Sunday, May 21

So dark the con of Man

I had mixed feelings when i heard news that Paramount Pictures secured the movie rights to the International bestseller in fiction, the novel 'The Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown. Certainly i wanted to see in the big screen what i immensely enjoyed reading. However, interpreting a book of this magnitude into movie form, the movie industry has taught us, is tricky business. Historically these movies flop more often than not, so it's a crapshoot so to speak. Want some examples? Released in 1939 a cherished favorite, a sort of rite of passage for everyone 'The wizard of Oz'. Perhaps the most featured movie on TV, broadcast annually since 1959 on Thanksgiving, Christmas and/or Easter time. A novel by L. Frank Baum (written in 1899 and published in 1900) took an entire 20 years to make any profit... Novel authored by Margaret Mitchell and in it's time, the most expensive movie ever produced, the American Classic 'Gone with the Wind' (also released in 1939). This flop did not even get close to recouping production cost, even after a total of four re-releases in the 40's and 50's. This historical book-movie flop has been proven otherwise as of late with the likes of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. These two may be the exception to the movie-flop rule, probably because of the genre and the series of books that has been part of lives in a multitude of decades and generations. But Paramount dares to temp fate...

If it was up to me i wouldn't have agreed to the movie adaptation of the great novel. This movie idea evidently, you may or may not know is nothing more than a capitalist venture, not a religious propaganda. Consequently and rightfully so, the book and the movie has spawned numerous follow up books that delve deeper into the novels idealism (i have one myself "The Secrets of Da Vinci Code") and countless debates about what Dan Brown suggest as definitive, questionable, ambiguous and accurate about the life of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the true embodiment of the Holy Grail. I dare not participate in such debates, i'll leave that to the theologians and scholars... But not agreeing to the prospect of the movie adaptation is not to say tarnishing Dan Brown's reputation as an author or shake Christianity's very foundation as Sir Leigh Teabing, a historian and a Holy Grail enthusiast and seeker, seem to suggest in the novel if its true nature revealed, hell it's a fictional novel. Furthermore its not to say Dan Brown's claim of factual events have no merit because they do, but lets not forget this is a fictional book. Are you familiar with the Gnostic Gospels? According to Dan Brown's novel (and the movie which remained faithful to the novel) Jesus loved Mary Magdalene more than any other disciple. Sir Teabing reads the Gospel of Philip (from the Gnostic Gospels) to Robert Langdon a Harvard Symbologist (Tom Hanks) and a cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tatou) "The Companion of Jesus, Mary Magdalene. He loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her on the mouth often"... Shocking right? Dan Brown had me convinced for a minute, then realizing the fictional factor, i knew it wasn't all accurate.

When the Gnostic Gospels (and in the 70's the Gospel of Judas) were discovered in Northern Egypt over 60 years ago they were in fragments and had to be painstakingly restored and then translated. And because of the fragmentation many of the Gospels were missing text. Particularly the Gospel of Phillip, it actually reads "And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth" the missing text Dan Brown conveniently filled in. Furthermore and never mentioned in 'The Da Vinci Code' for obvious reasons, in direct contradiction of Brown's claim, it is also written in Philip's Gospel "All who are begotten in the world are begotten in a natural way, and the others are nourished from the place whence they have been born. It is from being promised to the heavenly place that man receives nourishment. [...] him from the mouth. And had the word gone out from that place, it would be nourished from the mouth and it would become perfect. For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in one another". Kissing back then apparently was receiving graces (whatever that means). But more importantly what Dan Brown suggest as an intimate gesture between Jesus and his companion Mary Magdalene was not at all intimate. He also suggest that the term "companion" meant a spouse and that Mary was with child when Jesus died on the cross. Mary and her child found exile in the South of France where she lived the rest of her days. Her arrival in the South of France, to this day, is widely celebrated annually. Well anyway i did say i dare not debate... Because if i do i might as well write a thesis not a blog.

The sheer hoopla alone i'm sure will bring in a nice opening weekend gross worthy of a thumbs-up from Dan Brown fans but will probably manage really negative reviews from critics. Watching the movie for me did not live up to my expectations and was quite a different experience from other book-movies i've seen (Book-Movies that i'd read first). Namely 'The Last Don' by Mario Puzo and the Sidney Sheldon TV mini-series. Perhaps because i always felt the novel a spectacular read yet too bold and controversial a movie. Maybe for me it heeds the same foreboding of an unwarranted pre-quel for such a great movie like 'Carlitos Way', i just didn't feel it was going to measure up to the original's cult classic status. In the 'Da Vinci Code's' case, the capitalist-influenced conception of the movie really turned me off. Surely someone from Paramount Pictures saw the potential goldmine in the novel and surely we can not fault them for doing so. I've seen many a movies based on novels, in fact i specifically look for those because films based on novels are generally very good movies (yes even "The Notebook" as cheesy as that might sound lol)

Even though i disliked the idea of the novel going Hollywood, there was no way i was going to miss it. Besides the only other viable movie-option was the exceedingly over the top CIA spinoff, Mission Impossible. And additionally, for fear of a tizzy, i stopped suggesting movies as an option on Friday or Saturday evenings. I just wait for people to ask me to go, otherwise when it comes to movies, i could wait with the patience of a fisherman... The movie was fun to watch, true and faithful to the novel (except Sophie was not wearing the same clothes from the book... if you're detail oriented haha) which is in itself a mild success. Tom Hanks as expected was, Tom Hanks, a charmingly good actor. Sir Leigh Teabing was played properly by the Englishman Ian McKellen. The French actor Audrey Tatou i thought played her role beautifully (also starred in Amelie and A very Long Engagement which is the inspiration to my "very long engagement" blog series about Jesica). The Screenplay written by Akiva Goldman (notable screenplays such as Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind, A Time to Kill...) if you're a stickler for good writing was good and true to form.


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