Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Da Vinci Code -- Movie Review

You know, I often read movie reviews, and then find myself shaking my head at the world-weariness of the reviewer who does not seem to be able to find anything good to say about a particular production. During the last few weeks I have read some pretty mean reviews about "The Da Vinci Code," and reckoned that I was getting a lot of the usual shoulder-shrugging that I have come to accept as normal for such types. I gather it even got hissed down at the Cannes Film Festival, a rare accolade!

While I think that some of them have been overly cruel about "The Da Vinci Code", I have to say that if it hadn't have been for the fact that millions have read the best-selling book of the same name, that this baby would have had fearfully mediocre takings at the box office. Hanks acts well, but then Hanks almost always acts well. If you are a Hanks watcher, then this is a fascinating new episode for the man who first caught attention in "Bosom Buddies." There are other roles like Silas, the albino monk, that are particularly well done, but if it hadn't have been for the millions that Sony have poured into the movie for special effects, magnificent settings, and so forth, this would have been little more than an adequate depiction of Dan Brown's story.

And it went on too long. Toward the end I realize that I was not especially engaged with the story but was trying to see if I recognized the location where the thing was being filmed. The film would not have lost anything if another 10-15 minutes had been lopped from it. Part of the reason for the difficulty I had concentrating was that it is incredibly difficult to turn into a screen play a book that is set in so many places like this one. Chapter-by-chapter in the story the writer is able to jump from London to Paris to goodness knows where else, but a movie director has to try to bounce you around the place without losing the thread of the tale. In this it is only partially successful.

Enough for the production itself, what about the tale it told and the message it presented? By and large it was pretty faithful to the book, but as we were walking out of the cinema my wife turned to me and said, "You know, the movie is even more postmodern than the book." Relativism, especially religious, certainly runs riot through its pages, and every effort is made to diminish the Christian faith at the expense of the other spiritual streams that run through this story. The distinctiveness of Christianity are stripped away in a vague kind of gnostic pablum.

One of the comments I made on emerging into the fresh air was how powerful a medium cinema is when it comes to communicating a message because it can with great skill and subtlety by-pass the mind and go straight to the emotions. As various techniques were used to play up the Mary Magdalene thesis, especially that she appears in Da Vinci's "Last Supper" and was the wife of Jesus of Nazareth, I found myself so fascinated that if I had had little in the way of background information I could have swallowed what was being presented. The question I came out of the multiplex was whether we would ever have the resources or the ability to counter such skilled debunking of the faith. On top of that, such works require an awful lot of money, and the churches have never had access to that.

I don't want to grizzle to much, however. I had an entertaining evening watching this movie, and saw some lovely shots of London, Paris, and the Scottish countryside. The story is interesting even if the author's attention to detail leaves an enormous amount to be desired. I don't think the movie is anything like fair to the Roman Catholic church, although the obviously Catholic characters in the piece were for me some of the more compelling figures. Sophie, the female star of the production and Hanks' sidekick in this helter-skelter chase, is gorgeous with a winning smile and hair that never seems out of place even when the most violent things are going on!

Go and see it if you want to, but take the message with a pinch of salt.

1 comment:

grandma jan said...

Interesting that there were no comments to this. I read the book and saw the movie and still wonder what all the fuss was about. There were a couple of allegations in the book that I found upsetting at first - until I remembered that it was a work of fiction. I admit it gave me an impetus to do some researching on my own, but it also gave me an impetus to examine my personal beliefs - something we should all do from time to time.