here.
Of course, it doesn't matter whether it's true or not, Mr Brown. All that matters is whether or not I believe it!

I believe I want my money back!

Listening to: "Saloon Piano, vol 1" Dave Bourne

1 comment:

Cathy S said...

I must be one of the other 2 people you mention who haven't read the book. In addition, I probably won't either, unless I need to read it to support my own beliefs. Personally, I don't think people I come in contact with will be all that anxious to fall in line with the author's opinion. In other words. . . much ado about nothing.