So the Diocese of Rome (that’d be the pope’s diocese) has barred Ron Howard and Tom Hanks and the production team filming “Angels & Demons,” the “Da Vinci Code” prequel/sequel, from shooting inside two churches in the Eternal City. At the risk of committing pop culture heresy, I can only say: Bravo!
I don’t necessarily base my condemnation on the anti-Catholicism of Brown’s novels, which do traffic in those stereotypes and certainly give church authorities every right to bar such filming. And before you go off on a Brown-ish rant, note that the Vatican is not stopping filming of the exteriors of the churches in question, and that the Anglican Communion also barred filming inside some sacred locales during shooting of the Da Vinci Code for similar reasons–offenses against Christian belief, history, and the rest. Besides, the two churches are gems–Santa Maria della Vittoria houses Bernini’s St. Teresa in Ecstasy (or is that Mary Magdalene?) and Santa Maria del Popolo has the remarkable Caravaggios of the conversion of St. Paul and the crucifixion of St. Peter. Spare a thought for them, at least!
But Brown’s anti-Catholicism is so cartoonish as to be almost laughable. Less amusing is his writing. Sure, I’m a sucker for a paperback thriller, more than most. I knew Robert Ludlum backwards before Matt Damon was born. But for me, Brown’s writing is a greater sin against the spirit than almost anything else in the books. I tried, I really did, not to read “Angels & Demons” once the “Da Vinci Code” tsunami broke. But it’s part of the job…So I read it on a plane ride to Rome, and it didn’t make the trip any shorter. Maybe I needed that plasma-fueled X-33 jet that no one ever heard of that gets Langdon from Manhattan to Geneva in an hour. (“Not Geneva, New York, Mr. Langdon. Geneva, Switzerland.” OMG!!! Does anyone know there is a Geneva, NY? And does anyone realize he coulda done the same to Rome!)
Could anything be worse than “The Da Vinci Code”? Turns out “Angels & Demons” makes a case. More there than one post can critique, but I’m sure there will be other opportunies to do so. But one beautiful passage, from Page 115 in the paperback, when Our Hero, Robert Langdon, the most brilliant intellect in the Western World, is reminded that, oh yeah, the pope just died:
“How could he have forgotten. It had been in the news recently.”
The real secret: Dan Brown is a humorist, the David Sedaris of thriller writers. But I am spitting into the wind. I can’t help myself. This movie will be a phenom, and our cross to bear for the next year or more. Maybe I’ll learn to deal.