Wednesday, 1 October 2008

A Movie Mystery: The descendents of Jesus

I finally sat down and watched the last half of the Da Vinci Code last night. It wasn't as good as the book - predictably - and the final reveals were a little lifeless. The highlight was probably Ian McKellan's portrayal of the Teacher as a kind of rabid Dawkins obsessed with pulling apart the evil structures of the Christian Church. Jean Reno also produced a compelling perfomance as the manipulated French cop.

What the movie lacks in drama it makes up for in dodgy historiography, although Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, is often used to provide a counterargument when the film wanders off into more questionable territory.

The key to the plot, of course, is for the protagonists to discover the tomb of Mary Magdelene, thereby proving a genetic link between Sophie and her great, great... grandad, Jesus. It's not clear to me, from the film, why Langdon chooses not to reveal the location of her grave - but there you go...

Watching this movie put me in mind of the vastly superior Kevin Smith flick, Dogma, which focusses on Bethany, an embittered worker in an abortion clinic who turns out to be the great, great... grand niece of Jesus. Smith is himself a catholic and dedicates all his films to God. He's also read his Bible so knows that Jesus probably had brothers and sisters, so would therefore have living relatives - of some form. This film also deals with issues of faith, corruption and the abuse of power, but does so with a sense of mystery and a genuine respect for what may be.

I find myself wondering about this concern for the descendants of Jesus, in these movies, both Sophie and Bethany are referred to as "the Princess" and great things are expected of them. On many levels this seems strange. In terms of the humanity of Christ, a genetic link surely means nothing - human is human and Christ is therefore linked to us all. In terms of divinity, a genetic link is equally meaningless, since there is presumably no "God Gene" that can be passed on...

Does this concern have something to do with the very human concept of royalty - hence the "princess" theme. We somehow want to believe that some people have divine right to special status. I'm really not sure why? Do we find it comforting? Or does is confirm our own sense of personal destiny? Do these films imply that fate plays a significant role in our lives?

Not sure what's going on here, but I am intrigued with what these two films might tell us about human beings. I'm also wondering what other theories will pop out of the box. Perhaps someone will produce a film in which a major politician or star turns out to be a descendent of Jesus? Or maybe we all are, in our own way...

2 comments:

Peter Leeson said...

On the same subject, I would very strongly recommend "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco. Published in 1988, this very good book touches on some of the commercial reasons for this fad and even includes the story line used by Dan Brown, generated by one writer by throwing random pieces of unrelated bits of trivia together as a demonstration of the kind of rubbish one could come up with if you were only in it for the shock value. Of course I am not suggesting that Dan Brown stole his ideas either from "Foucault's Pendulum" or from "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" just because both very successful books tell the same story and were published fifteen years earlier.
Personally, I did not enjoy the Da Vinci book due to its bad writing (grammar!) and all the factual mistakes that could be so easily verified (like placing Versailles in the North of Paris).

Tim Norwood (A Vicar) said...

When I said the film was not as good as the book this was a relative statement!