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Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Da Vinci Code: Catholics & Albinos up in arms

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Caution: Film plot spoiler ahead (not that you already didn't know the whole story by now)

This and other movie posters can be found at unrest issues (Iraq, Iran, Middle East, etc.) aside, the Da Vinci Code is perhaps one of the most talked topics of late, more so with the movie adaptation release (today, May 18, 2006 in Malaysia). The book was published back in 2003, and caused much discomfort in the Christian world. Acclaimed by some, and reviled by many, the book, a work of fiction based on fact (as it claims), has its theme surrounding the de-deification of Jesus, and the supposed conspiracy by the Church in obscuring the truth about Jesus.

The Da Vinci Code (both book and film) has had many Christians up in arms, as it challenges the very dogma that the Christian faith is based on - that Christ was God incarnate, and part of the Trinity of God.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe film had its world premiere yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival, but already protests against the release of the film have been reported worldwide. But one of the most prominent protests comes from India. So much so that the Indian government has decided to put the film's release on hold.

The affront on Christians revolves around the centuries old secret about Christ fathering a child through his marriage with Mary Magdalene. This in essense, is damaging to the Christians' view of Christ's divinity, and thus the concept of the Trinity of God.

Many consider that the Trinity was invented by the Council of Nicene, in 325 AD. This, according to history, appears to be incorrect, as the concept of God to the Christian to be 3-in-1 existed long before the Nicene Creed was first produced. What the council did produce is the dogma that the Trinity of God was the only truth, and any other interpetation was heresy. Such as that of Arius, that God did not beget Jesus, and that he was a mortal - a great mortal, but a mortal nonetheless). And so, the dogma of the trinity was thus established.

Brown, though, go as far to say (in the book) that "Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false." Very contentious words. His reason for writing the book, though:

My hope in writing this novel was that the story would serve as a catalyst and a springboard for people to discuss the important topics of faith, religion, and history.

And Christianity, indeed, does have a long and complex history. As do just about any world faith; Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam, to name a few.

The Opus Dei, a real Catholic religious movement prominently featured in the book and film, has issued numerous statements condemning the movie, particularly about how the organization is portrayed - in a very sinister fashion. The Opus Dei (lit. Latin, meaning "the Work of God"), a Catholic prelature, was founded by a Spanish priest, St. Josemaria Escriva in 1928. Escriva was Cannonized, i.e. made a saint, by Pope John Paul II, on May 17, 1992. The film's premiere in Cannes, therefore, comes exactly 14 years after Escriva's cannonization! This could possibly be another reason why the Opus Dei is opposed to the film. (more in the full post)

But the sinister portrayal of Opus Dei in Da Vinci's Code is not entirely without basis. The organization, since its inception, has had its opponents, both inside and outside the body Catholic. Apart from Opus Dei's official homepage, there exists an unauthorized and unofficial Opus Dei resource site. Here you can find numerous references and background information on the organization, including this FAQ. Among other criticisms is the fact that Escriva's The Way, the book on which much of the organization's teachings is centered on, contains elements of fascism and intollerance. Much of the organization's true nature is kept a secret and is known only through former members, and those personally familiar with Escriva, like Maria del Carmen Tapia, whose book Beyond the Threshold: A Life in Opus Dei, provides an interesting insight into the founder of the Opus Dei.

In all, Christiandom's protest against the film can be termed, as Akram's Razor put it, "the Christians' version of the Danish cartoons". It has definitely gotten them riled, although, fortunately, not in the violent manner Muslims in some parts of the world protested the Jyllands Post cartoons.

Meanwhile, yet another group of people are upset with the film's release: albinos (don't laugh).

Image hosting by PhotobucketTheir resentment is in the portrayal of one of the key characters in the book and film, the murderous hooded monk, Silas, played by actor Paul Bettany. Albinos, apparently, have had their (un)fair share of being portrayed as villians in many motion pictures over the years.

Michael McGowan, himself an albino and head of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH), was quoted in this report:

Also, while not planning a protest or boycott, members of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation expressed unhappiness with the film's heavy, a monk-assassin, being an albino, as described in the book.

Michael McGowan, an albino who heads the organization, said "The Da Vinci Code" will be the 68th movie since 1960 to feature an evil albino.

The "Da Vinci" character "is just the latest in a long string," McGowan said. "The problem is there has been no balance. There are no realistic, sympathetic or heroic characters with albinism that you can find in movies or popular culture."

He said the group aims to use the movie's popularity to raise awareness about the realities of albinism. People with albinism have little or no pigmentation in their skin, eyes and hair.

In Malaysia, we will get to see this contentious movie uncut and in its entirety - two of Walski's prerequisites for spending money at Malaysian cinemas - as confirmed by a report in today's The Star.

So, is the movie worth watching? Walski hasn't finished reading the book, but definitely intends to watch film. However, critics worldwide have panned the movie. Numerous reports can be found online, but we've provided you with links to reviews from CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press.

In the final analysis, good or not, the film has become a worthy successor to the book, at least in stirring up controversy. Dan Brown is definitely not one of the world's better writers (Walski has read his other books), but the subject matter of The Da Vinci Code is intriguing enough to warrant a trip to the cineplex closest to you.

Whether or not your faith will be in jeorpardy by watching this film is something only you can answer. Best advise is: go watch it anyway. Then answer the question.