cinema, Film, Film Review, Magazine article

Da Vinci Code: Review of film and book

I have a number of free-hosted blogs that vanished into thin cyber air, for whatever reasons. Fortunately,  I found out that some people or organizations re-published or archived some of my blogposts.

Three nights ago, I browsed the web for my lost blogposts. Almost miraculously, I found many of my posts from my blog, Reflections on the Bangsa Moro, had been archived! Snapshots of my blogposts had been captured and saved in the Internet. I don’t know if this was done by people or by bots.

Da Vinci Code movie

One of these blogposts was my review / critique of the film and book, The Da Vinci Code. The book was a phenomenal blockbuster while the film was a smash hit with superstar Tom Hanks in the lead and ably supported by European stars.

Now that I found this post, I am re-blogging it. People might still want to watch or read The Da Vinci Code.

 

 

FROM MY NOW DEFUNCT BLOG, Reflections on the Bangsa Moro:

reflections blog title 2

March 20, 2008

Lenten Ponderings — the Da Vinci Code | # | Media StudiesSocio-PoliticalReligious / CulturalChristianity — jamalashley @ 10:59 pm

 

When I was a kid, all TV programs and movies in the Philippine were all related to the story of Jesus Christ or the Bible. Because of this, I saw The Ten Commandments, The Bible, Ben Hur, Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, The Robe, and films like these more than ten times at least. There was no choice because there was nothing else to see. Besides, when I was a kid, I just wanted to go to the movies with my mother so I could gorge on chocolates and popcorn. We never watched a movie without anything to munch on.

The kids today are so lucky. TV and movies are showing regular fare.

For those who want to ponder upon religious thoughts, below is an article I wrote for Mr.& Ms. Magazine -July 2006. It is about the Da Vinci Code and the topicts surrounding it — Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot, the Jews, The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson, Dan Brown, etc.:

QC da vinci code

 

Film adaptation of literary works started with no less than the inventors of the film apparatus – the Lumière brothers. The book was the all-time best seller – The Bible. The film was La Vie et Passion de Jésus Christ. In Film Studies, the adaptation of classical literature is usually given more attention than those of contemporary books. Contemporary film adaptations are generally studied for their portrayal of current political culture.

Da Vinci Code, the movie, is an adaptation of a very contemporary novel but the structure of the story rests firmly on the New Testament and the early Christian Gnostic writings.

While the novel/film is ostensibly a thriller beginning with a murder and the consequential cops-and-suspects chase, what are foregrounded are the alleged marriage of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene and the existence of their descendants.

The text of the film calls on so many other texts and subtexts. A proper critical analysis of the film would require so many pages.

MEDIOCRE BOOK

Dan Brown’s novel cannot compare to the classics. In terms of artistic value, it has practically none. It contains no new information. The non-fiction best-seller The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail already profited from the Jesus – Magdalene royal dynastic love story almost 25 years ago.

It is interesting to note that Dan Brown’s first three novels – Digital Fortress (1998), Angels and Demons (2000) and Deception Point (2001) – each had less than 10,000 copies printed. All of a sudden, Brown’s fourth novel, the Da Vinci Code, sold more than 60,000,000 (sixty million) hardcover copies. Can a badly written novel become an overnight sensation merely because of its subject matter?

Because of the overwhelming success of his fourth novel, his other novels got a big boost in sales, too. Do people buy books because of the novel’s inherent qualities or because of something else?

In analyzing the movie The Da Vinci Code, the current political culture / political economy surrounding the film takes precedence over aesthetic values.

AGENDA-SETTING

Scholars have acknowledged the big role of Media in the creation of social reality. Media Studies scholars define agenda-setting as the practice, whether intentional or not, of Media to structure public debate and awareness. The Media do not tell people what to think but they tell people what to think about. In the case at hand, for example, the Media do not tell the people to believe the Da Vinci Code’s premises, but they prod people to at least think about Dan Brown’s allegations.

How can they do that? In this case, the novel was given tremendous media hype. Even before publication, the New York Times already endorsed the book.

The novel debuted at No. 1 in the New York Times Best Seller List. By the following year, all of Brown’s novels were already in the New York Times Best Seller List.

Practically all major publications wrote about the book. Brown was listed by TIME magazine as one of the top 100 most influential person of the year 2005 and chosen by Forbes magazine as the No. 12 Top Celebrity of 2005.

Other similar media products like the documentary Origins of the Da Vinci Code were produced. Related materials like the Gospel of Judas were given much media time. In the run-up to the opening of the movie, National Geographic Channel showed several times the Gospel of Judas documentary and had a series called the Secret Bible Week which featured stories on early Christian (Gnostic) writings – those that were prominently featured in the Da Vinci Code novel and film.

JEWISH HOLLYWOOD

The Jews – Metro, Goldwyn, Meyer, Hecht, the Warners, Cecil B. De Mille, etc. – created Hollywood. Biblical stories like the Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah, The Bible, etc. produced by Hollywood featured mostly the Jewish Bible – the Old Testament. In stories of Jesus, the guilt for killing Jesus is put squarely on the Romans. And Jesus was always portrayed as cool and calm and his suffering (called the Passion) was mellowed down.

Lately, Jewish domination of Hollywood has been watered down by the coming of the Japanese (Sony) and the Australians. The Japanese agenda however seems to be purely financial. But the Australian Connection gave the Jews reason to be afraid when top Australian actor/ director made in 2004.

