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Dan Brown’s favour to Christianity

  • 29 May 2006

As a film critic, I regularly hear that movie adaptations of novels are 'Not as good as the book'. This observation, of course, is misjudged. A good film cannot easily do what a good book can do – tell the viewer what all the characters are thinking, and what is motivating them at any given point. I think this film adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel of the same name is better than the book, but only fractionally. The Da Vinci Code movie is overly long, the direction is uninspired and the acting by Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou is surprisingly weak. And, what’s worse, with 20 minutes still to run in this 149-minute marathon, the film completely runs out of puff. But whatever critics think won’t make much difference to the big box office returns. Readers of the book want to see the film. And the novel has been a phenomenon. It has been on the New York Times best seller list for 163 weeks, has been translated into 47 languages and sold more than 40 millions copies. The recent soft cover edition, released eight weeks ago, sold 500,000 copies in its first day in the USA, and debuted at number one on respected best selling lists all over again. The sort of success for the book and film has a context. It does not just happen because of hype. I want to make some observations about why I think Brown’s work is a hit and why people believe these works of fiction to be fact. From his success with his 2001 novel, Angels and Demons, Dan Brown knew that religion and intrigue sold well. But not even he could have predicted that by adding sex into this mix in The Da Vinci Code he was going to ride a wave of public interest that would see this book become a publishing sensation. Some history. One of the book and film’s major claims is that women’s leadership in the early church was suppressed. As Jesus’ lover, and mother of his child, the suppression of Mary Magdalene’s memory is indicative of this wider struggle. Whether we like it or not, the US literary market is the largest and most lucrative in the world. Almost universally in the English language market, if it’s a hit there it will be here too. In the USA every major recent survey of mainstream American Catholics, and certainly people