The Da Vinci Code movie
Critics have not been impressed with the movie version of Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code.1 Nor was I.
At the premiere movie showing, on 17 May 2006, at the 59th Cannes Film Festival, ‘one scene from the film, meant to be serious, elicited prolonged laughter from the audience’, and at the end ‘there was no applause, only a few catcalls and hisses.’2
Another critic wrote: ‘The religious sect that recently advised parishioners to “fast unto death” to protest The Da Vinci Code can start eating again. This Code isn't all it's cracked up to be. … The movie is so nervous about offending anyone that it's hardly any fun. [Tom] Hanks (who plays the hero) delivers a few solemn speeches meant to deflect criticism. Meanwhile, he and [Audrey] Tautou (who plays the heroine) barely hit it off.’3
In my opinion, viewers who have not read the book would find parts of the film hard to follow. In particular, the opening and closing sequences, which supposedly set the scene and supply the finale for what the yarn is all about, are not at all clear. At the beginning, the curator of the Louvre, after being shot, takes off his clothes and arranges his body on the floor in the posture of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous sketch, The Vitruvian Man.4 The book explains that this is heroine Sophie’s favourite sketch by Leonardo, and that her dead grandfather arranged his body in this way, as he was dying, to catch her attention. However, there is not enough time to make all this clear in the first few minutes of film.5
In the closing sequence, hero Langdon kneels to worship the bones of Mary Magdalene, but how on earth could her tomb be buried underneath the glass pyramid structure, in the floor of the Louvre? Neither the film nor the book explains this. Nevertheless, the film shows a ‘cutaway’ sequence, supposedly of a large crypt containing Mary’s tomb, beneath the floor. No wonder the Cannes audience booed and hissed.
According to the book, this same tomb also contains ‘four huge chests that each required six men to carry’, allegedly containing ‘thousands of pages of unaltered pre-Constantine documents, written by the early followers of Jesus, revering him as a wholly human teacher and prophet’.6 Film director Ron Howard does not picture this piece of gross historic bunkum and wishful thinking.
By the way, the name of the artist that painted The Last Supper was Leonardo. ‘Da Vinci’ means ‘of Vinci’, which was Leonardo’s birthplace. Calling him ‘Da Vinci’ all the time, is like calling St Francis of Assisi just ‘Of Assisi’.
The 2hr 22min film is quite violent, with about a dozen murders or deaths graphically depicted, and is very gloomy—up to 80% of it takes place at night, in darkened rooms, or in the dark interiors of the Louvre and of various churches or cathedrals. I can’t imagine it attracting a cult following, because I can’t imagine anyone wanting to see it a second time, and virtually none of the dialogue is worth remembering or repeating. There are four or five one-line jokes, a couple of which drew modest titters from the 50 or so people at the cinema showing that I attended.
Film director Howard has removed many of author Dan Brown’s historical blunders and some of his offensive theological howlers, such as his calling the Shekinah glory a female deity, and Brown’s blasphemy that God’s name, Jehovah, was a combination of the masculine Jah and the feminine name for Eve, Havah. However, Brown’s main attacks on Christianity remain.
An Opus Dei monk and a group of Roman Catholic bishops are the villains of the plot. The monk, who is the chief murderer, three times asks Christ to give him strength to do his evil tasks. Then an essential part of the plot is the claim that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, that Jesus’ divinity was a result of Constantine ’s declaration, and that the four gospels in the New Testament were chosen by him.
A brief film ‘flashback’ to a supposed re-enactment of the first general council of the Church summoned by Constantine (the Council of Nicea) shows the 300+ delegates all speaking at once and shaking their fists at one another. Presumably Howard is trying to portray disunity by this distortion of history, but history records that the outcome, which became the basis for the Nicene Creed, was carried by a vote of 316 to 2. Note: The Council of Nicea did not create the divinity of Christ. The delegates affirmed what the New Testament proclaims in many places, for example, the Apostle Thomas’s confession of faith, ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20:28 ), when he saw the Lord Jesus Christ one week after His Resurrection.7
Brown claimed that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child, who was raised in France and in turn produced offspring that became France ’s Merovingian dynasty of kings, whose descendants live on today. Note that even the two dissenting votes at Nicea didn't teach anything this preposterous. This claim is repeated in the film, albeit so briefly that anyone who had not read the book would barely follow it. In the book, this latter bit is very low-key. It reads: ‘[Sophie’s grandmother] Mary told the story of Sophie’s late parents. Incredibly, both had been from Merovingian families—direct descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ.’8 The reader is left to put two and two together. However, in the film, Langdon brashly says to Sophie: ‘You are the heir. You are the end of the bloodline. You are the last living descendant of Jesus Christ.’ This was the line that the Cannes audience laughed at during the premiere showing of the film. It did indeed sound so ludicrous to hear it said out loud, without the preparation for it that Brown propounds to readers (albeit erroneously), in many pages of his book.
I doubt that many people, if any, will find their faith seriously challenged by watching the film. The book, however, with its written format that allows a quasi-documentary style in places (albeit with false information), is another matter, and Christians would do well to equip themselves with correct information to engage in dialogue with both readers and viewers.
- Brown, D., The Da Vinci Code, Corgi books paperback, Transworld Publisher, London, 1904.
- CNN.com. ‘Da Vinci Code’ meets with catcalls’, 17 May 2006 .
- Bernard, J., Daily News, New York, 18 May 2006.
- The Vitruvian Man was a drawing done by Leonardo, c. 1492. It showed a naked male figure in two superimposed positions, lying on his back, with his arms and legs apart, and simultaneously inscribed within both a square and a circle.
- It is explained on p. 104 of the book (paperback).
- Ref. 1, pp. 231, 343–344.
- See also Matthew 28:19; Romans 9:5; Colossians 1:15–18; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:5, 20; etc.
- Ref. 1, pp. 578–579.