Book/Movie Review (May 11, 2006)


 Barely a week from the announced play date of the movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vince Code, local religious and moral pundits had already shown superb dinosaur readiness to hold back the public from viewing the contemporary whodunit version of the controversial novelist. Joining the bandwagon are politicians of the type of moral police, with the speed of light, the sternness of Thor, and the insecurity of Zeus.

The book’s provocative allusion to history captures the rhetorical horizon of the reaction of organized Christianity.  There is no better reaction but rhetorical—the proponents of banning the movie knew that The Da Vinci Code proved more compelling and convincingly rhetorical than the combined mastery of biblical and church scholars who knew that the origin of Christianity was not as seamless as they project it. 

This leads us to the use of rhetoric. As a strategy in speech and writing, rhetoric had an ancient history.  Classical literature would not be accepted by the learned world if it hadn’t been for its persuasiveness and the effusion of style that rhetoric, among other figures of speech, afforded to the practice of writing. Centuries onward after the glory reign of Greece, we learned that Jesus of Nazareth was a prolific speaker who must have known the value of rhetoric more than any of his contemporaries.  He was hunted by the Romans for his provocative views on the nature of God that was too abstract for the more hard-nosed colonists.  Centuries later, St. Paul would spread the gospels throughout the Mediterranean, converting pagans into Christianity.  Paul’s success in his missionary works was a testimony to his drawing power in front of mixed and often hostile audiences. 

Meanwhile, Dan Brown’s most censured fictional work is comparable to the movie The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorsese.  The movie was a work of imagination: it revolved around possibilities that were typical of humans to regard best before taking on something.  Human curiosity may be susceptible to a lot of evil possibilities. But to allow imagination to recreate a possibility around the nature of Christ, and show the remarkable ascetic side of the savior defeating the temptations of the arch-serpent is something more absorbing to a faithful that he may choose to live dutifully in a Christ-centered way.  In this sense, the imaginative work on the later life of Christ achieves far beyond the rhetorical effects it may impress upon the faith. 

More than the religious sensibility that the book is alleged to have defiled by suggesting that Jesus had a daughter with Mary Magdalene, the debate around The Da Vinci Code sustains a pitiful condition of submission to populist beliefs.  This is reinforced by mechanisms of controlling the imaginative fortune of humanity such as those vigorously expended in works of fiction that appeal to transcendent values of human creativity.  While it is true that the modern church has learned its lessons from the past, and gradually opening up the creed to the demands of the secular world without compromising the core of its sacred tradition, there is still so much to learn, especially, when learning should now be focused on envisioning a future.  If Christians believe that Christ promised a future, it could only be a future that is best imagined in the context of extra-mundane (therefore, imaginative) perfection.  Any Christian who would insist to deny of this future its imaginative but redeeming promise is one who has already lost a future by dullness and banality.Needless to say, the politicians and the moral police are Christians who have already failed to achieve a future by virtue of a double displacement: they are cheaters, and notoriously unimaginative

Still, the learned men of the church are expected more to endorse redeeming values of fiction as they are the ones strategically closer to the fundamental credo of creating from nothing (creatio ex nihilo).~Virgilio A. Rivas/Quezon City(uploaded from my Friendster Weblog)


3 thoughts on “Book/Movie Review (May 11, 2006)”

    1. Hi there…Every sensible movie, whether full-length or short film, is just as philosophical as any good philosophy book. But what makes a movie sensible?

      I think what makes a movie sensible is its capability to arouse in us, using multisensory medium, the need for meaning. But it is not just meaning, say, a definition of a term you could otherwise look up in the dictionary, but in the sense that it brings us to the path of the paradoxical. The paradoxical is that we can be shown two conflicting meanings, or alternating meanings, at the same time that it teaches us to hold on to sanity. Perhaps, that is what sanity means, to be able to maintain a sense of the paradoxical in contrast to meanings that are shown to be permanent, universal, immutable. I think what makes a human enjoy his full faculties is just that: to be able to enjoy paradoxicality in the same manner that a philosopher would prefer to see life in its complexity.

      Postmodern movies seem to prefer paradoxicality over the modern genre that emphasizes clarity, precision, and permanence of sense which encourages the viewer to develop a sense of order, logicality, and confidence in life. This idea of order of course presupposes that life is so simple to understand, we only needd to look at it with concentration. But that is not the actual case with life. Life is complex. And yes, we only need to look at it and discover that we have failed to understand its nature.

      There are several movies I like watching over and over again for the simple reason that they arouse the sense of the paradoxical. One recent movie I had seen was entitled Ister, a movie about Heidegger contemplating on the poems of Holderlin. I think its available at For some of contemporary movies that are worth seeing, though they may not be philosophical as a formal genre, I can recomment you a site– There are good and excellent stuffs there.

      Thanks. I hope I had been of service to you.

      1. As I take the course of abphilo, aside from philosophical books, I gradually become interested in such movie genre. Because of the symbolism in every scene and every story, like what you said, it arouses from us those paradoxical questions that lead us to clean the cobwebs in our mind which is the starting point of philosophizing.
        Some of philosophical movies that made me inspired and become interested in such genre are “Groundhog Day” and the trilogy of “Matrix”

        Anyway, thanks a lot sir for that nice suggestion and reply!

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