Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, Etienne Chicot, Jurgen Prochnow

Cinema 3, Edsa Shang Cineplex

"Seek the Truth"


I precisely waited for the second week of this film's run at the cinemas so I could watch it without much distraction. Despite the bad reviews I've read about this film, I think it was pretty good. I won't recount the story anymore, I'm pretty sure everyone has read Dan Brown's book.
Instead I will focus on the 'technical' aspects. Certainly any director can't go wrong if the locations in this film are well established places of great historical significance. The Louvre in Paris, the City of Lights. The Villette Chateau, The Temple church in London and the mountain top Rosslyn Chapel in scenic Scotland. Ron Howard was fortunate enough to be given permission to shoot at these historical locales. Although in the movie itself, he didn't publicly identify some of the places like for example, neither actors specifically mentioned that Rosslyn Chapel was in Scotland.
His masterful direction of showing the flashback scenes in black and white or in a yellowish hue to imply a dated/ancient view of events was a neat trick. The way Howard interposed the flashback scenes in the same frame as the modern scenes are clearly clever shots. He also noticeably focuses his camera on tiny details. I am a very visual oriented and observant person so I like it when directors provide these details on the screen. Shots of zooming in on the numbers on the cobblestones, the powerpoint presentation of the various symbols, the ancient paintings at the Louvre, the raw wounds on Silas's back, the close up shots of the main characters, even the way that Sophie Neveu drove in reverse across that narrow street - they all contribute to make the movie a visual treat. My favorite visual part is towards the end of the movie. The scene where Robert Langdon cuts himself shaving. His blood stain on the sink forms into a sword shape pointing downwards. In that precise moment, Langdon has his epiphany and rushes out of his hotel room towards the Pyramid structure in front of the Louvre. Hans Zimmer's musical score blaring a bit too loud to heighten the suspense factor in that scene was a pivotal point in the movie.
The casting for the movie was alright. Ian McKellan was a convincing Leigh Teabing. His well enunciated eloquence was vital while he explained the hidden mystery behind "the Last Supper" and "the Mona Lisa". His use of a computer generated interface to prop up his narrative made it more understandable. Paul Bettany as the menacing albino monk, Silas could have done with some more exposure. In the book we know that he had a pretty rough life but joining the Opus Dei saved his soul thus he became a loyal follower of this religious sect. Maybe the producers didn't want to focus too much on an albino being cast as a villain and also didn't want to incur the wrath of the Opus Dei. Alfred Molina as Bishop Aringarosa also needed to be fleshed out more. His portrayal as the very powerful Aringarosa was bland and a bit flat. But again I believe the makers of the film didn't want to alienate the Catholic Church. It was good to see Jean Reno and the other French actors speak in their original language. We all know how possessive they can get about 'la langue Francais'. I still have some issues with Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou as the main characters. In the book, Robert Langdon had a sartorial life. He was merely a professor and symbologist so he was terrified most of the time as the story progressed. Tom Hanks portrayed him as a self assured man who suddenly can handle anything that comes his way even being attacked by a ruthless killer. Audrey Tautou, well she will always have this "petite gamine" look pasted on her pixie face. So it is a bit difficult to believe she is a well established cryptologist.
In conclusion, overall I believe Ron Howard gave us a concise adaptation of a very complicated and well researched novel. The pace was good and the plot was suspenseful enough. The dialogue was a bit cliche with a few Hollywood style crappy lines. The acting was somewhat convincingly believable. The script stayed true to the novel. Although of course, no screenwriter can really captured all the minute details of any novel. Cinematography and visual editing is where it scored quite high in my books. Some of the most famous places in the world rich with historical facts provided the essential factor in salvaging this film to make it a pleasant viewing experience.
As for the fact whether as a Catholic I was frazzled by the revelation that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and had kids. Well let me just say, my belief/faith has not been shattered one single bit. My relationship with God is a very personal journey. It certainly won't take a book nor a movie to rattle it. Amen! :D

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