Cracking the Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown’s bestseller, “The Da Vinci Code”, now comes in a celluloid version as well. The book, engaging to the last word and racy to the last event, has sold 40 million copies since it was first published three years ago (2003).
Brown is a celebrity author all right, and Ron Howard must have found this status a trifle intimidating when began filming “The Da Vinci Code”.
Howard, whose “A Beautiful Mind” on the life of math genius John Nash won him glorious rewards, including an Oscar in 2002, will premiere “The Da Vinci Code” at the Cannes International Film Festival in May 2006. It will be the inaugural movie.
|A Parisian reading the Da Vinci Code with the Louvre as the backdrop|
But Howard must now be wondering if at all his film can be screened. Brown was dragged into a controversy. He was accused by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh of copying from their 1982 nonfiction work, “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail”. These two men filed a case against Random House, Brown’s publisher, in a London court. The judge will give his ruling in April 2006.
If the legal verdict goes against Brown and Random House, the film’s prospects can be marred.
Both books – the earlier was also brought out by Random House -- explore theories, vehemently criticized and completely dismissed by theologians, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, the couple had a child and the bloodline survives till today.
In spite of this, Christians are not planning demonstrations against Brown’s tome or Howard’s movie. Instead, they are publishing books, producing television documentaries and creating websites to counter what Brown wrote.
Interestingly, “The Da Vinci Code”, appears to have touched millions of people, who, including the most devout, feel that Brown raises deeper issues of Christianity. Many just want to talk about them, even if they do want to refute these.
Eric Plumer, a theology professor at the University of Scranton, a Catholic
institution in Pennsylvania, is now writing a book trying to explain why Brown’s novel continues to be on the top of the shelves despite tens of publications, which seek to rubbish what, is in “The Da Vinci Code”.
Several reasons have been citied by several people for this popularity. What is most important among them is the fact that Brown’s bestseller is such an intriguing murder mystery and so beautifully written that a reader will find it very difficult to put the book down till he has read the last word. It plays on one’s imagination, because Brown weaves a fantastic conspiracy, and although he borrows from Baigent-Leigh’s central theme, much else of what he writes is pure fiction. This is developed from the Jesus story and given a very different feel. In the end, it is pure yarn, and Brown does not even attempt to give an answer to a question he raises in the first place. The mystery remains more mystifying.
“Americans love a conspiracy theory," says Lynn Garrett, Religion Editor at Publishers Weekly. "The tome also tapped into people's disillusionment with the Catholic Church following the sexual abuse scandals."
For others, the novel appeals because it provides a chance to see Christianity differently, especially in areas of patriarchy and the position of women in earlier times.
As for Howard’s celluloid version, some in South Korea plan to keep it out of theatres. The Russian Orthodox Church has complained about it.
Yet, the film, when it opens in May, is bound to attract thousands of viewers, partly because of the controversy and the court case and partly because those who have read the printed work would be curious to see it on the screen.
The movie begins with the murder of The Louvre Director, who leaves behind a strange, devastatingly coded message. A Harvard professor and a pretty French cryptologist try and decipher this. What they find is shocking: a deep conspiracy by a secret wing of the Roman Catholic Church, Opus Dei, to destroy Christ’s message to mankind.
Countering the Church’s effort – so says the plot – are philosophers and artists who have, over the centuries, been planting clues to the truth, and they have been using paintings (Mona Lisa, The Last Supper by Da Vinci), church architecture and the like.
Putting picture to prose will be Tom Hanks, playing Harvard professor/symbologist Robert Langdon, who along with French actress Audrey Tautou (who is cryptologist Sophie Neveu in the film) move through Paris, London and other places in the course of 12 hours trying to unravel a riddle. The movie promises to be a thrilling piece of work.
Howard and producer Brian Grazer, who helped Hanks rise to stardom in their 1984 comedy, “Splash” and later “Apollo 13”, hope to make “The Da Vinci Code” one of the most memorable films in decades. The fiction and movie will probably help each other to feed curiosity, and promote allure.
Grazer first read Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” in 2003. It had not yet become a bestseller, but even then Grazer felt that it could be an exhilarating television serial. Brown said nothing doing. Later, he agreed when Sony paid $ 6 million for film rights, the biggest adaptation since “Harry Potter”.
Howard is now all set to crack the Code.
Victory for Da Vinci author, says The Age in Australia. Excerpts from the story which appeared in the daily on April 8 2006.
A British judge has ruled that the publisher of the best-selling thriller, The Da Vinci Code, did not breach copyright laws, in a case that pitted novelist Dan Brown against two authors who claimed their ideas were stolen.
High Court judge Peter Smith rejected a copyright-infringement claim by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, who claimed Brown's blockbuster "appropriated the architecture" of their 1982 non-fiction book.
Smith said it was not for him to decide whether Baigent was "extremely dishonest or a complete fool", but called him a "thoroughly unreliable witness".
Smith said the plaintiffs had based their copying claim on a "selective number of facts and ideas artificially taken out of (the book) for the purpose of the litigation".
"It would be quite wrong if fictional writers were to have their writings pored over in the way DVC (Da Vinci Code) has been pored over in this case by authors of pretend historical books to make an allegation of infringement of copyright," the judge said in his 71-page ruling.
Random House - which also publishes The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail - said the case should never have made it to court.
(The original story appeared in The Hindu dated April 2 2006)
(The Age content was posted on this website on April 8 2006)