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This blog is the outgrowth of the www.TheTruthAboutDaVinci.com Web site. Many people have asked questions or raised points of discussion on Dan Brown's book and its recent movie release. Therefore, this blog was created to take the discussion farther - to capture certain thoughts and answer some of the questions we've received at the site.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

On Film

We all know expressions such as, "seeing is believing," or "pictures don't lie." This comes from the impression that somehow seeing it is closer to reality than talking about it. When you think, though, this cannot be true. Even when we gaze on a sunset, we do so with eyeglasses which translate what we see through our assumptions. A sunset may be beautiful to some. It may terrify some, signaling the end of daytime. Perhaps it speaks about the glory of the Creator to some, or the oddities of evolution to others. Well, film is exactly the same. Though it consists of moving pictures, it always articulates a point of view. Even documentaries are composed and structured to bring out certain views, whether consciously or not.

Does that mean all we are left with is the relativistic notion that each filmmaker is an island, portraying one point of view among millions? No, because revelation surrounds us, so that our views are always somehow in reaction to God's truth, whether in conformity to it or in antipathy to it. Take the Western. This classic American film genre has gone through many phases. The standard ingredients in the earlier Westerns include the wide open spaces, the rugged cowboy, a confrontation of good and evil (lawmen and outlaws), an so on. However different the story, something about White America is articulated in this type of film: freedom from constraint, individual heroism, taming a wild country. There may be a dark side, such as the justification for revenge. Often, Westerns portray a male-oriented culture, where women are secondary.

Films work through all kinds of visual conventions. Think of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, one of the great films of all times. The Paramount studios had created a technique called Vista Vision in an attempt at enlarging the screen, partly in response to television's narrow scope. The hero, Scottie Ferguson, played by James Stewart, is a wandering man, in search of meaning. He follows a woman around, and falls in love with her. When she dies, he goes on a quest to replace her by re-creating her into a new woman. He not only fails in the effort but manages to cause the death of this second woman. There are numerous scenes of Scottie in his car, or lurking in corners, spying on the woman. We have here a combination of travelogue, compulsive psychology, suspense, and a general feeling of impotence. The music plays a large role in contributing to the narrative. There is a certain amount of despair in this film, surely mirroring the anxiety created by the situation after World War II. The Soviet Union was expanding, China moved to communism, labor strikes, gender issues, and the birth of rock 'n' roll were all contributors to this angst. Scottie, a policeman, leaves the force to become a victim of a plot by a powerful businessman to control him. James Stewart is now the "vulnerable male." [1]

Without exaggerating the point, may we say that despite the victory of the allies in the war, America in the 1950s was losing control. The country was headed toward the upheavals of the 1960s, and the shame of Vietnam. Scottie is lost and confused, though partly responsible for the despair. There is not much redemption in this film. Nor did many find much redemption in the decline of the American powerhouse, though many attempts at a come-back were made: a nostalgia cult about the old days, talk of "values," cuddly rebels like Elvis Presley, and so forth. Christians need to see these elements and decide what the narrative of certain films like Vertigo signify for a biblical worldview.

A film tells a story. It uses hundreds of devices to construct the narrative. The Da Vinci Code film will be no different. We encourage its viewers to go and see it, and then to discuss its significance by detecting the visual and auditory components that construct the story. And then, they should compare and contrast this story to the biblical account of reality.

William Edgar

[1] As suggested by Robert Kolker in Film, Form and Culture (New York: McGraw Hill, 2002), p. 141.


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Da Vinci Code Truth

  : This website is a response to Sony Pictures movie "The Da Vinci Code"
  based on Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code