in a big hurry to see The Da Vinci Code: The Movie. I trust the
critics who say it's boring beyond belief (pun intended). After
all, I wasn't wild about the book.
But I'm glad
to hear that the film's opening weekend did record-breakingly
well at the all-powerful box office, despite the lousy reviews.
It shows that people really crave this story. Not the story by
author Dan Brown, director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman,
with its dull Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (played by Tom
Hanks), dour French cryptologist Sophie Neveu (played by Audrey
Tautou), wooden language, far-fetched situations, predictable
chase scenes and disappointing ending. That story is just a semi-cleverly
constructed shell; the egg inside is what people really want.
That inside story is the Greatest Story Ever Untold: the simple
tale of Jesus as a sexual human being married to another sexual
human being, the forgotten feminine counterpart, Mary Magdalene,
the "vessel" of Jesus' human bloodline, the Holy Grail.
crave this Story of the Holy Grail. People want to know that God
has Sex. Then maybe it'd be okay if they have sex too.
also long to connect with the "lost" feminine counterpart to their
spirituality. They want to know that where there's a Lord, there's
As I wrote
a few years ago in my review of Dan Brown's book, this is what
I crave, and this is what I love about The Da Vinci Code. It introduces
the explosive mysteries of the Magdalene, the ancient feminist
tale of Jesus' sexual humanity - directly, without metaphor -
to the blockbuster-loving public. What are these mysteries?
According to the Legends of the Grail (and books like Holy Blood,
Holy Grail and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar), the Catholic
Church has violently repressed the "truth" about JC being hooked
up with MM for 20 centuries. Why? Because the Church's power was
and is based upon the idea that Jesus Christ is divine, not a
mere human with a wife and kids.
crave this Story of the Holy Grail.
People want to know that God has Sex.
Then maybe it'd be okay if they
have sex too.
if it could be proven that Jesus was a mortal husband and father,
as opposed to being a celibate God and/or Son of God, Christianity
could lose much of its religious appeal. Moreover, the Catholic
emphasis on chastity for all, and its requirement of celibacy
for its priests, monks and nuns would seem gratuitously harsh.
And the Church itself would no longer be Christ's sole representatives
on Earth, since Jesus' literal blood descendents would have a
legitimate claim to "His" legacy.
Church's powerful and often ferocious suppression of this story
(not to mention it's suppression of joyful sex and women rights
in general), the romantic tale of the marriage of Jesus (House
of David) and Mary Magdalene (House of Benjamin) seems to have
been passed down over the past couple of millennia in tarot cards
and troubadour songs, as well as (so the story goes) in artistic
masterpieces like Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, classic novels
like Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame and provocative cinema
like Martin Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ. Now here the
story is again, spelled out in easy-to-decipher "code" in the
biggest weekend blockbuster opening in history next to Star Wars:
to this I say: Hallelujah! The fact that The Da Vinci Code put
Pope Benedict XVI's white lace panties into such a bunch, that
he appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Archbishop of Genoa,
a former football commentator and possible successor to the Papacy,
to do battle with "the lies" and "absurd and vulgar falsifications"
of a work of fiction is enough to make me smile like the Mona
Lisa. Of course, there's no historic proof that the individual
named Jesus who is described in the Gospels even existed - so
both the Catholic Church and the Priory of Sion are probably chock
full of poppycock. But really, which notion is more "absurd":
that a man named Jesus had a wife and kids, or that he walked
on water and raised the dead?
I can just
imagine Pope Bennie secretly wishing Jesus had worn a condom.
And the thought of Mel Gibson flagellating himself over his bloody,
sicko "Passion of the Christ" being so quickly and easily overtaken
by another Jesus movie with the opposite message - I just love
But I don't
just love The Da Vinci Code. In fact, I kind of hate it. Not because
its characters are superficial, it's "facts" often specious and
its plot line preposterous. Hey, I'm from Hollywood; I'm used
to all of that. I don't even hate The Da Vinci Code because it
has very little actual sex. Though I am rather annoyed with it
for that reason. There's barely a kiss between Sophie and Robert.
Then there's Sophie's unreasonably intolerant, almost puritanical
attitude towards her wonderful, loving Grandpère Jacques
Saunière (played by Jean-Pierre Marielle in the film),
Chief Art Curator of the Louvre and Grand Master of the Priory
Just because she accidentally walked in on his private, mildly
kinky group sex ritual when she was on spring break from grad
school, she refused to even speak to him or open his letters for
10 years! I can understand how the sight of old Grandpère
doing the nasty surrounded by chanting brethren and sistren could
cause a young grad student to balk or even barf. But a decade
of cold stone silence, despite his pleas for forgiveness and offers
to explain? I'm supposed to sympathize with this uptight, unforgiving
little snot in her high-speed pursuit of the Truth?
fact that The Da Vinci Code put
Pope Benedict XVI's white lace panties
into such a bunch, that he appointed
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,
the Archbishop of Genoa, a former
football commentator and possible successor to the Papacy, to
with "the lies" and "absurd and vulgar
falsifications" of a work of fiction
is enough to make me smile
like the Mona Lisa.
these are mere quibbles, and I don't hate The Da Vinci Code because
of them. I hate it because in the end, it really lets the Church
off the hook. WARNING: Do not go any farther if you haven't yet
read the book or seen the movie (which from what I've seen of
the clips and trailers, adheres to the book like a fundamentalist
Christian adheres to the Gospels); that is, if you don't want
me to spoil it for you.
