Sunday, May 21, 2006

'The Da Vinci Code' is a bloated, discombobulated mess

I count myself one of the "lucky few" who were able to watch 'The Da Vinci Code" on its opening day. As many of you know, that movie was met with militant opposition here in Manila. Even the government, in the person of Sec. Eduardo Ermita, a high-ranking cabinet member, publicly stated that it ought not be shown here, as it might scandalize millions of the Christian faithful. It was even called, I believe, and I paraphrase, "the most pornographic film in history" by an an anti-pornography group, whose leader's name escapes me at the moment.

Well. Okay.

The bottom line: it sucked. Yes it did. I and several of my friends [ curiously one of my friends was the scion of Opus Dei supernumeraries-- the both of them! ] decided to watch it last Thursday, the 18th, mostly because it will be the last time we will be able to go out this summer. Remember, the school year starts here at June-- but for those unlucky souls stuck in the trimester system, it starts in May.

Anyway, the movie largely follows the book's narrative, perhaps a bit too much. I personally thought that Ron Howard did a lackluster job as director. There was so much to be done with the storyline, yet this already campy book turned out to be an even campier film. Tom Hanks carried himself in a lifeless, almost zombie-like manner. Sir Ian McKellen, who is the only good choice in this film, was melodramatic, eclipsing your average Jeremy Irons performance, I thought. The only good thing about the movie was the music by Hans Zimmer-- and yet even that was overused and drowned out most of the film.

Oh, did I mention that Tom Hanks' hairdo is atrocious? Not just plain atrocious... It's atrociously atrocious. So bad that it must only have come from the Devil himself. Or Dan Brown.

In retrospect I realize I probably should not have watched it at all. This is a film which threatens to undermine the faith of so many millions of Catholics in this impressionable country. As the Archbishop of Manila, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said, 'Not since the time of the presbyter Arius has there been such an attack on the Divinity of Christ'. I think this is especially true: just 10 years ago, I remember that my relatives would reprimand me if I even mention the words 'Iglesia ni Cristo'. Nowadays, more and more people watch the INC's shows [ mostly for entertainment reasons ]-- and all the while their faith is very subtly eroded without their knowing it. For those in the dark, the Iglesia ni Cristo [ INC ] is a pseudo-Christian cult with deep roots here in the Philippines. Among their claims is that they are the one true church [ after the original apostolic church was supposedly overtaken by pagans and therefore apostasized, creating the RCC ], that their founder was literally the fourth angel of the apocalypse, and perhpas their most central doctrine, that Jesus was only human.

I think this movie might be a double-edged sword. While it may strenghten or encourage most Catholics to learn more about their faith, the majority will undoubtedly start to believe its claims. Let's face it-- Filipinos are very impressionable people. If it looks genuine, Filipinos will probably think it is the real thing. I'm not trying to deride my fellow countrymen here. It's just that the reason more and more Catholics are leaving the fold for sects like the INC is because there is very little catechesis ingrained on them. Granted, we are a much more reverent people compared to, say, Americans or Germans or even the Spaniards who reared us and nurtured us in the Faith. Here, much of the old ways remain: processions, traditions, customs; we haven't forgotten to decorate our altars as many in the West have. The sad fact is that a Lutheran or Anglican church is likely to look more Catholic than most Catholic churches themselves, particularly in the United States or Europe.

*Sigh*. I don't know what to think anymore, as I am very tired. All this brouhaha over this movie has apparently overwhelmed the movie itself. Panned at the Cannes, laughed and jeered by the critics... it really didn't live up to the hype. One thing is sure, though. The Opus Dei, vilified in the book and movie as being the 'Mafia in white', has come out the victor against Hollywood.