Thoughts on the Da Vinci Code

The Eternal Bachelor loves pop culture. I think it comes from the fact that, as a small child, I was exposed to so very little of it. My parents were awesome in instilling high values in me, but a depth of cultural understanding was just not something that mattered to them. I have probably gone a bit too far in the other direction, but not to the psycho-extreme to where its all I do with my life.

That said, there are some things in pop-culture that really don’t mean anything to me. As an avid reader as I am, books such as tDVC just never have appealed to me. Removing its subject matter for a moment, the book still would not interest me. For some reason, the mystery / action / thriller genre just bores me to no end. The plot lines in my novel and the random stories I have made may not be as involved or convoluted as the ones in mainstream fiction, but at least they don’t feel like I’m looking at something that is one step removed from a different novel that was released last year. Compare the marketing of these books to one another and you will see exactly what I’m talking about.

Having never read this actual book, I can not give any type of a review of it, so I will not attempt to do so. You will also not see me disparage something I have nearly no knowledge of, especially when all the knowledge I do have comes from a publicly available news source. Call me paranoid, but believing what the media tells me is about as smart as following your best friend off the edge of a cliff. Really, its more like following that scruffy bum, the one who lives under the train tracks swilling cheap wine all day, off the edge of the Grand Canyon. It might have been a pretty fall, had the ground not been block from view by the falling bum and had you not been directly in his stench trail.

But my girlfriend had read the book and she did want to see the movie. Being a good boyfriend, I went, even though the subject matter itself did not thrill me. What can I say? Having a girlfriend, and thus doing things you wouldn’t normally do, is sometimes necessary to retain said girlfriend.

This isn’t so much a review of the movie, you can find that online, written by the afore mentioned bum, in numerous places online. Don’t believe everything you read, but they are fairly accurate, for once. If you don’t know the storyline, I suggest you either see the movie or read the book before continuing with this entry of mine.

Having been to Paris more times than I care to recount, one thing that is immediately clear is that no one can park that close to the glass pyramid in the Louvre. There are barricades erected that prevent cars from coming that close. True, they are temporary in nature, but if you had seen how long they had been in place, as noted by the dirt piling up around their bases, you would realize there isn’t a parking lot anywhere near it, much less right next to the door.

Its a story, I know, but it is little things like that which annoy me. If you want to write about something, really write about it, don’t just write about what you think it will be like because no one will be around to call you on the difference.

Audrey Tautou plays a French woman perfectly. Of course, she really is French, so she should. Similarly, Jean Reno plays a great French man. Of course, he really isn’t French, so he would be a better actor than Tautou. :) When he commented, early on, about how the glass pyramid was an abomination, I laughed out loud. If you have ever seen it in person, you know how true a statement that is.

As for the storyline itself, I was less than impressed. Granted, making a book of that size into a 2.5 hour movie requires that most of the detail be left out, but so much was left out, several times I just sat scratching my head, wondering what exactly the last 30 seconds were about. To make up for so many things being left out, Ron Howard seemed to drop unbelievably obvious clues. Some things make for excellent cinematography: wide shots of rugged landscape, city skylines, a close-up of a ¾ view of a beautiful woman’s face… but shots of the bottom of the glass pyramid meeting the stone one rising from the floor is not in that list. Not anywhere. In fact, when he did it, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, that’s going to come in to play later.” Sure enough, it did.

And the importance of Sophie was obvious from the first. You know you have to meet the ‘last scion’ at some point, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a plot here. It was also obvious that the scion would have to be someone central to the plot, otherwise you would feel 'cheated’ when the story teller dropped them into the story at the last minute.

One thing I was glad to see was the 'debrief’ at the end of the movie, but I really don’t think Brown went far enough with it. Yes, not having the remains of Mary Magdalene was bad and Sophie and Langdon need to talk that out, but was it really that bad? The remains have the same problem that most really old artifacts that have been in human hands for long periods of time have, namely, authenticity. Lets assume for a moment that DNA testing did reveal Sophie to be a descendent of Mary. So? Since we have no pictures and no third party corroboration, it could be anyone in that sarcophagus. Maybe Sophie’s family, since it ended up being so important for so many centuries, had dug it up from a family burial site and been lugging it around all these years.

Even if the remains are from Mary Magdalene, and even if Sophie is her descendant, so what? There is still no body of Jesus, so no one could ever prove that he was the male ancestor of the line. Mary’s husband could have been Jesus, but it also could have been any other male in Palestine during the same time. An equally valid assumption would have to be that Jesus was not the father because of Mary’s background. Lets assume that she was not, as the movie suggests, a temple prostitute who had been demon possessed, she still had a lot of money because she was one of the ones supporting Jesus and his ministry. Where did the money come from in a society so dominated by men? Probably her husband, and given that Jesus did not have any money, he wasn’t supporting her, which means she could not support he or his disciples.

My last thought is still, so what? Assume that the movie is 100% in line with history. So what? So the power of the Catholic church is at a crossroads. And? If it really wanted to stay in power, it has the motivation and means to sustain itself, through its large number of priests who have a pulpit from which to weekly preach their version of truth. Even if they are discredited and every human quits the Catholic church, it does not invalidate the teachings themselves. Even were Jesus a mortal, even were he married to Mary and had a child, the teachings themselves are still just as valid.

Maybe my Protestant upbringing, and all its blessings and baggage, are blinding me to the point here, but I just don’t see what the fuss is about. No pop-culture movie, be it the Da Vinci Code or the Passion of the Christ, means anything to the faith contained within me. If it did, then the faith is weak at best and false at worst.

To give equal time, check out the NPR coverage from a Catholic priest. Quite good.