Sunday, 28 May 2006

Brown porn

Show me a man who says he doesn't enjoy watching porn and I'll show you a hypocrite. I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong or whether it's the best industry in the world to work for or whether it's quality material, I'm just saying it's enjoyable.
Which is pretty much the way I feel towards Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. It's fun to read - a major page turner where you always want to know what happens next - but just like porn, it's a piece of exploitative shit that's as high in literature quality as Debbie Does Dallas.
I thought I'd spare you of my opinion, but I couldn't help myself after reading Kostas' views at http://toohardtoget.blogspot.com/2006/05/code.html
My criticism towards the book comes in two fronts. First, as a piece of literature, it's really bad. It is nothing more than an account of events - there is nothing of the stuff you usually find in books, such as character development, which is where most of the "benefit" of reading a book comes from. It is also loaded with cheap techniques to make it more thrilling, techniques that are borrowed from the cinematic world because good literature doesn't have to stoop so low - things like "quick editing" where you move from one plot line to another too quickly to know what really went on, flashbacks, and the vilification of characters that turn out to be good while the real baddies are described as pure angels in the beginning.
If I had any doubts about this observation they vanished when I read Dan Brown's other Tom Hanks book that feels like a film script, Angels and Demons. It's exactly the same plot and same everything to the point I had advanced convulsive urges towards the end of it. But just like porn, I stayed till the end.
The second problem I have with the book is that it tells you pure bullshit under the guise of authenticity. Things like the Priory of Zion, which is a figment of some French guy's imagination; or things like the Knights Templar digging up something in Jerusalem; or the story of how Maria Magdalena arrived to France. As far as I can tell, the only element of Brown’s arguments that is true is that Maria had her own gospel which was censored out.
Now, personally, I couldn't give a shit on whether these arguments are true or not. First, because the book is a work of fiction; and second, as an atheist I definitely think that Mr Jesus was just as mortal and just as holy as me and as all other human beings (including nasty ones like Mr Adolf). But the fact is that in this day and age where people are consumed in a hopeless search for self identification, done mainly through the acquisition of stuff is marketed as something that would enable them to express themselves (a phenomenon otherwise known as consumerism), there is a significant market for a book that is supposed to deliver the real truth. Even if it's just porn.

As for the Da Vinci film... What can I say? Ron Howard was always a rather mediocre director. His best film so far, Apollo 13, had some good material in it and could have been a smash but was a miss; his other films are the same, including Beautiful Mind that got him a politically correct Oscar mainly because it was a shit year for the cinematic industry or Cinderella Man which was totally banal.
Da Vinci is not much different. It's a long film, and to Howard's credit I was never bored; but I was never thrilled either. It just sort of passed in front of me, never really touching me.
Unlike others, I don't think Tom Hanks did a bad job. I think he is a smashing actor playing a rather dull character which the book never really bothers to properly develop. I do agree, though, that the breaking of the codes elements of the film are poorly conveyed; you could argue that it's something that works better on paper than on film, but I would argue that no one put a gun to Howard's head and told him to be as loyal to the book as a was.
One thing I do credit the film for is its authenticity: A lot of it was shot on location, which is really nice. The fact Westminster Abbey was replaced by Lincoln Cathedral and Jo took me there not too long ago added to the fun element.
But overall, the film, just like the book, works at the same level as porn.

2 comments:

K Williams said...

Too harsh... It is a story after all. I alsi believe that the book is about the story and the 'myth' itself, not the characters. They are just the delivery vehicle for Brown's theory.

The porn analogy did not work for me, although I am sure I would agree with it on other instances. Porn is usually for a quick and extremely 'cheap' fix - not for staying till the end! I 'd like to believe that the book kept you reading, as much as you did not like it overall.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I agree: I was too harsh, and there is definite value in the book raising the issues it raises to the top of people's agendas. As much as I don't like the book as a piece of literature, there's no doubt it made its mark as far as getting lots of people thinking.