The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Frequently Asked Questions
Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and cryptographer Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) are summoned to the Louvre Museum following the mysterious slaying of curator Jacques Saunière (Jean-Pierre Marielle), who also happens to be Sophie's grandfather. Found lying in a position similar to that of painter Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man and surrounded with symbols and codes, the curator's body provides clues that Langdon and Neveu must unravel, clues that lead them to discover a mystery about Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene that has been kept secret for centuries by a millenarian sect called "The Priory of Sion".
No. Certainly, there is a fair share of mystery surrounding the actual historical events and people, and countless myths exist on the matter, but this movie/book should absolutely be taken as a work of fiction. The author simply took certain myths and pieced them together into a story formed out of his imagination.
The Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci [1452-1519] and his works figure prominently in various places throughout the movie. For starters, the movie opens with a reference to a drawing by da Vinci known as the "Vitruvian Man"." It figures in the plot of the movie because that's how the body of the curator was posed, accompanied by Fibonacci numbers (out of order), an encrypted message, and a pentacle drawn on his stomach in his own blood, when it was found in the Great Gallery of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Several of da Vinci's paintings—The Mona Lisa, Madonna of the Rocks, and The Last Supper—also have prominent roles in the movie. Later in the movie, it is learned that Leonardo da Vinci himself was a member of the Priory of Sion, a secret society sworn to protect the Holy Grail. Da Vinci's drawing of the "Vitruvian Man" can be found in Book III of the treatise De Architectura by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius (hence the title of the drawing) or here. See also The Mona Lisa, Madonna of the Rocks, and The Last Supper.
A particular sequence of integers (whole numbers) made known by Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci in a book published in 1202, and popularly named after him. In the sequence, each new number is the sum of the two numbers before it: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 etc. The sequence has many applications for mathematicians, especially in its relationship to the golden ratio, φ (Phi), but is popularly most known for the way it reflects recurring patterns in nature, e.g. the arrangement of petals on a flower, the branching of trees, the placement of the scales of a pine cone, and the dimensions of the human facial features. For more information about Fibonacci numbers in nature, see here.
It read, "O Draconian devil Oh lame saint", which meant nothing to Sophie nor to Langdon. They figured out that the message was an anagram which, when rearranged, spelled out "Leonard da Vinci The Mona Lisa", pointing to the famous portrait which is held in the Louvre. Searching near The Mona Lisa, they discovered another encrypted message that read "so dark the con of man". Again re-arranging the letters, they came up with "Madonna of the Rocks", the title of another of da Vinci's paintings also housed in the gallery. Searching around Madonna of the Rocks, they found a key with a head shaped as a fleur-de-lis.
The Fibonacci sequence, 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21, was written on the floor, out of order, to ensure that Sophie would be involved quickly. She worked in the cryptology department of the police and with the cryptic string of numbers involved her department was contacted to figure out what it meant. Later, it was also the password needed for the fleur-de-lis key to open a safety deposit box in a Zurich bank which contains the keystone.
Saunière's killer is revealed in the opening scenes of the movie. It is the albino monk Silas (Paul Bettany). He kills Saunière, as well as three others, because they were the four members of the Priory of Sion, and only they knew where the keystone was hidden. Each of the four confessed to Silas that the keystone was buried under the Rose Line in the Church of Saint-Sulpice.
Sister Sandrine (Marie-Françoise Audollent), the nun at the Church of Saint-Sulpice, describes the rose line as a line that goes from the North to South Poles and marks the world's first prime meridian (before it was changed to Greenwich, England). That meridian supposedly passes through the Church. In actuality, there is a Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, but the Rose Line passes by the church over 100 meters to the east. It was under this rose line in the church that Silas believed the keystone to the Holy Grail was buried. When he tried to dig it up and discovered that he'd been tricked, he was so enraged that he killed Sister Sandrine.
Who wouldn't want the Holy Grail? People have been searching for it for the past 2,000 years. Actually, Silas didn't want it for himself but for a person that he calls "the Teacher." Or just to destroy it; given the fact that the church had tried to deny its existence for the past 2,000 years, it would even be better for its leaders if the Grail did not exist at all anymore.
