Despite the fact that the film version of Dan Brown’s best seller has been greeted with mixed reviews, it is no doubt on its way to a tidy profit.
By now there has been enough analysis, debate, controversy and legal action for the viewing public to realise that, when soaked in the right syntax, the division between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ becomes surprisingly flexible. All part and parcel of this highly entertaining genre.
I watched the recent 60 Minute piece, “The Priory Of Sion: Myth Or Truth?” with fascination. Not only because the whole thing is jolly good fun, but also because I was I was not long ago in the South West of France, based just down the road from Rennes-le-Château, village of mystery.
While there I read a number of the books on the area, among them Henry Lincoln’s The Holy Place: Discovering the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World. Though exploring a different theory, this book covered quite a bit of the material central to the Da Vinci Code debates. So it was with interest that I followed Lincoln’s interview with Ed Bradley.
Aside from the actual content of Lincoln’s book, I couldn’t help but notice the way in which the thesis was formulated. Now Lincoln admits that he knows a good story when he sees one and that he is simply presenting ‘ideas’ based around a small cluster of ‘facts’.
While reading this book, I kept a keen eye out for the ‘facts’ which was quite tricky with virtually non-existent cross referencing and bibliographical details. From even the brief www searches I did it seemed to me as though Lincoln employed a rather selective approach to the relevant ‘facts’/available data.
Putting the facts to one side, what seemed to me like wildly imaginative speculation filled in some quite large blanks. Presented at first with a kind of humility, to be sure, as possibilities. But the possibilities raised in one chapter, “could this be….?”, often became the premise for the next as Lincoln constructs an edifice which stretches back through the mists of history and soars up to the heavens and beyond.
Whether the reader discovers that much of this monument collapses like a house of cards hinges not only upon the ability to critique such works, but also the desire to do so. Given the popularity of this genre I suspect the absence of either one or the other (or both) in a significant portion of the market.
Back at the 60 Minutes interview, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who noticed Lincoln’s intriguing body language as he insisted, “I am not a naïve innocent who was hoaxed by Monsieur Plantard and Cherisey. No, I am a very, very careful researcher”. A very careful researcher. This after Bradley appears to have exposed the hoax behind the Priory of Sion, linchpin of the Holy Grail theory.
I take my hat off to those authors who have researched, formulated and written down their ideas on this. It is good fun and opens up some fascinating periods of history and beautiful parts of Europe.
It also throws light on the way in which popular belief structures develop. And here it seems the idea of ‘blind faith’ can be found on either side of the religious fence when it comes to debates like these.
The point where the Da Vinci Code ceases to be simply ‘entertainment’ is the point where the reader/viewer stops trying or wanting to discern fact from fantasy.
In reality, a ‘story’ is always more than entertainment. Narrative always carries a hidden code. It is an invitation to enter another world where certain values, beliefs and possibilities exist. And to embrace what seems good as the drama unfolds. Even if the whole process is subconscious. If you’ve missed that up till now you may want to pay closer attention to why you believe certain things and not others.
But be careful, not everything is as it seems. †