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Thoughts on “The Da Vinci Code”

May 22, 2006

The first half of any given year is usually a terrible time for movies, and 2006 has been no exception.  There have been a few exceptions (The Inside Man, V for Vendetta), but by and large the films are so godawful that when something merely mediocre – like Ice Age 2 – comes out, starved moviegoers propel it to $30 million opening days.

But…we are well into May now…which means the big summer tentpoles are coming out.  Neither Jamie nor myself could stomach the thought of seeing Mission: Scientology III, and Poseidon looked like a flop a long way out, so our first chance to engage in summer movieness was last night, with The Da Vinci Code.

So…how was it?  Nowhere near as bad as the critics at Cannes made it out to be.  It doesn’t rank up there with Spartacus or Citizen Kane, but, then again, neither does the novel rank among the masterworks of fiction.  And…when all is said and done…the movie is as faithful an adaptation of a novel as I’ve ever seen.  The flaws noted by the critics – the heavy exposition, the way that Robert Langdon is just a witness to events, etc – are the flaws of the novel carried over to the screen. 

Or…let me put it this way.  If you liked the book, you will probably like the movie.  If you didn’t, you won’t.

Now…allow me to offer a few thoughts as to the film’s subject matter.  To me, the most intriguing elements of the story are not the conspiracy and the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, that she moved to France (Gaul in those days), etc.  Rather, it is the absolute facts that get thrown in.   Constantine and the Council of Nicea, for example.

Knowing what I know of ancient mythology, I have long had an issue with taking the Bible (at least the Old Testament) literally.  And, the more I have learned of early church history, the more problems I have taking it at face value.  The early church decided which articles of faith to support, which tenets to follow, which books to include in the Bible, et cetera.  Early leaders decided the role of women, and the role of the church in society.  Those who disagreed were ruined.  If you are curious about the issue, look up Pelagius sometime. 

As I see it, the Bible and the Christianity we got from them was akin to an abridged version of a book.  Sure, it tells you the basic story.  Most of the themes are there.  But the subplots and subtle descriptions that make the book great are cut out. 

Personally, I would prefer the unabridged version, even if it is not as "clean", and be allowed to make my own decisions, rather than be told what to believe by a group of men who hashed it out in a political battle three centuries after Christ was crucified.

But that’s just me.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    May 22, 2006 11:09 pm

    Heh. Spartacus.

    “Say, Joey, do you like to watch gladiator movies?”

    “Ever seen a grown man naked?”

  2. May 23, 2006 1:29 am

    I did read up on Pelagius and I don’t understand the link. Christianity, unfortunatley, can be abused by man just like anyhting can, even if for what is though to be the right reasons. Pelagius held a view that was contrary to the Bible. How he was dealt with was an abuse by man, not the Bible. Man has been abusing power and using religion to hide behind since the beginning of time. Barry Bonds has been vilified because of his alleged steriod abuse. He also happens to be well documented jerk. Who is wrong, Barry, his critics, Bud Selig and the rest of the people in charge of Major League Baseball? Who really knows? One thing is for certain, you can’t blame baseball.
    God’s grace is given to us freely, you cannot earn it, you can only decide if you are going to accept it or not and live your life accordingly.

  3. May 23, 2006 7:23 am

    “Christianity, unfortunatley, can be abused by man just like anyhting can, even if for what is though to be the right reasons.”

    That’s exactly my point. The various books of the Bible may be the word of God, but they were written down by men, and thus filtered through their perspectives, and influenced by their biases. And they were filtered again, at the Council of Nicea, by a group of men who had a vested interest in strengthening the power of the Church. That is what gets me…a group of men deciding which pieces of God’s word are valid and which are not.

    My take on Pelagius (influenced by my own perspective) is that he was destroyed because his teachings were a threat…not to Christianity…but to the Church apparatus and the men who ran it. You have to keep in mind that, in the late 4th and early 5th centuries, the Church was an up-and-coming power. The institutions of government were failing, and the route to power was through the priesthood.

    What Pelagius taught was that man had free will…the will to do his best to live by the Commandments, or to not…the will to live his live according to Christ’s teachings, or to not…and that man could gain acceptance to heaven without needing the Church as an intercessor. Obviously, this sort of thinking was a major threat to the Church, which was attempting to establish itself as the sole path to heaven.

    Getting back to the main thrust of my post – I find it difficult to take the Bible that we have (and to a degree the Christianity that we have) at 100% face value, knowing how much of it was established and/or ruthlessly squashed by men seeking to preserve and expand their own power.

  4. Jamie permalink
    May 23, 2006 7:59 am

    I think an important point is that when Matt says “the church,” he means the Catholic church, which back then Christianity = Catholic. Some of the short comings of the Catholic church were dealt with during the Protestant reformation and the protestant movement. For example, the Protestant religions (in large part) believe that a person can speak directly to God, whereas the Catholic church believes you must have an intercessor, hence confession and praying to Mary (mother of Jesus not Magdalen).

    Also Pelagius was eventually excommunicated from the church, and his teachings were deemed un-Christian. But I think the concept of free will is a big part of today’s Christianity. For example we have a choice, to receive God’s grace or reject it.

    Anyway my whole point was the original church being the Catholic church….Sorry, I went off on a tangent!

  5. May 23, 2006 8:01 am

    Ha! I’m rubbing off on you!

  6. May 23, 2006 10:32 am

    And Jamie’s absolutely correct. When I say “the Church”, I mean the Catholic church as an institution. It is a carryover tendency from my history studies…in which the Catholic church of late antiquity and the Middle Ages is often called “the Church” because, well, there weren’t any others.

  7. May 25, 2006 2:28 pm

    Great point on the early church being the Catholic Church!

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