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

Unknown to many people, the 1999 Life of Jesus Mini Series was censored. CBS cut out the nail scene and the screams of Jesus among others because CBS wanted to portray “a more traditional Jesus.” (to see the censored scenes visit  http://hollywoodjesus.com/jesus_series3a.htm)

But Australian Mel Gibson wanted to show the great suffering of Jesus as depicted in the Lenten season’s Passion Play re-enacted in many places in the world, including the Philippines. In 2004, Gibson co-wrote and directed The Passion of the Christ. The Jews cried foul. The movie’s stark portrayal of Jesus’s passion could make the viewers react harshly to Jesus’s enemies, they averred.

Hollywood and other media products have been selling the idea that the Romans – not the Jews – killed Jesus. But in Gibson’s movies, the killers appeared to be Jews. This was somehow emphasized by Gibson’s insistence that the characters speak in Hebrew and Latin. While the Jews protested, Gibson made sure that he got the backing of the Christian churches before the movie’s premiere showing

The movie became a blockbuster and made Gibson many millions richer. The Jews immediately re-issued the Jesus Mini Series and claimed that the series had “Less Passion but More Compassion.” But the harm was done. A sign outside one church in America read “Jews- Christ Killers”. This was one of the more palpable effects of the movie. The Jews needed to do some damage control. As a minority, even a powerful one, they could not afford to antagonize the Christian majority.

DAN BROWN’S NOVEL

It may be a coincidence that Brown’s editor is Jason Kaufman, presumably a Jew. But it is safe to presume that a Jewish editor, upon reading Da Vinci Code, would immediately realize that the answer to Gibson had come. In fact, it would not be far-fetched to presume that the editor himself gave the struggling Christian writer, whose previous book concerned Angels and Demons, some advice on what story to write.

With the agenda set, the Jewish media moguls could easily create a best-seller. And of course, the Hollywood Jews could then make a blockbuster film. An American superstar (Tom Hanks) and famous director (Ron Howard) plus European big stars for supporting roles and a big budget for promotion and PR equal a top grossing film.

For good measure, the Gospel of Judas was hailed as finally transforming Judas Iscariot from evil to good. In the documentaries, Jews claimed that Judas was regarded by the Christians as the representative Jew in the New Testament. The Jews interviewed in documentaries claimed that the New Testament was anti-Semitic. This is quite astounding. How could it be anti-Semitic when ALL the characters in the New Testament, except for the Romans, were Jews? Even Jesus and the Virgin Mary were Jews.

In the Bible Secrets documentaries, it was alleged again that the Romans, not the Jews, killed Jesus. The reasoning however was historically baseless.

With the great media hype on Dan Brown’s novel plus the documentaries on “Bible Secrets”, the stage was set for the box office success of the movie.

Just as the Jews protested over Gibson’s movie, various Catholic groups from different countries protested over the film The Da Vinci Code. The title of an editorial in the New Jersey Jewish News perhaps encapsulates the Jews’ feeling of sweet revenge – “Mel Gibson, Meet Dan Brown.”

AESTHETICS

Cultural politics aside, the film is just as mediocre as the novel. The film tried not to be too gung-ho over the Jesus-Magdalene dynastic line. Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) did not agree fully with Brown’s or Teabing’s (Ian McKellen’s) suppositions. The filmmakers tried to make some characters more credible like Fache (Jean Reno) whose motivation for his obsessive desire to catch Langdon and Neveau (Audrey Tautou) and his connection with Aringarosa (Alfred Molina) were not explained well in the book. However, they made other changes which made things even murkier.

In the novel, Aringarosa was the head of Opus Dei who wanted to secure the secret documents to obtain more power in the Catholic Church. In the film, it was not clear if Aringarosa was with the Opus Dei. And yet, police detective Fache was made an Opus Dei member. Who and what was Silas’s (Paul Bettany’s) motivation then? Like the novel, Akiva Goldsman’s (another Jew?) screenplay was sloppy.

The value of novels and films depends mainly on the narrative’s coherence. At the end of the story, all dilemmas should be resolved, all questions should be answered, and there ought to be no loose ends. Unfortunately, in both the Da Vinci Code book and film, dilemmas were unresolved, questions were unanswered and there were quite a number of loose ends.

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Published in the Mr. & Ms. Magazine Supermonthly of the Body, Mind & Spirit, July 2006

Related Post:

Mary Magdalene, Judas and The Da Vinci Code Origins

Column article

Deconstructing Da Vinci Code during Lent

When I was a kid, all TV programs and movies in the Philippine were all related to the story of Jesus Christ or the Bible. Because of this, I saw The Ten Commandments, The Bible, Ben Hur, Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, The Robe, and films like these more than ten times at least. There was no choice because there was nothing else to see. Besides, when I was a kid, I just wanted to go to the movies with my mother so I could gorge on chocolates and popcorn. We never watched a movie without anything to munch on.

The kids today are so lucky. TV and movie houses are showing regular fare.

For those who want to ponder upon religious thoughts, below is an excerpt from my post in my other blog. It is about the Da Vinci Code and the topicts surrounding it — Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot, the Jews, The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson, Dan Brown, etc.:

Film adaptation of literary works started with no less than the inventors of the film apparatus – the Lumière brothers. The book was the all-time best seller – The Bible. The film was La Vie et Passion de Jésus Christ. In Film Studies, the adaptation of classical literature is usually given more attention than those of contemporary books. Contemporary film adaptations are generally studied for their portrayal of current political culture.


Da Vinci Code, the movie, is an adaptation of a very contemporary novel but the structure of the story rests firmly on the New Testament and the early Christian Gnostic writings.


While the novel/film is ostensibly a thriller beginning with a murder and the consequential cops-and-suspects chase, what are foregrounded are the alleged marriage of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene and the existence of their descendants.


The text of the film calls on so many other texts and subtexts. A proper critical analysis of the film would require so many pages.


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For the full text go to: M-Reality: The Mind/Body/Spirit blog
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