Articles: Decoding Da Vinci

With its official world premier and opening the Cannes Film Festival, Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's best seller The Da Vinci Code has sparked every shade of hype and controversy on the public eye spectrum. The 2003 best seller has proven to be one of the most influential pieces of modern literature with over 40 million copies sold all over the world in 40 different languages. Brown's thriller, packed with religious and historical references and basic facts on Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion which the writer presents on the very first page of the book, basically suggests that Jesus was not son of God and that he married Mary Magdalene and had a child. It also goes on to propose that their bloodline still exists and that these facts have been known to and protected by a number of cults including the Priory of Sion whose members comprised grand names like victor Hugo, Isaac Newton and of course Leonardo Da Vinci and Opus Dei whose involvement in protecting the Holy Grail goes to capture some of the most graphic murder scenes in the story. All in accordance and under the protection of the Roman Catholic Church itself.

It is easy to see how a story line of this nature can mount as much controversy as this book has. It is also easy to see why the big screen adaptation ,reaching a much wider audience, can spark all the antagonism it has all over the world. Religion has always been a taboo and any handling of any religious subject will likely receive its share of adversaries.

Yet, audacious attempts like that of The Da Vinci Code does more than just stir religious beliefs and media hype ; it arouses questions and stimulates discussions. It opens prohibited areas for debate and while many view this to be a violation of the holiness of any religion and its values others view it as a healthy if not necessary chance to question one's values and givens and examine how valid they really are.

"It basically took the foundation of Christianity and shook it to the bones. I could see how people can get sensitive about this. The book and the movie will have people asking questions about Christianity . That may not be to the liking of some Christian organizations. It is hard to question something you've grown to believe to be true all your life. Yet I think it is really healthy. It is a test to the validity and strength of those values." Nicola Hemingway said about The Da Vinci Code.

Another Attempt to Destroy Christianity
In an interview with BBC's Arabic Service , Father Shafiq Abu Zaid, an Oxford University Lecturer, said that all of the publicity this historically baseless book has received is another attempt to influence the minds of the people and destroy Christianity. He also added that this book works only to the best interest of Mr. Brown himself who has garnered huge fame and fortune from his fabricated attempt to ruin the holiness of Christianity.
Father Abu Zaid is one of many who support the banning of the book. He reiterates his unquestionable opposition to the contents of the book and encourages Christians all over the world to organize peaceful demonstrations and to boycott the film.

Ron Howard, the film's director, shows understanding to reactions like that of Father Abu Zaid's and offers a midway resolution." There is no question that the film is likely to be upsetting for some.. My advice is not to go see it, and talk to someone who has ..then arrive at a decision." Howard said at the film's world premier. He continued , " it is entertainment and providing a talking point is what good fiction does."

Tom Hanks who plays Robert Langdon ,the Harvard professor of religious symbology, said " The film was a good education on a lot of historical events … but clearly it is not a documentary"

I am Christian...I am not offended
" I did not find it offensive at all. On the contrary I thought it was a very interesting book. I am Christian and when I read the book it made me want to go and research and find out more about what Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion." Jill Young an educational advisor said about Dan Brown's book . She went on " Religious aspect aside, I think it is a great book a real page turner. I started the book and from page three I was hooked. That is what matters when you read fiction and it is a fictional book. Yes, it is based on facts but Brown used them as the basis for his fiction. If that does anything it makes the book more interesting and relevant."

Young says she is very eager to see the film." I am definitely going to watch the film if nothing else I want to see if it's going to live up to the book." The book has had its fair share of foes from different Christian organizations topped with The Vatican yet, it was the release of the movie that has unleashed so much controversy and antagonism. Young then raises a very interesting question:" why did all of this controversy and international boycotting propaganda happen with the film and not the book? "

Sir Ian Mckellen , acclaimed by critics as the film's savior, goes along Young's lines when talking about the film in its world premier. He told reporters " is it because readers can be trusted to have minds whereas people who go to the movies are the mindless masses that need to be protected?"
McKellen continues" I believe that cinema-goers are just as intelligent as readers and they can make up their own minds."

Great Expectations
However, all the publicity and anticipation for the cinematic version of Dan Brown's thriller did not save the film from the bland reception it had at the Cannes Film Festival.

Yet, Abdul Rahman Mohsen, a screenplay writer and the manager of Qatar Cinema company, has very hight expectations for the film. "Da Vinci Code is a difinite summer block buster. What happened at the Cannes Film Festival is no indication.The festival Caters for international cinema elite. That's why most of the criticism came from the professional critics not from the public. I believe it will do very well internationaly and in teh Arab World."
So, What about his expectations for the film in the Qatari Market? " I've been getting many phone calls from people asking me when the film will open in Qatar.That means poeple are curious and eager to see the film, which in turn means it's likely ti di quiet well in the Qatari and the Gulf market."
The Da Vinci code arrived to Cannes on a huge wave of propaganda and controversy and left in abysmal silence. Will movie goers worldwide feel the same about the movie as the Cannes viewers and critics have? Only time and the box office can tell. In the meantime, the more prohibition and hostility the film incites the more interested people will be to go and see it. If anything just to know what the big deal is.

(This article was written on June 2006 for Woman Today a Qatari English Magazine)