The painting used in the film is an exact copy of da Vinci's painting, The Last Supper. In the film, Robert Langdon's old friend and scholar of the Holy Grail, Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), maintains that the figure to Jesus' right is a woman, in fact Mary Magdalene, that she was Jesus' wife as well as his disciple, and that she was pregnant with his child at the time of Jesus' crucifixion. He believes that an organisation called "The Priory of Sion" has been keeping it a secret that Mary Magdalene went into hiding in France and there bore Jesus' child, and that the bloodline is still alive. Based on documents of Leonardo da Vinci's that surfaced in the late 19th century, art historians have firmly identified the disciple to Jesus' immediate right as John (author of the Gospel According to John). Interestingly, in other artworks of da Vinci's time, John is frequently depicted as somewhat feminine in his appearance, perhaps to indicate his youth and inexperience, and is often shown being physically affectionate with Jesus, in particular leaning on Jesus' chest or shoulder. This perhaps reflects the long-held belief that John and the unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" in the gospel of John were the same person, but Dan Brown (and others before him) suggests that this unnamed "Beloved Disciple" was in fact a woman: Mary Magdalene.
"The Priory of Sion" does have a real history, though it's not exactly as it's suggested in this film. In 1956, Pierre Plantard and three associates filed documents in the town of Annemasse in eastern France to create an organisation that they called "The Priory of Sion". Thereafter they put forward a number of documents, parchments, dossiers, and books alleging that the Priory of Sion was actually created in 1099 by a real Roman Catholic religious order and establishing Plantard as a descendent of the Merovingian king Dagobert II [d. 7th century]. Some of these even made it into the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, located in Paris, until researchers were able to determine that these alleged ancient documents were printed on 40-year-old paper. In 1986, Plantard admitted that the whole thing was a hoax. Unfortunately, four years prior to Plantard's admission, authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln published Holy Blood, Holy Grail based on Plantard's claims, adding that the Merovingian line actually descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene and that the purpose of the Priory was to protect this secret and the Jesus bloodline. Dan Brown included the Priory of Sion and its alleged history in his novel, although he somewhat expanded the story of its nature and power. He was subsequently sued by Baigent and Lee for plagiarism, but the lawsuit was dismissed in the High Court of the UK in July 2006 and failed on appeal. In his submission to the court, Brown claimed the information he based his book on was in fact drawn from another book, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince's The Templar Revelation. However, a key claim by the Priory of Sion, and an important line of assertion in both Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code—that the royal Merovingian line descended directly from Jesus and Mary Magdalene—doesn't appear in Picknett and Prince's book.
This is unclear. Vernet states he has been waiting 20 years for someone to come for the box, revealing that whoever put him up to the job knew of its value a long time before the events of the movie. That makes it unlikely that it was the Catholic Church (or the secret council of Opus Dei) who hired him, because the movie implies that they weren't aware of Jacques Saunière's position until shortly before the events of the film. So why would they have made plans 20 years earlier to hijack the contents of an account that belonged to a man they didn't even know was important? It is implied that Teabing knew Jacques Saunière's secret long before he sent Silas to kill him, so it could be suggested that he was the one who had Vernet keeping an eye on Saunière's account. But this doesn't make sense either, because if Teabing had known 20 years earlier that the keystone was in the Swiss bank, why would he only now, after 20 years, send Silas to ask the Priory members where it was? And why wouldn't he correct Silas when Silas told him it was in St.Sulpice? The only explanation that truly makes sense, however unlikely it might seem, is that Vernet wasn't connected with any of the factions after the Grail. Either he was associated with a third faction pursuing the Grail that is never declared in the film, or he was working alone. Perhaps, somehow, he became aware that the account's contents were incalculably valuable and decided to steal it at his earliest opportunity.
Silas is an albino, which means he has white hair and pale skin due to a lack of melanin. Because of Silas's condition, his father used to call him a "ghost." Thanks to the patronage of Bishop Aringarosa (Alfred Molina), Silas came to think of himself as an angel, a messenger of God (which he says to Sophie in response to her interrogation of him). Towards the end of the movie, however, as he lay dying, he realizes that he has failed in his mission to find the keystone and that he is nothing more than a "ghost" again.
