I was given the book “The Da Vinci Code” when it came out in paperback and was told, “You HAVE to read this book.” I am not a big murder-mystery person but I figured it would be an easy read. I got through it in three sittings. I thought, “Not bad,” and set it aside. Three weeks later I was asked, “What did you think of the book?” I gave my thoughts. The person asking then said something that first amazed and then scared me: “Well, you know it’s true!” Shaking my head I responded, “Noooo, it’s not!”
This may the core of both the global interest and the growing problem with the whole Da Vinci Code phenomenon. People are pulled into the story line so fast and so easily that they do not know when they cross the lines from reality, through speculation, into total fantasy. The book seduces the reader with a multilayered story line that can be interesting, but there is a problem — almost danger — when the reader cannot separate fact from fiction. This problem grows in significance when the fiction causes the reader to question important facts, facts that should be the cornerstone of his or her life.
The movie took the interest and intrigue of the book to a higher level. Add the talent and Hollywood power of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks and you have enough wattage to blind anyone. There is only one major problem with this star-studded constellation: Multilayered books never make good movies even with a great director and actors. A book with this much intellectual baggage and literary machination gets buried under its own weight while trying to fit into a couple of hours of film. Dealing with just the intricacies of daVinci’s art with the science and math that made it worth interest — as well as all the twists and turns of a murder mystery — is an impossible task for a movie. So what did Howard do? He trimmed it down. But like trying to fit a 10 pound ham into a 5 pound sack; most of the good stuff usually ends up on the floor.
To give an idea of how the movie really is, one parishioner told me she fell asleep! Obviously, not a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat. A fellow movie-goer who did not read the book asked, “What’s the big deal? I had it figured out in the first 10 minutes. Anyone that believes that stuff is crazy!” So, just from a cinematic perspective it is not a terrible movie, but there are better films, many of which will better fit the label of ‘murder mystery’ or ‘suspense thriller.’
Some people have suggested that as Roman Catholics and Christians we should boycott this film because it attacks the church and basic beliefs about Jesus Christ. Some say it is a sin to support these terrible filmmakers and movie theaters. I am not sure how going to a movie like this can be an absolute sin. Individuals who feel this way, by all means do not go to this movie — save the money.
But if avoiding movies that attack the church is the goal, then there is a long list that should be attacked with more energy than this mediocre effort. What of all the movies that encourage children to participate in drugs and sex, warping their minds and endangering their souls? Movies that glorify immoral behavior, brutal violence and casual sex should be added to the list of movies to attack and picket. There is more offensive material on the television networks from 7 to 9 p.m.Monday through Friday than anything in this movie.
Roman Catholics should be reminded of St. Paul who thanked God for allowing him to be attacked and persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. He considered it a great blessing that people found him worthy of abuse because of the message he was preaching. Jesus Himself warned His followers that they would be ridiculed for their beliefs; families would be torn apart. His disciples were told to turn the other cheek and not to offer a defense to those who beat and spit on them.
Jesus promised that His church would be built on the rock that was Peter, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. I am confident that this church which can hold back the gates of Hell can stand up to Opie Taylor (Howard) and Forest Gump (Hanks)!
Plus there was a real upside to the Da Vinci Code fervor — for a few months you could not turn on the TV, read a newspaper or walk through a bookstore without hearing about the history of the Roman Catholic Church and the life of Jesus Christ. I have never seen people more interested in learning about their faith. This may be the best example of how God can take something bad, or at least a little boring, and use it for His glory and to bring His grace to our world.
Father Patrick J. VanDurme is pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Steuben County.