Here are some random, rambling jottings on The Da Vinci Code:
Read the book this week (OK, so I'm a latecomer). Saw the film on its release afternoon, yesterday (...so that's pretty early). Seminar this morning in church on Upper Street (for anycomers).
- At the open seminar, a young 'new age-ish' woman turned up (having seen a poster), contributed and was intrigued - exactly what the seminar was for.
- In the cinema yesterday, at the climax of the film when Langdon said to Sophie (something like): 'You are the last surviving person in the blood line of Jesus Christ', the audience burst out in laughter - and someone said out loud: 'Yeah, right!'. (OK, I admit it, it was me, but I would not have said it without the laughter).
A similar reaction was reported at the film critics' preview. This is heartening and audience participation is wonderful. Almost as good as our local Islington reaction to the quip in the Narnia film: 'We're not heroes. We're from Finchley.' But not quite, since the Narnia book and film script meant it as a joke. Here, in the Da Vinci film, it was meant to be the most serious moment of revelation. How, as a film director, do you film that line, without producing a laugh? I wish I could see the 'rushes' and the 'retakes' of that scene, and hope they appear at some point. Tom Hanks must have creased up.
- '[Teabing] paused. 'A letter of the alphabet' [in Da Vinci's Last Supper]. Sophie saw it at once. To say the letter leapt out at her was an understatement. The letter was suddenly all Sophie could see. Glaring in the centre of the painting was the unquestionable outline of an enormous, flawlessly former letter M.'
Beside this, in the margin of my copy (p 330), is written: 'McDonald's subliminal advertising - obvious!' So Da Vinci was a prophet not just for hamburgers but also for the Millennium Dome...
- Has anyone seen the similarity between Sir Leigh Teabing (in the film played by Ian Mclelland) and Sir Anthony Blunt (real life Master of the Queen's Paintings and communist spy)? Blunt was the hidden 'fourth man' (with Burgess, Maclean and Philby) and was discovered by MI6, but the whole episode was kept from the public. Alan Bennett, wrote a brilliant play about Blunt, A Question of Attribution (1988) - see Alan Bennett, Writing Home (Faber & Faber, 1994), plate 39 for a photo of Bennett playing Blunt at the National Theatre and also Alan Bennett, Untold Stories (Faber & Faber, 2005), pp465ff.
- The popularity of the book, as has been mentioned by many commentators, is partly due to its echoing of post-modern concerns: questioning of authority; conspiracy theories; inclusion of women; new age spiritualities; sexual abuse by clergy; gullibility (do you know that the Oxford English Dictionary has deleted the word gullible from its latest edition?...); popularity of codes and Sudokus.
- Christology is at the heart of Christians' concerns with the book and film. Brown seems to portray orthodox christology as somewhat 'docetic' - Jesus was fully God, but not wholly human. See p343 'pre-Constantine documents, written by the early followers of Jesus, revering Him [interesting capital letter!] as a wholly human teacher and prophet.'
Jesus was, of course, wholly human (but not only human) and was also a prophet, but was much more than a prophet: fully human and fully divine.
For Boris Johnson's Arian belief in Jesus, see his article, 'Dan Brown has resurrected a heresy that rattles the Church', The Daily Telegraph, 18 May 2006.
- For detailed comment on the book, see: Tom Wright, Decoding Da Vinci: The Challenge of Historic Christianity and Fantasy (Grove Books, 2006)
and the helpful Christian websites:
www.rejesus.co.uk/davinci/ - (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland)
thedavincicode.org.uk/ - (Mark Stibbe, Presence Retail Ltd and Christian Enquiry Agency)
- Let's be thankful that people on the street and in pubs are discussing Jesus of Nazareth. It's like an open Alpha course...
The Rt Revd Dr Graham Kings is Hon Assistant Bishop and World Mission Adviser, Diocese of Southwark, and SCR Member, St Chad’s College, Durham. He has been theological secretary of Fulcrum since its founding.