Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The DaVinci Hose

The film version of The DaVinci Code got a less-than-rapturous review by the critics at Cannes. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t read the book and don’t want to know the plot twists, stop here.)

A mixture of fiction, fact and faith, “The Da Vinci Code” has made its worldwide film debut, opening the Cannes Film Festival — but while the book was a mega-selling hit, the critics largely panned the cinematic version.

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One scene during the film, meant to be serious, elicited prolonged laughter from the audience. There was no applause when the credits rolled; instead, a few catcalls and hisses broke the silence.

“The Da Vinci Code” storyline proposes Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, had a child, and that a powerful organization linked to the Church conspired to commit murder to keep it secret.

Update: Here is A.O. Scott’s review from the New York Times. Best line: “‘The Da Vinci Code,’ Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence, arrives trailing more than its share of theological and historical disputation.”

Meanwhile, some church leaders around the world are objecting to the film not because of its cinematic qualities but because it is deemed to be blasphemous.

Christian leaders across Asia denounced “The Da Vinci Code,” fearful that the movie may spread misinformation about their religion, as groups planned boycotts and attempted to block or shorten screenings ahead of its debut Wednesday.

Christians in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand have protested or expressed concern about the film, premiering Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival. Thai groups have persuaded censors to edit the movie, and India is putting the film’s release on hold after a flurry of complaints.

One of the premises of the movie, adapted by Ron Howard from Dan Brown’s worldwide best seller, is that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and fathered children and that his descendants are still alive.

Christians in Asia are particularly worried about the movie because they believe it could threaten a religion that is already a minority in many countries.

“If Jesus Christ had a child and a wife, then Christianity would be destroyed,” said Thongchai Pradabchananurat, of the Thailand Protestant Churches Coordinating Committee.

A coalition of Christian groups in Thailand, which is more than 90 percent Buddhist and less than 1 percent Christian, demanded that censors cut the last 15 minutes of the movie, which reveal that Jesus’ lineage has survived to this day.

The country’s censorship board agreed to snip the last 10 minutes.

Rachot Dhiraputra, general manager for distribution for Sony Pictures Releasing International, said the company refused to cut any part of the film but has offered to add a disclaimer at the beginning saying it is fictional. It has appealed the board’s decision.

“People can differentiate between what’s fiction and what’s not,” said Rachot.

It also depends on what your definition of “fiction” is. There are a lot of people who consider themselves to be Christians who think the bible is a wonderfully poetic collection of myths, fables, and parables — after all, any book that starts out with two naked people and a talking snake is off to a better start than a dead guy in the Louvre — and who don’t find their faith challenged by a novel that doesn’t rise to the level of a treatment for an ABC Movie of the Week with flaccid characters, a creaky prose style, and deus-ex-machina plot twists.

If your faith in your religion is so weak that you’re afraid that a movie will shatter it, you have a bigger problem than with what’s showing at the cineplex. Get thee to a nunnery.