Yesterday, I went to see the “Da Vinci Code” in the cinema. I think it is not a good movie.
Hier, j’ai été au cinéma voir le « Da Vinci Code ». Je pense que ce n’est pas un bon film.
Yesterday was the first time I went to a movie theatre in Japan, it was something I wanted to experience. While going to the movies in Japan is expensive, it is less so than in Switzerland, and you get less adds and no break – which in my opinion brings nothing to the movie. Baring this, it was a surprising non-exotic experience, perhaps I’m getting used to the country, but I simply suspect large movie complexes tend to be the same everything.
The only funny thing was having a movie in English with Japanese sub-titles, I’m more used to the reverse. The funny situation was when people spoke in non-english languages, the movie had english sub-titles, and the japanese sub-titles had to be moved on the side (becoming side-titles?). It would have been much more elegant not to put the english sub-title, but this would be asking to much, I suppose. The sub-titles where often quite far from the original, and I had a few cases where I was hearing french and reading two texts which did match only very loosely.
So I will talk about the movie, before I continue this review, let me clear out a few things:
- I have not read the book.
- I am completely indifferent to the theological implication of the movie in general and the position of the catholic church on the subject.
- I had no special expectations about the movie, one way or another. I like the genre – I certainly liked Foucault’s Pendulum.
- I give out bits of the story in this post. So if you want to see this movie (which I cannot recommend), and think knowing the story beforehand will spoil it, you should stop reading here.
My first problem with the movie is that it is tediously slow. The whole story is supposed to be a race between the good guys and bad ones to find some secret, so you expect some rhythm, some pace. No. Characters react so slowly you think they took some valium. Of course there is some running around, car chases. But mostly, people stand around and talk slowly, explaining everything – especially the obvious. It is so bad that the best moments of the movie are the ones when some character gets punched. It kind of wakes you up, and the characters stops talking, which at this point of the movie is quite pleasurable. The movie is also long, more than two hours, so the whole thing is very tedious.
The second problem is, the characters are stupid. It starts with Fache (Jean Reno). He is convinced that Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is the murderer of Jacques Saunière (Jean-Pierre Marielle). Saunière has written some code stuff on the ground in invisible ink along with a note “P.S see Robert Langdon”. If Fache wants to arrest Langdon he simply needs to erase the “P.S see” and pretend the victim wrote some gibberish and then the name of the killer. Of course he does not do this, he erases the whole line. But then again, at this point of the movie, and old dying man with a bullet in his chest managed to:
- Setup an elaborate puzzle in the museum, including doing a permutation of the fibonacci series
- Strip out of all his clothes and cut a pentagram on himself.
- Die in the exact position of a Da Vinci painting
All this without smearing the whole place with blood, being seen on any security camera or having any security people coming (firing guns in the Louvre is a common thing, obviously). Of course, when the police arrives, they do not do a full search of the area (which would reveal the hidden key). The police gets fooled by the most stupid ruse (throwing the tracer into a passing truck) and completely leaves the museum, which is very convenient, because having fooled the police, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu do not leave the museum. No, they stay inside it and solve the puzzle (in more time it would take to look behind all the paintings).
This was the first scene which seem to last ages. The movie drags on in the same vein, the scenario is just a vague excuse to slowly introduce new puzzles. Actually, I like puzzles, but I want to be able to play. That is I should be given all the clues and some time to try to solve it, seing people pacing in rooms with some computer graphics and then coming out with an arbitrary solution. Why give stupid clues when the answer to Newton is apple? The second problem with the puzzles in this movie, is that nobody cheats, nobody thinks out of the box. Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) is a cripple millionaire. He has a code-box. If the right code is selected, the box opens, if the wrong code is selected, the content will be destroyed. The content of the box is the goal of his life-long quest for which he is willing to kill even his loyal side-kick. He will:
- Realize this is just a combination box built in old times and try to pick the combination while countering the self-destruction mechanism (like for instance by freezing the vinegar in the vial)?
- Play the game, fly around chased by the police, shoot people, risk the box breaking (the thing is supposed to be delicate) all the while try to get people he does not trust (he betrayed them) to give him the right code.
The heroes always bravely solve the puzzle – never they try to think deeper. They would probably still be trying out to figure out the gordian knot, instead of looking for a sword.
Besides the puzzles, this movie is about symbols, what about it? The film has a symbolic dimension, no doubt. Like everything else in the moving, it is very heavy-handed. The hero’s research subject are the feminine symbols which is also what everybody is running after. Very early in the movie you have a scene were the templar’s place is raided and the only thing that is found is a a single living red rose. It is not a subtle allusion, the flower is the center of the shot (which like all others in the movie is very long), and the rest of the scene is discolored, in case you missed it (maybe you were sleeping), it is repeated all over the movie.
So the quest is about a living feminine symbol. There is only one feminine character, Sophie Neveu so she is obviously the descendant of the christ, thus repeating the über-cliché that the objet of the quest is always in front of heroes in the start. Once this was figured out, the movie became even more boring, the heroes now had to do more puzzle solving and running around to discover the obvious. Actually, Dan Brown was no happy using this cliché once, he had to use it twice – the body of Maria Magdalena is where the whole story started. Thanks Captain Obvious.
Let me finish with the characters. There were actors I like: Reno can do the stubborn french cops, and Audrey Tautou, well she is Amélie. But I could not feel any empathy for their characters. Capitaine Fache is so shallow and stupid you feel he will implode. Sophie Neveu is a cop half the time and a damsel in distress that runs around in high-heels shoes the other half. Silas is a masochistic religious nut, but soon even his auto-flagellation sessions become boring.
There is a tentative to make the heroes more human by giving them issues, but this is very heavy handed that it completely backfires, partly because it feels like an ad-on, an afterthought, the fact that Robert Landon fell into a well brings little to nothing to the movie and makes it even looonger…