After Sophie is reunited with her grandmother and the others who have vowed to protect her, Langdon returns to Paris. Armed with the verse from the scroll inside the keystone, The Holy Grail neath ancient Roslin waits / The blade and chalice guarding o'er her gates / Adorned in masters' loving art she lies / She rests at last beneath the starry skies, ...he suddenly gets an idea after cutting himself shaving and seeing the blood in the sink make a line/trail. Following the Rose Line markers on the streets of Paris leads him directly to the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Musée du Louvre. In the final scene of the movie, Langdon recites the poem aloud while the camera shows how each line of the poem fits with the pyramid's structure, ending at a shot of Mary Magdalene's sarcophagus lying below the stone, hidden from view.
The longer version of the film, labeled as "Extended Edition" adds more than 24 minutes of additional material to the PG-13-rated theatrical version.
The distributors of The Da Vinci Code approached the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) with a rough cut of the film, asking for advice on what rating the film was likely to receive when it was completed. The BBFC suggested the film would likely be a 15, and so to attract a wider audience, the distributors made some cuts to the film in order to obtain a 12 rating. Because the censored scenes in question offer little by way of visual material, the BBFC instructed that reductions be made to the film's sound effects, which were making the violence more impactful.
As is the case with virtually every book adaptation, the movie version of The Da Vinci Code condenses the story and omits many details to fit within the movie's running time. However, the amount of omissions and changes as compared to the book are surprisingly small, and much of what is in the book is also in the movie. In fact, it was an often-heard criticism that the movie was too long and too densely packed with elements from the book, and therefore lacked momentum. Although everyone has to decide this for oneself, it is hard to deny that the movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book, and retains more of its story elements than its successor, Angels and Demons.
Generally, the major parts that did not make the movie are protagonists Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu's thoughts and numerous flashbacks. These served to introduce the reader into the world of symbology and give the story a much elaborated historical background, as well as a personal history for Sophie and Jaques Sauniére. Robert also goes into much more detail concerning feminine symbology. As this is hard to realize in a film without a voice-over narration or without ruining the movie's pacing, these sections of the book have been largely omitted, but bits and parts have been used in explanatory dialogue throughout the film.
The most significant changes:
- In the book, Robert stays in the Hotel Ritz in Paris, having given a class to the American University of Paris the evening before. However, he is awoken in the middle of the night by inspector Collet of the French Judicial Police, who comes to take him to the Louvre to help with Jaques Sauniére's murder. In the movie, Robert is shown giving the class on symbology and is taken by Collet when he is signing books.
- In the movie, Silas and the Teacher are speaking Latin over the phone. This is not specified in the book.
- It is important to understand that the events of the book Angels and Demons chronologically occur prior to The Da Vinci Code; in the movies, this is exactly the other way around. As a result, the book makes several references about Robert's adventures in Rome a year earlier, about the recently-elected Pope, and about Robert's watered-down long-distance relationship with Vittoria Vetra, which were all omitted from the movie because they simply have not occurred yet from the movie's perspective.
- The book goes into more detail regarding Opus Dei, an ultra-conservative catholic organisation headed by bishop Manuel Aringarosa. It is explained that Opus Dei is officially sanctioned by the Vatican, but sometime afterward controversy arose over its questionable recruiting techniques, and practices of corporal mortification (self-punishing). When the book starts, Aringarosa is on his way to Rome for a meeting with members of the Vatican. Mention is made of another meeting 5 months earlier where Aringarosa got (as yet unrevealed) disastrous news that could mean the end of his organisation; something he trusts he can prevent with this evening's meeting and the special deal he made with the Teacher.
- Silas' backstory was omitted from the Theatrical Version but reinstated in the Extended Version of the movie. The book adds that he became a drifter who murdered a sailor who caught him stealing food, which ended him up in prison.
- In the book, Sophie tries to let Robert escape the Louvre through a side entry, but he changes his mind and teams up with her again, after realizing that the riddle Sauniére left references the Priory of Sion.
- The book introduces the strange ritual that Sophie witnessed in her youth very early on, but does not elaborate on the details and its meaning until the flight to England. In the movie, the ritual and its meaning are not introduced until the very end.
- After escaping, Sophie buys two train tickets to Lille with Robert's credit card, hoping the police will trace the transaction and follow the train, sending the investigation into a dead end. Robert and Sophie subsequently go to Bois de Boulogne, where Robert starts explaining about the Priory of Sion and what it protects: the Grail and the "Grail documents", papers that contained proof of what the Grail truly represents, with which the Templar Knights blackmailed the Catholic Church. In the woods, Robert and Sophie encounter many prostitutes, but the scene where Sophie buys off a drug user is only in the movie.
