That a mosh pit of reviewers would fall over each other to pan the The Da Vinci Code is puzzling. It’s not a great film, but then it isn’t a great book. If you want car chases, go see Mission: Impossible III.
One didn’t need a Harvard symbologist to decode this one. With its built-in advantage of a best-seller source novel—and the dependable Ron Howard directing fan favorite Tom Hanks—The Da Vinci Code translated fame into box-office success on its first weekend in release.
Did the movie version of The Da Vinci Code introduce some skepticism to the part of the Harvard professor played by Tom Hanks so as to soften the novel’s bald claims about church cover-ups concerning Jesus?
As master of the Temple Church in London, one of the sites featured in The Da Vinci Code, Robin Griffith-Jones has had the chance to talk to hundreds of people about the claims of the best-selling novel. His own book, The Da Vinci Code and the Secrets of the Temple (Eerdmans), is based on a regular talk he gives to visitors at the Temple Church. Griffith-Jones was educated at Cambridge University and ordained a priest in the Church of England. Before coming to London, he was a minister at a housing project in Liverpool; he also worked with Mother Teresa’s sisterhood in India. The Century talked to him about the popularity of The Da Vinci Code and how it has affected his life at the Temple Church.
At first glance, it might seem that The Da Vinci Code and the Left Behind series occupy opposite poles of the cultural spectrum. The former’s effort to reaffirm the “sacred feminine” with the claim that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife is the sort of reworking of tradition that presumably appeals to far-out liberals.
In a culture supersaturated with information, overwrought and overstimulated by media, none of us is immune to the allure of truthiness. With our attention stretched thin and largely confined to the surface, we are forced back on our intuition, to some reflexive sense of what “feels true.” Enter The Da Vinci Code. With the benefit of hindsight we can say the novel got noticed because of able marketing, and because it played into the manic milieu of truthiness.
The best-selling novel by Dan Brown upset an international and predominantly lay Catholic organization as well as conservative Protestants, but with the movie version of The Da Vinci Code slated for mid-May, both offended groups are exhibiting mixed feelings.