'The Da Vinci Code' movie wins contest for generating attention
The film version of The Da Vinci Code will probably not win any Academy Awards, if the consensus among critics is any indication, but it certainly is winning the contest for attention, generating more "buzz" than anything else in the entertainment world at the moment.
The reaction to the film locally seems to correspond with the response it's gotten in the wider world, a mix of curiosity, interest, appreciation, skepticism and disdain.
The film, directed by Ron Howard, sticks closely to the book by Dan Brown, for the most part, using a murder mystery as the vehicle for exploring an alternative explanation of Christian history, particularly Jesus's relationship with Mary Magdelene, claiming the two were married and that Mary bore a child from their union.
Is it a compelling revelation? An attack on Christianity? Or just a clever way to make a lot of money?
Kathy Broyles suspects it may be the latter.
"Controversy sells," she said.
She and her husband, Keith Broyles, attended a screening at the First Baptist Church Saturday, May 20, of "The Da Vinci Deception," a documentary film that examines flaws in the scholarship on which Brown based his claims about Christian history.
"People want to talk about it. Young people are asking me what's the truth. That's definitely been a benefit," she said. "It's not something I feel compelled to read. If anything it makes me want to read the Bible more so I can answer intelligently."
Following the first showings of the film at the Marshall Cinema Friday, May 19, everyone interviewed said they liked the movie, though with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Local film critic Andrew Wells, who said he had not read the book, seemed only mildly impressed. He noted that the pacing of the plot was a bit slow and that he was able to anticipate what going to happen next.
Three teenage viewers, on the other hand, said they found the movie to be interesting but a bit complicated.
"It was hard to understand," said Erik Colbert, who watched the movie with his friends, Anthony Thompson and Demetric Poindexter, none of whom had read the book. "It's a good movie. It gets you thinking."
"I enjoyed it. I think if you have faith hardly anything will be able to change that," said Christie Boedeker. "After all, this book is found in the fiction section."
Reactions among those from the local religious community were generally in agreement with Boedeker, though some people expressed more concern than others about the intentions of the author and the possible consequences of the popularity of his ideas.
Rev. David Huck, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Marshall, said he has the book but hasn't read it yet and will probably wait for the movie to come out on DVD before watching it. He said he's mainly interested in seeing what the buzz is about. But from what he's heard and read so far, neither book nor movie is a great threat to Christians.
"It poses no threat to the Biblically literate person who is well-grounded in their faith," he said. "We can hypothesize until Christ returns whether he was married or not. I have no problem with that. If he was, that just makes him more human to me."
He said the film's antagonistic attitude toward the Catholic Church, portraying it as a vast conspiracy against the sacred feminine, is "tragic," but does contain a kernel of truth.
"The church did defame Mary Magdelene for many years, saying she was a prostitute when there's no real evidence of that in the gospels."
But ultimately Huck prefers a light approach to the controversy. He even shared a joke with his congregation recently about three people standing before Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, which figures prominently in the book and film. One has a burning feeling in his eyes, one coughs and one sneezes. Why? "They have the da Vinci cold."
He said the congregation collectively groaned.
The movie represents a more serious matter to Rev. Paul Callahan, First Baptist Church pastor. Like Huck, he said he doesn't worry about the faithful being moved by the movie's message, but he does worry about those who are less familiar with the Bible.
"People of the church could probably watch it," he said. "The unchurched, with no Bible study, they watch something like this and say 'Yeah, that makes sense.'"
Callahan said it is important to debunk Brown's claims so that the faithful are able to respond intelligently and persuasively when discussing the issues raised by The Da Vinci Code with others.
"Christians are in an all-out cultural war with those people who would like to discredit us," he said. "The Da Vinci Code is another assault on what the church has historically held to be the facts.
"The truth is here," he said, holding high a copy of the Bible. "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are reliable."
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