Thanks to Kelly for spurring me to watch the movie, which came out last month on DVD. The premise, that Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child by her, thus beginning a "royal blood" (sang real = san greal = Holy Grail) line of descendents all the way down to the unsuspecting 21st-century police cryptographer Sophie Neveu (Tautou), captivated me the way any good princess story should. It is as beautiful and romantic as Audrey's impossibly enormous brown eyes.
The screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman, admits that the movie is not really about the Da Vinci Code, but about Sophie as Cinderella:
For me, the most interesting thing was the story of this girl, this girl who turns out to be far more than she ever imagined she was, who is on a search for identity. Now, from a movie-writing point of view, that's very fertile, that's something to get your hands in. It may in fact not be anywhere near as panoramic or epic a starting place as many of the other facets in the book, but for me, that was the most compelling part, the most human part.
Good thing. I have not read the DaVinci Code, and during the movie it was a tough job trying to detangle all the history and the secret history involved with the Opus Dei group (bad Catholic guys) and the Priory of Scion (good guys and gals), for which a knowledge of the Christian and Gnostic Gospels, early Church history, medieval European history, Gnostic and Orthodox theology, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment is de rigeur.
The central question about which the two groups are fighting seems to be the divinity of Christ. If he was divine, then Christianity is true, and if not, then it isn't. If it ever comes out that Christ got married and had a child, he couldn't have been divine, and all this Church stuff is nothin' but hooey.
So we must ignore a central tenet of orthodox Christianity, which is that Jesus was human in every way, including in his reproductive organs. He was, so this theology states, perfectly capable of begetting children-- and also divine. That's what makes him so special.
So, that controversy over, let's return to Audrey.
Almost ten years ago, after the death of Princess Diana, I published an op-ed stating that there are fewer more captivating stories than that of the hidden princess, the worthy woman who is revealed in all her splendor at the end. We all knew that the dazzlingly beautiful and golden-hearted Diana had to be a princess when the paparazzi found her working as a preschool teacher with the light shining through her skirt (don't have that picture; this will have to do).
Audrey Tautou plays a woman whose first act upon appearing onscreen is to rescue a man she's never met. Throughout the film, she has several other princessy roles to fulfill, including
- telling the story of her girlhood being raised by a mysterious grandfather
- astonishing Tom Hanks with her cryptography skills
- being told by Ian McKellen she has a lovely smile
- charming a young Londoner into using his cell phone to Google "Pope"
- smashing a bad man's head on the hard pavement of a church (twice)
- Seeing herself at the age of four as if she was another adult in the room
- being held at knifepoint and gunpoint
- holding a gun in a menacing position
- figuring out, beshawled, what she will do with her newfound status as royal heir to Christ's (hidden) kingdom
- being kissed on the forehead by Tom Hanks even though she gives him the OK sign for a kiss on the lips
Code author Dan Brown rightly credits Tautou's combination of toughness and vulnerability as that which wins the audience to her. She has ample Gallic self-esteem and smarts, while at the same time allowing herself now and then to be the damsel in distress. Now that's a princess.
Today I was at the mall, Christmas shopping for my daughter, who through an unusual set of circumstances has preferred sleeping in one of my (to her, oversized) white t-shirts for the past several months. On a hunt for a set of luxurious and dignified pajamas, I came across any number of frilly pink shifts with the word "Princess" emblazoned across the front.
You can always tell a wannabe when she has to announce it to the world.
In the end, I found my quarry, and there is no "princess" anywhere to be found on the top. She would not tolerate such a thing. That is because she already knows that her royal status is hidden in the heart of the one who loves her. She will reveal herself in all her splendor at the proper time.