- Andre Vernet is an old friend of Jaques Sauniére in the book. When he learns Sophie is his granddaughter, he offers to transport her and Robert out. In the movie, the escape from the bank was a service that Vernet extended to Sophie as part of the agreement over the account. When Vernet learns of Sauniére's death in the book, and that Sophie is a suspect, he tries to protect the box from Sauniére's alleged murderers; in the movie, he seems to want the box for personal gain.
- Teabing's explanation about the Grail and the Last Supper is somewhat longer and more elaborate in the book. However, he and Robert do not argue over it as they do in the movie.
- In the book, there is a black cryptex inside Sauniére's wooden box. Under the wooden rose, there is a totally different poem in mirror-writing, referring to "a word of wisdom". After some brainstorming, the code word is found to be "sofie" (Greek for "wisdom" and an allusion to Sophie Neveu). However, inside the black cryptex, there is a white one, and wrapped around it is a piece of cloth with the poem about "a knight a pope interred". The movie completely omits the black cryptex and only shows the white one.
- Teabing's man-servant Remy is a man in his fifties in the book. In the movie he appears early forty. In the book he says to Silas that he serves the Teacher; in the movie he claims to be the Teacher himself.
- There is no scene in the book explaining that inspector Fache suspects Robert because Aringarosa supposedly heard Robert confessing the murder. This happens only in the movie.
- In the book, Robert and Sophie go to King's College Library to have a librarian use its computer to aid them with the poem. There they found out it speaks of Isaac Newton and th Westminster Abbey. In the movie, Robert uses the iPhone of a bus passenger to find this out.
- While meeting with the Vatican cardinals in Rome, Aringarosa receives a suitcase full of Vatican bonds. It is finally revealed what they are for: five months earlier, Aringarosa received word that the Vatican (and the new liberal Pope in particular) wanted to sever all ties with Opus Dei, due to all the controversies surrounding the organisation and its conservative ways. The bonds are the Vatican's way of repaying a sum of money they had once received from Opus Dei decades before during financial turmoil. Aringarosa had been contacted by the Teacher since, offering help in finding the Grail in exchange for Vatican bonds. Aringarosa hoped that by finding the Grail, he would restore much goodwill and come into the Vatican's favor again. In the book, the Vatican remains unaware of Aringarosa's plans with the Grail. This subplot is missing from the movie, where Aringarose meets with the Vatican cardinals and they give him the money as well, but they seem largely aware that he intends to use it to find and destroy the Grail.
- In the book, Robert and Sophie find a message on Newton's tomb, that Teabing is in College Hall, a nearby building. There they find Teabing. In the movie, Teabing forces them to the Hall at gunpoint.
- In the book, Silas kills several policemen during his escape, but he is shot himself as well. While running away, he does not notice Aringarosa coming from behind, and accidentally shoots the bishop in the chest. Wounded, he carries Aringarosa to a hospital, and leaves, dying outside in Kensington Gardens. Aringarosa survives and has a final talk with Fache, who retrieved the suitcase with the Vatican bonds. Fache obviously knows more about Aringarosa's shady dealings, but does not pass any judgment (in the movie, Fache felt betrayed because Aringarosa had used him). Aringarosa shamefully requests Fache that he donate the money to the families of the killed senechaux.
- Near the end of the book, Sophie has a flashback to her youth, when she visited Rosslin Chapel with her grandfather; Sauniére had seemingly said goodbye to someone living in the house next to the chapel. This turns out to be the Rosslin Chapel's curator, who was Jaques Sauniére's wife and Sophie's grandmother; her grandson, who gives tours in the chapel, is Sophie's brother. After the accident which killed their parents, the siblings were separated for their own safety, with Sophie remaining in France and her brother taken to England. In the movie Robert and Sophie are approached by a whole group of members of the Priory and they meet only Sophie's grandmother. The movie omits the final moments between Sophie and Robert, where they set up a date in Florence for in a few months, but adds Robert's final thoughts on Jesus (which is not in the book). The curator admits that she is not sure of the Grail's final resting place (it could very well be in a rumoured secret chamber below the chapel), but assures Robert that one day, he will finally find what he seeks (which he does after returning to Paris, both in the book and the movie).