I confess that I didn't read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code
--but I am reading it now. And for my penance I will review Ron Howard's film that debuted at Cannes May 17th without the novel in mind. But now that I am reading the book, I want to say that it doesn't matter. Either read the book first and have images of the characters and plot in your mind, or don't and have images of the characters and plot from the movie when your read the book, if you ever do.
I usually do not like literary adaptations to film. As filmmaker Maya Deren strongly declared cinema should develop its own language and not borrow from literary or theatrical conventions. She was also at the first Cannes in 1946 and won the first prize for original motion pictures. But most film is literary today whether we like it or not. Ron Howard said he chose this project to honor the lost sacred feminine, adding he has three daughters and a. iron willed wife. Yet The Da Vinci Code
really isn't about the lost sacred feminine--its a smoke screen for a detective mystery story as the novel. It isn't difficult to make a story using religious and estoeric intrigues as exotic without really going into depth and neither Howard nor Brown do.
There is little to conjure up "sacred symbols of the feminine" even if the mystery concerns tracing theories about the history of Mary Magdelene and her alleged marriage to Jesus. And the film falls short of being an upbeat detective mystery. Although fans of the book have turned out anyway in droves. You can bet that Howards is counting on that and at Cannes even pumped up the volume on the alleged controversy of the film for tangentally discussing Mary Magdelene. Ian McKellan who plays Sir Leigh Teabling, a scholar of the Holy Grail, remarked that on the Eurostar train ride from England to France, there were no protest signs.
The plot of Howards potboiler follows the book Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tatou) , a French government crytographer hooks up with Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) , a symbologist to find out who killed her grandfather, the curator at the Louvre, who is found with symbols painted on his chest and a host of cryptic clues. There is little chemistry in their relationship. The clues left by Sofie's grandfather reveal a story of power struggle in the Catholic Church. His death comes after he assumedly reveals the location of the keystone to the Holy Grail to Silas (Paul Bettany), a deranged flagellator. The stone marks the great secret of the Priors of Sion, a gnostic brotherhood. Police chief Bezu Fache, played by Jean Reno implicates Langdon and Sofie and Langdon escape and search for the real murderer.
In order to present the historical arches of Brown's novel several scenes are rather quickly recreated from biblical and early Christian history - including the modern operations of the Priors of Sion, a "secret" gnostic brotherhood, and the ultra-conservative Catholic sect Opus Dei.
In the end the quest for the Holy Grail continues in modern times, this time all the way to IM Pei's pyramid outside the Louvre for the traditional French, " the scar of Paris". Its intriguing stuff but hopelessly shallow.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm SWEDEN
© 2006 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/06
The Da Vinci Code- A Futile Search for the Sacred Feminine
2006 - USA