Key to the Sacred Pattern

27 May 2006

The Da Vinci Code, a Visual Review

I saw the Da Vinci Code last night, and I cannot say that I was disappointed. This is one of the few movies that I have ever seen that did not stray from the original text. (Unlike the movie version of Starship Troopers, from which Robert Heinlein is still spinning in his grave.) After a little while, I even bought into Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. The majority of reviews I’'ve read stick pretty much to these points and anything else alone.

Going into the movie, I was more concerned with the visuals. Given that Dan Brown, or some savvy marketing person, has a penchant for visual Easter Eggs; I was hoping for a visual feast. Ron Howard disappointed me here. I felt that the key buildings in the book were treated was characters. Since each structure had its own mystery to unravel, Brown almost personified the buildings. Howard was lacking in this area. There is nothing visually that would give one the idea of just how large the Louvre is, or what an important history and art it contains. I have visited three of the key buildings in the movie and will gripe and praise accordingly.

The Temple Church; located off Fleet Street in London, this is a magnificent example of a Templar building. The main part of the Church is round; an architectural theme that reoccurs in Templar built churches, but is not communicated by the film makers. One thing Howard almost got right is the feeling of darkness the church conveys. No, not an evil darkness, but walking into the Church one gets the feeling that it is sucking any ambient light into the walls. This combined with the garish figures on the walls, can give one an intimidating feel. This had to be the goal of the Templars, to ward off the faint of heart. Unless some of the stained glass was knocked out since I visited; I have no idea where the dove could have come from.

Westminster Abby; I did like the ghostly images hanging around the Abby as the characters walked in, giving an actual feel of the place. Westminster is so crowed with tombs of historical figures, it would be hard to think there were not a few lost souls wandering around. It is so crowed, I almost knocked a velvet rope pole into Elizabeth I's tomb. Had I not caught the pole in time, I would have immediately been deported. I give Howard, an A for effort, but the scope of the Abby was still lacking in the visuals.

Rosslyn Chapel ; is such an explosion of images there’s almost no way Howard could have conveyed it all. I was disappointed there was not at least one pan on the Apprentice Pillar. This column is one of the most distinct and speculated about features of Rosslyn. There is a very short glimpse of it over Hanks shoulder, but no more.

Here are my two biggest problems. The first is that there is no “Star of David” on the overhang to the Crypt. I'’ve checked my memory and my photos, and if there is one I am mistaken. The one that was in the movie didn'’t even match the color of the stone around it. Finally, the Crypt is no where near that big. There are no storage rooms off to the sides. Rosslyn isn’'t hiding works of art or chest full of old raffle receipts. What bothered me most about the scene is that the Crypt is interesting enough without having to embellish it.

I’'ve said my peace. Go see it, but don’'t sell yourself short on digging a little deeper into the architecture that should have been in the foreground and not the background of the film.

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