Visions of Paradise

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The DaVinci Code (movie)

Jean and I had one blockbuster certificate left for a free video, but it expires Christmas Day. So last night we decided to get a video to watch. However, I forgot to check my list of Recommended Movies before leaving home–so why the heck do I keep the darned list anyway if I don’t use it?–and when we got to Blockbuster we did not see a single movie on the wall of new releases that looked interesting. We browsed the archives section without luck either, so we finally settled on The DaVinci Code.

I never had any interest in reading The DaVinci Code for several reasons: I do not like thrillers whose main plot motivations are murders, would-be murders, and fast-paced pursuits; plus I am very interested in history but all I have read about Dan Brown’s misuse of historical facts totally turned me off.

However, The DaVinci Code was so popular, and seemingly every reader in the country other than myself actually enjoyed it, including several people whose judgments I trust. So I did have a bit of interest in learning exactly what the book had to offer, and whether I had any agreement with those people’s opinions (and, in a peripheral way, how far out of the mainstream of reading taste I actually am). But while I could never bring myself to invest hours in a book which is basically a thriller, I have considerably lower standards for movies than I do for books. For me, books are a passion, while movies are merely entertainments.

Overall, The DaVinci Code was an entertaining movie. I could have done without the thriller aspects (the car-in-reverse chase scene, the murderous albino monk, the Opus Dei versus Priory of Sion subplot, the French police officer’s relentless pursuit of the heroes) because the historical mystery was sufficient to carry my interest. And the solution to solving the mystery was more deus ex machina than playing fair (“Look, here’s a mysterious key!” “Wow! We are the heirs to a cryptex”). And I cringed every time Dan Brown twisted historical facts for his own purposes. But the movie was entertaining, and I was actually hoping to learn the identity of the “teacher” (which I did not guess) and the “heir” (which both Jean and I guessed correctly).

More importantly, I got one bonus out of watching The DaVinci Code. One of my historical interests is classical Roman history and the development of Christianity. This is not primarily for religious purposes though. I attended Catholic schools my entire life, even taught in one for 6 years, and in those schools I received a greatly-skewed background in Christian history as determined by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is a powerful political structure which is as concerned with pushing its own agenda as any political structure invariably is. Part of me has always been interested in learning more about the truth behind Christianity than was taught in Catholic schools. For decades I have heard of the Gospel of Thomas and the other Gnostic Gospels, but I know relatively little about any of them.

Last summer I read and enjoyed Conclave, a history of the papacy and, especially, papal elections. My Recommended Nonfiction list includes books by biblical scholars Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels, some of which are offered in two books clubs I belong to, the History Book Club and the Discovery Channel Book Club (which, like most books clubs nowadays, are part of the same umbrella containing the SFBC, BOMC and QPBC as well). Now I have a bit more incentive to buy and read some of those books. Maybe someday I’ll have a review of one of them here.


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