Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Da Vinci Code Revisited

First off, full disclosure: I've read
Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln years before I read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

As a reader, I found Holy Blood, Holy Grail intriguing. It read like a quest-for-something novel like James Redfield's Celestine Prophecy books.

The theories presented in it are plausible, albeit not founded on hard evidence. And so it spawned documentary inquiries undertaken by major networks like BBC which found the book wanting in proof.

Before this book, I've read several "nonfiction" books along the same vein: alternative views on what Christians believe to be true: Erich Von Daniken and Zecaria Sitchin's books presenting extraterrestrial explanations for religious and miracles, earth's origins and the like. What I found interesting in these books are the amalgamation of various disciplines (astronomy, anthropology, mythology, archaeology, technology, physics) and how the authors drew conclusions from this mixture. I also read contradictory books written by specialists from specific fields, e.g. an archaeologist refuting von Daniken. Strangely, there seems to be no book written as a compendium of multi-disciplinary refutations to von Daniken and Sitchin's theories.

Before The Da Vinci Code, I've also read novels like the Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ and other thrillers involving the Turin Shroud, cross, the body of Christ, relics, etc. What prompted me to read the book was the furor it and then-movie-to-be-shown drew worldwide from its title ("it should be called The Leonardo Code because painters use their first names in signing their works") to physical disparity in the routes Brown wrote for the car chase scenes and the actual locations of streets and landmarks to the same rehashed objections previously raised to Holy Blood, Holy Grail to anti-Christianity and anti-anything.

When I finally read Dan Brown's novel, I was impressed by his playfulness (the codes hidden throughout the book, the way he weaved an enticing tale drawn from "nonfiction" sources). I pictured him as a boy having fun with a chemistry set in coming up with this amalgam of a novel. Some portions of the novel seemed predictable to me because I've read the Baigent/Leigh/Lincoln book.
But it was a fun and engaging novel to read and it richly deserved its best-selling status. And yes, I knew what was fiction and what was nonfiction in the novel.

While discussing the Da Vinci book and movie with college students, I mentioned James Cameron's Titanic - a film that is an amalgam of fiction and nonfiction sources. To my surprise, the students thought Kate Winslet's character (Rose DeWitt Bukater) and Leonardo DiCaprio's character (Jack Dawson) were true-to-life!

And I think this should have been the crux of the furor: Can readers/viewers really distinguish for themselves what's fiction and what's not in books they read or films they watch?

Nevertheless, I think the best thing that came out of all these is the healthy discussions and debates about faith and pop culture. It was an exhilarating experience in critical thinking for open-minded people, a spiritually-reviving one for those who thought their faiths were in danger and an enriching one for Dan Brown and the film producers.


rolly said...

I've told you this already but for those who haven't read it yet, The Word by Irving is so nice. The story is very nice with the plot more plausible.

When the Da Vinci Code was shown here in Manila, I promised my kids to take them on my return from Canada. I did. The problem was ayaw silang papasukin dahil sa edad. I told them, I am the father of the kids and it's up to me what I can and can't show them. Buti na lang at after some questions that would attest to their ages (na hindi tunay) tama sagot nila. Nag compute na pala mga dyaske. Pinahirapan pa ko. hehehe

rolly said...

Hi, I just want to inform you that I just tagged you and your "it".

It's quite interesting and will cause you to reflect. :-)