See, in addition
to being a pop primer on the Holy Grail, The Da Vinci Code is
a modern murder mystery. And as we solve that mystery, in the
last part of the book and the movie, Grail buffs like me can't
help but feel slapped in the face. Slapped, in fact, by the cold,
paternal hand of the Catholic Church itself. That is, the character
who is the most passionate Grail historian turns out to be the
evil rotten murderous villain. The Church, which The Da Vinci
Code implicates from the beginning until those last critical moments,
is ultimately given a pass. The ending suggests that nobody truly
murderous comes directly out of the Church (at least not nowadays),
only a few misguided, well-meaning fools.
poor shmuck of an albino monk who pulls the trigger, Silas (played
by Paul Bettany in the movie), gets off with the "abuse excuse."
That is, he was beaten as a child, so what do you expect? Bishop
Aringarosa (Alfred Molina), head of the masochistic Catholic sect
Opus Dei, is at first portrayed as a power-hungry hierophant,
willing and eager to enable his man Silas to do whatever it takes,
even to the point of committing vicious, multiple murders, to
get hold of that heathen Holy Grail. But the Bishop turns out
to be just a sweet lovable old Man o' God who didn't know nothing
about no murders. He even gets his 20 million Vatican dollars
back from the kindly (and devout) police chief Bezu Fache (Jean
Reno), which he then magnanimously donates to the victims' families.
the really bad guy of The Da Vinci Code? Who's the brains behind
all the ghastly murders? Why, the only really likeable character
in the book (aside from Grandpère Saunière who gets
offed in the first few pages): the eccentric, jovial, filthy-rich,
polio-disabled, goddess-loving scholar Sir Leigh Teabing (played
by the always impressive Ian McKellen in the film). Teabing is
the person who is portrayed as most deeply honoring the feminine
principle of life. While Langdon is a stuffy cardboard Harvard
hero and Sophie Neveu is a cute but prudish code-cruncher, Teabing
is a man of passion, a British bon vivant, wise enough to figure
out Saunière's first secret code "SOFIA" (wisdom).
He wants nothing more than to share the Grail of Christ's humanity
with the world, to pull the oppressive veil from the misogynist
charade that the Church has perpetrated upon the world for two
thousand years. But as the story awkwardly unfolds, this desire
to reveal the "truth" is also Teabing's motive for orchestrating
the murders of five people, all of whom take this "truth" to their
graves! Not only is this ludicrous and rife with contradictions
as a murder motive, it's also rather insulting to real Grail lovers
who come to The Da Vinci Code hoping (if not praying) for a bit
Da Vinci Code is blessed because,
at its core, it tells that simple story
we long to hear, deep in our
Despite its flaws, The Da Vinci Code
heralds the Good News:
GOD HAS SEX!
We are lulled,
at first, into following this fairly fast-paced killer-thriller,
crescendoing mid-thrill, with Teabing's revelation to Sophie (whom
Grail lovers, by this point, have figured out is a direct descendent
of Jesus and Mary Magdalene) that the Grail is the Magdalene.
Then the plot unfolds, suggesting that all that provocative but
rather sensible stuff coming out of Teabing's mouth has got to
be twisted because, hey, the dude's a crackpot multiple murderer!
there's the kicker: the last sequence of the code spells "APPLE."
a word suggesting not the glory of the Grail, but the downfall
of Eve. Indeed, it seems to spell out the doomed folly of those,
like the cursed villain Teabing, who seek to eat of the Tree of
Knowledge or find the Holy Grail. Yes, I know: "Vous ne trouvez
pas le Saint-Graal. C'est le Saint-Graal qui vous trouve." You
do not find the Grail; the Grail finds you. So does that mean
one should not seek the truth?
If the Vatican
wasn't soiling their ecclesiastical knickers over its "blasphemy",
I'd say The Da Vinci Code was a very clever piece of propaganda
for the Church. Yes, it does present Christianity, especially
Catholicism, as a two-thousand-year-old force of repression, right
down to suppressing the truth about its own God. But in terms
of the murder plot, the Church gets off scot-free. Of course,
the Vatican doesn't see it this way. Apparently, all that celibacy
has rendered them soft-headed, so they don't realize that The
Da Vinci Code ends with a slap in the face for Grail seekers and
a big sloppy kiss for the Church.
In the end,
Langdon solves his puzzle, Sophie finds her family, Silas the
Monk dies piously, Father Aringarosa goes home innocently, and
the villainous Teabing goes to jail, crying for the Grail. Ultimately,
it's a Church-positive, family values, handicap-unfriendly message,
pitting two intellectuals against each other: the tedious bore
versus the passionate pagan, and the bore wins.
could go on and on about the annoying sins of The Da Vinci Code.
And yet we are all sinners, are we not? And despite my objections,
Brothers and Sisters, Lovers and Sinners, I feel that this film
is blessed. You don't have to be a cryptologist to crack this
code: Record big box office despite rock-bottom reviews and a
vigorous boycott by the Church. The Da Vinci Code is blessed because,
at its core, it tells that simple story we long to hear, deep
in our monotheistically-damaged souls. Despite its flaws, The
Da Vinci Code heralds the Good News: GOD HAS SEX!
the Lord and the Lady.
Susan Block is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host
of The Dr. Susan Block Show and author of The 10 Commandments
of Pleasure. Visit her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com
or visit her brand new bloggamy and post comments at
Send all comments, love letters, hate mail, questions, confessions,
endorsements, enticements and testimonials to her at [email protected].
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