Aussie Miasma

The boring assemblage of a boring life from Sydney, Australia.

20 May 2006



Let me commence with what I consider to be apt for a film so drenched in Catholicism: a confession. I have not read Dan Brown’s book, nor do I ever really intend to. From what I have heard about his prose ‘style’, it’s enough to keep me away. But I just had to watch the movie because it’s a cultural tsunami—you can choose to have your eyes open or your eyes closed, but either way you will get soaked.

I found the movie to feel very long. The time seemed to drag on and lead to mild nausea. The dialogue was thoroughly explicative, up to the point of being ridiculous. A radio commentator yesterday on Sydney’s 2BL (ABC 702) called it the ‘CSI-ification of cinema’, whereby the tricks and potential of film qua medium are being evaporated in favour of ‘good ol’ fashioned story-tellin’’. This consists of people talking their way through the narrative and explaining their motivations, sensations and reasoning. Director Ron Howard is guilty of this, but he stops short of having an omniscient narrator doing voice-overs!

As for the suspense factor in this so-called ‘religious thriller’, there was just one—when crazed monk Silas (a bleached-out Paul Bettany) lunges across the screen from right to left. Audrey Tautou tries ever-so-hard to shake the elfin curse of Amélie and almost succeeds. I would have cast Italian seductress Monica Bellucci in the role of Sophie Neveu… but it may have ruined the ‘gleaned grand-daughter’ angle. Tom Hanks does it aptly, but yet again, I would have picked Kelsey Grammer for that truly convincing intellectual presence—which only Ian McKellan possessed and indulged in, much to the appreciation of the audience.
I hear from those who have read the book at the emphasis on the clue-hunting and problem-solving has been diluted noticeably on the film. The clues in The Da Vinci Code movie seem to materialise efficiently and thereby quickly—there is less mystère about them. The whole sequencing of the pursuit and pacing seemed to have that little extra excess, which allowed me to catch my breath too often, diminishing from the tension that could have been.

On the plus side, I can’t say I detested the film. I am not seeking a refund for my ticket. The locations were stunning and this must surely have helped cinematographer Salvatore Totino capture their ‘ageless’ qualities. I liked the overall imagery of the film and the many symbols etc.

But now on to the good stuff. With so many Christian groups upset and calling for a boycott, it got me thinking. Why would they be so concerned about a work of fiction? Have a look for example at:“‘The Da Vinci Code’ gratuitously insults Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church," said Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Birmingham, England. "It deliberately presents fiction as fact.”

Is representing fiction as fact really all that new? You see, I believe the church is really afraid because Dan Brown and Ron Howard have engaged the church at its own game! We atheists have known for a long time that the divinity of Christ (and all religions for that matter) is nothing more than ‘fiction as fact’. I think the protests are really a sign of panic that the final vestiges of credibility are unravelling. In the post-modern world of competing meta-narratives, truth is that to which we subscribe. I think this is what scared the churches. Nietzsche, all those years ago, proclaimed the death of the philosophic God—Brown and Howard have brought it to the masses, with computer graphics, famous actors and exciting locations.

The all-too-rare glimpses into the clouded ecclesiastical history that the filmmakers give us—Council of Nicaea, Emperor Constantine, The Apocrypha, The Crusades, Opus Dei—function as hooks of interest for dramatic purposes: we are intrigued by this hush-hush, crypto-symbolic fetishism. But these points also illustrate just how much of a human institution Ecclesia Catholica is. It raises so many juicy questions, I could not help myself. For the interested reader/viewer, I provide two links. The first is a Wikipedia entry on Apocrypha, the second is the text of New Testament Apocrypha online. The existence of this ‘Other’, non-canonical texts is in itself a tantalising challenge to Christian ‘orthodoxy’ and authority… the tempting flavour of which the churches are combating against.

Happy reading!

Andrew Staker


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