Wednesday 1 August 2018

Review of The Da Vinci Code movie (2006)

No spoilers!

I haven't read the book, but a couple of weeks ago I watched the Da Vinvi Code movie and found it surprisingly enjoyable.

It is - of course - 100% hokum, but sometimes that is what I want; and it kept my attention and interest throughout (not easy to do). So I went on to watch the follow-up Angels and Demons (2009), and enjoyed it just as much.

I had heard all sorts of bad things, indeed nothing-but bad things, about the Da Vinci Code; but the basic plot idea is a solid one (and it is reused in the follow-up): an academic chap who is an expert in decoding symbols follows a 'treasure hunt' trail of clues against the clock - because only by solving the clues in sequence can the trail be followed - each clue leads onto the next.

There is a lot about religion, and specifically Christianity; and initially both films seem to be very anti-Catholic. But in the end it turns out that the RCC has goodies as well as baddies, and that a lot of the damning perspectives come from unreliable witnesses - evil characters. So the anti-Christian, debunking perspectives of the first part of the movie are, to a considerable extent, contradicted and undone by its later parts.

Something similar applies to Angels and Demons - many of the plot twists favour the Vatican perspective.

The DVC reminded me of some thirty years ago, when I was 'targeted' for conversion by Opus Dei. I had a colleague/ friend who was a member lived in one of their houses - and one (Sunday?) evening I got a phonecall, inviting me around; on arrival, to my surprise, I was shown to a little cinema and left alone to watch a movie about the founder and purposes of OD. It seemed a rather clumsy and inept gesture - although the propaganda film was fairly interesting. [Erroneous passage deleted.]

The appeal of OD seemed to be due to a combination of philosophical coherence with evangelical energy backed-up by a military organisation and attitude; a modern medievalism, technocratic monasticism...

My impression of British OD (as I recall) was very un-sinister and indeed un-glamorous - their HQ was dark and cramped, and with a school-dinners/ cooked-cabbage kind of atmosphere. All very different from the glamorous-opulent-powerful depiction of the Da Vinci Code.

Anyway, having heard nothing but Bad Things about the DVC - including its movie; I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining and stimulating it turned-out to be. I shall continue on to watch the third movie of the series, which was released recently.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Wait, Opus Dei tried to recruit you when you were an atheist and nominal member of the Church of England? I thought it was strictly a Catholic thing.

Howard Ramsey Sutherland said...

I am a Catholic (converted from Anglicanism at age 30), and not a member of Opus Dei. I have subscribed, however, for many years now to a daily e-mail from Opus Dei with a message - rarely more than a few paragraphs - from the writings of San Josemaria Escriva, the founder. These messages always contain good guidance and encouragement for a Christian trying to live a good life in the midst of a secular world.

Anyone interested may scroll down this webpage,, to the subscribe button. I get the bulletins in Spanish, as that's the language Escriva wrote them in, but they're available in many languages. I recommend them as a daily inoculation against the relentless secularism and materialism that surrounds us.

Unknown said...

I think I was the person who invited you to see a film at Dunreath - the Opus Dei centre in Glasgow. I thought you might like to know about it - or at least that I wanted to let you know about it - because you seemed to me to be an intelligent and open-minded person. Well, I was right about this last, even if I was wrong about your being interested.

But by "being interested" I ddin't mean "being recruited". Sorry, joining Opus Dei means a lot more than that - as you can find out at e.g. As for the others - my Jewish friend and colleague was indeed interested, and did help out with some activities - giving a class or a paper at the Opus Dei centre occasionally. But he was not "recruited" for Opus Dei, and would, I think, be quite annoyed by the suggestion - as to become a member he would have to abandon the religion of his ancestors, an idea he rejects with disdain. I don't know what "junior academic" you're talking about. As far as I know, no junior academic at Glasgow has joined Opus Dei, then or ever.
So, I just want to say, it's easy for even intelligent and open-minded people to misunderstand. I've never understood why.

Christopher Martin

Bruce Charlton said...

Dea Christopher (I have also responded by e-mail).

Good to hear from you again! Yes, you are correct in your identification. Sorry to have made an error about who got 'recruited' - which I have deleted - in the e-mail I've told you the source of my error.

As for inviting me - I was surprised but certainly interested, although perhaps I was not as intelligent and open minded as you said. However, my metaphysical assumptions then excluded the possibility of God being real; so I probably could not have become a Christian of any kind. At any rate, it took me more than 15 years to get there, by zag zag paths.

I was in a very bad spiritual state at that time, as no doubt you recognised. I'm grateful that you were one of few people to make an effort to do something appropriate about it.

Maolsheachlann said...

Ha ha. You have to be careful what you say on the internet, you never know how is reading!

The founder of Opus Dei IS tremendously interesting. Even within Catholicism, there are different views of him and of OD-- I admire both.

It's funny, I thought the Da Vinci Code movie was one of the worst movies I've ever seen, but I thoroughly enjoyed Angels and Demons and watched it more than once. There is a scene at the very beginning which shows an emissary from the Vatican walking into the university swimming pool, late at night, to meet the protagonist, who is swimming in the pool. It's a visually gorgeous scene.

Bruce Charlton said...

@M - Indeed. One reason I always tell the truth in my posts, as far as I know it (in this case I had been misinformed by someone who was in a position to know better).

I could certainly understand anyone who didn't like Da Vinci Code - but I had very low expectations. I found the apparent anti-Catholic andti_christian bias in the first part rather off-putting - but a lot of this was twisted around by the end.

My family lived not far from Rosslyn Chapel for many years, but I never heard that it was so spectacular, and I never visited it. In fact I don't like that style of architecture, nonetheless it would have been well worth a look.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The book was illiterate trash, it achieved considerable fame mostly because it presented a thesis which the Catholic Church regards with a hatred that neither book nor movie could exaggerate beyond the frank reality.

It is one of those numerous cases in which I felt that the entire world had almost entirely missed the real point, which was not whether the Catholic teaching on certain subjects is infallible truth, but rather whether the book was anything more than an embarrassment to the English language.

However, one virtue of utterly worthless books is that there is no chance that the movie will ruin them, as is nearly universal when a really good book is turned into a movie. The fact that there is essentially no chance of the movie being worse than a book often promotes a kind of artistic freedom that allows for a fairly good movie.

I still didn't want to do anything that would contribute to the financial success of the movie, however current technology has made it much easier to avoid that danger.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - As I have said, the novel is an intrinsically higher art form than movies; and a movie cannot ever equal a great book. The book a film is drawn from is much less important than the scriptwriter and director; they can easily (and usually) wreck a good book. The DVC code movie was only three stars (from five) by my calculation - but is 'worth watching' rather than not bothering. I suspect the book contributed the basic structure, but the script was OK and Ron Howard is usually a very good director (his early film Splash was charming - four stars, I'd say). And the cast was very strong.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I might watch it myself sometime now that time has washed away the memory of the text and technology has mitigated the funding of that particular author.