Monday, May 22, 2006

"Da Vinci" by the book: Plenty of signs, not much wonder


directed by Ron Howard
starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, others

With all the huffing and puffing and ink-spilling over The Da Vinci Code—first the book and now the movie—it's easy to lose sight of what made Dan Brown's novel so controversial when it first appeared in the public eye. These days I'm amazed to find that nearly every review and article about it routinely launches into a matter-of-fact discussion of Code's central premise, without so much as a spoiler warning. I'm not one of those moviegoers who insist on knowing nothing about a film beforehand—quite the contrary, I generally try to glean as much advance information as I possibly can—but this strikes me as overload. At the rate it's going, not a soul who goes to see "The Da Vinci Code," is going to be more than mildly surprised by any of its revelations, regardless of whether he or she has read the book.

Which is too bad, since it's the impact of those revelations that gives the narrative its juice. The Da Vinci Code is not a good book, but it is assuredly a good read – mainly because it invests its energies in deftly unfolding a genuinely subversive, thought-provoking idea that sets the whole patriarchal tradition of Christianity on its head. The idea isn't a new one (the Gnostic gospels have been around for a while, after all), and was neither thoroughly researched nor accurately presented in Brown's version, yet it still has an undeniable kick. And despite Brown's lead-footed prose style, the book conveyed real excitement at its own ideas, and at the power of interpreting and repossessing religious and artistic iconography, that made theology and art history unprecedentedly sexy. The Da Vinci Code did for those subjects what the Indiana Jones movies did for archeology.

Unfortunately, very little of that excitement or sexiness made it into the movie, despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that it stays remarkably faithful to its source. The basic story, for those of you who don't already know it, is a decoding quest by Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a renowned professor of symbology. While visiting Paris on a book tour, Langdon is drawn into a mysterious murder at the Louvre that is accompanied by an obscure, coded message and clues linked to various famous works by Da Vinci. On the verge of becoming the fall guy for the crime, he is (rather improbably) rescued by a fetching young cryptologist named Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), who has her own personal motives for discovering the true murderer. The two go on the lam, bent on solving the murder and unraveling its symbological implications, which lead them from a high-security safe-deposit vault to the manor of an eccentric British scholar named Teabing (Ian McKellen) to various churches and historical sites in London, learning a lot of apocryphal (or is it) history along the way.

Sounds ok, but it doesn't transfer all that well to film. Part of the problem is endemic to the book, which is most interesting where it engages in its twopenny disquisition and analysis of art works and the history of the Catholic Church, and least convincing where it resorts to silly subplots involving a psychotic, self-flagellating albino monk (Paul Bettany) and diabolical conspiracies masterminded by a cartoonishly vilified Opus Dei. But those subplots are where the action is, and the danger; the rest is just talking and looking at art, which is admittedly hard to make cinematic. Howard tries, but doesn't bring much imagination to a difficult enterprise (his best idea seems to be washed-out "historical" flashbacks that look like they were cut from a Monty Python movie), and is further hampered by thoroughly wrongheaded casting.

I had envisioned someone like Campbell Scott, perhaps, as Langdon, and Julie Delpy, without question, as Sophie. Instead, we get Hanks, who is colorless, muted and withdrawn where he should be keen and faintly roguish, and Tautou, who is too young for the part and seems to be either struggling with her English or just Enunciating Everything Very Carefully, at the expense of any kind of emotional inflection. Bettany dons funky contact lenses and medieval torture gear and does what he can with a role that is more of a comic-book construct than a character, while the talented Alfred Molina is wasted (not for the first time) as the Opus Dei cardinal who may or may not be behind the murders.

Only McKellen injects any real life into his role. While I'd imagined someone littler and more roly-poly as Teabing (perhaps Sir Richard Attenborough, or maybe I'm just thinking of "Jurassic Park"), I have to admit McKellen is a delight as the obsessive academic, hamming it up like nobody's business and apparently having a gay old time doing so. But his energy only highlights Hanks' lack of it. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the middle stretch of the movie, where Teabing and Langdon are arguing over history. Both should be impassioned and fully engaged; on screen, only one is—McKellen all the way. Hanks, by contrast, is oddly detached for someone who's risking his life to find the answer to what they're disputing.

This detachment also infects Langdon's relationship with Sophie, which in the book is supposed to include a certain level of implied attraction, even sexual tension, that is totally absent here. Curiously (or not so curiously, given Hanks' acting profile and the increased age difference between his Langdon and Tautou's Sophie), what develops here is a quasi-paternal dynamic that in some ways undercuts the very point of The Da Vinci Code. Their search is supposed to end with a celebration of the eternal feminine and its silent triumph over a male-dominated orthodoxy. But in this version, the lasting impression we're left with is a backpedaling conversation in which Langdon seeks to take the weight of this reversion, and its destruction of a long-established system of beliefs, off Sophie's fragile shoulders. The intent is good, and the message not unappealing for the skeptical reader or viewer who's loath to take this alterna-ideology (or Brown's spin on it, anyway) at face value. But in pulling its final punch, this "Code" strips itself of its own meaning and purpose for existence. Now there's a puzzle that even Robert Langdon couldn't crack.



Blogger CalabazaBlog said...


4:32 AM  
Blogger Seven Star Hand said...

Hey Lylee,
You may not initially agree with everything I reveal, but be a little patient with my long-winded presentation of what I have waited a very long time to be able to say. I promise to amaze and enlighten. In the end, you will understand the hidden sub-plot of the book and movie and much, much, more.


Here is the key to understanding what the Vatican and Papacy truly fear...

Pay close attention, profundity knocks at the door, listen for the key. Be Aware! Scoffing causes blindness...

Here's a real hot potato! Eat it up, digest it, and then feed it's bones to the hungry...

There's much more to the story of the Vatican's recent machinations than meets the eye. It's not the DaVinci Code or Gospel of Judas per se, but the fact that people have now been motivated to seek out the unequivocal truth about an age of deception, exactly when they expect me to appear. These recent controversies are spurring people to reevaluate the Vatican/Papacy and the religions that Rome spawned, at the worst possible time for them.

Remember, "I come as a thief..." ?

The DaVinci Code novel and movie are no more inaccurate as literal versions of history than the New Testament. The primary sub-plot involved purposeful symbology being used to encode hidden meanings, exactly like the Bible and related texts. In other words, none of these stories represent the literal truth. This is the common and pivotal fact of all such narratives about ancient Hebrew and Christian history. Debating whether the DaVinci Code, Gnostic texts, or the Bible are accurate history is a purposeful ploy designed to hide the truth by directing your inquiry away from the heart of the matter.

There is a foolproof way to verify the truth and expose centuries-old religious deceptions. It also proves why we can no longer let the Vatican tell us what to think about ancient history or much else. It is the common thread connecting why the ancient Hebrews, Yahad/Essene, Jews, Gnostics, Cathars, Templars, Dead Sea Scrolls, DaVinci Code, and others have been targets of Rome’s ire and evil machinations. The Vatican and its secret society cohorts don’t want you to understand that the ancient Hebrew symbology in all of these texts purposely encodes and exposes the truth about them. Furthermore, the structure of ancient wisdom symbology verifiably encodes the rules to decode messages built with it. This is what they most fear you will discover.

If the Bible represented the literal truth or even accurate history, there would be no need for faith in the assertions of deceptive and duplicitous clergy and their ilk. It is undeniable the New Testament is awash with ancient Hebrew symbolism and allegory. The same is evidenced in the Old Testament, Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic texts, biblical apocrypha, Quran, DaVinci Code, and other related sources. All ancient religious, mystical, and wisdom texts have been shrouded in mystery for millennia for one primary reason: The ability to understand their widely evidenced symbology was lost in antiquity. How do we finally solve these ages-old mysteries? To recast an often-used political adage: It’s [the] symbology, stupid!

It is beyond amazing that the Vatican still tries to insist the Gospels are the literal truth. Every miracle purported for Jesus has multiple direct symbolic parallels in the Old Testament, Apocalypse, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other symbolic narratives and traditions. Recasting the symbolism of earlier Hebrew texts as literal events in the New Testament is one of the central deceptions associated with Christianity. This is part of the secret knowledge held by the ancient Gnostics, Templars, Cathars, and others, which is presented with dramatic effect in the DaVinci Code. None of these narratives or stories were ever intended as the literal truth. This fact is the key to unraveling many ages-old mysteries and exposing the truth about the Vatican's long-term deceptions.

Moreover, the following Washington Post article (The Book of Bart) describes how many changes and embellishments were made to New Testament texts over the centuries, unequivocally demonstrating they are not original, infallible, or truthful. When you combine proof that the New Testament Gospels are not wholly literal with proof that these texts were heavily reworked in the early years of Christianity, you are left with only one possible conclusion. The Vatican has long lied to everyone about the central tenets and history of Christianity. This revelation also proves they are not the Creator’s representatives but Her longtime opponents. The recent hoopla over the Gospel of Judas and DaVinci Code demonstrates they are still desperately trying to deceive the world and obfuscate their true nature and activities.

It's no wonder the Vatican fears the truth more than anything else. As further proof of these assertions, seek to understand the symbolic significance of my name (Seven Star Hand) and you will have proof beyond disproof that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have long been duped by the great deceivers I warned humanity about over the millennia. What then is the purpose of "faith" but to keep good people from seeking to understand the truth?

Now comes justice, hot on its heels... (symbolism...)

Not only do I talk the talk, I walk the walk...
Here is Wisdom!!

Revelations from the Apocalypse

4:18 PM  
Blogger Tonio Kruger said...

You have a more charitable opinion of Ms. Tautou's performance than I do, Ms. Lee. For one thing, I thought she looked bored. (And given the lines she had, I don't blame her.)

And didn't she speak English in that "Dirty Pretty Things" movie she did a while back? I could have sworn she did. Now I'm going to have to rent that film again. Not that that's a big sacrifice for me. That movie was far better than this one.

6:46 PM  

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