Cacciaguida

Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.


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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.


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Monday, May 15, 2006
 
"I would ask Ron Howard to keep calm and express himself with respect."

Da Vinci Code director Ron Howard seems to be responding on two levels to a request from Opus Dei for a disclaimer in the movie. The two levels can be categorized, for ease of reference, as good and bad.

At first, he took the defensible, if superficial, position that of course everyone knows it's all fiction, so who needs a disclaimer. One problem with this position is that it is not the one author Dan Brown takes: he makes every attempt, short of actual scholarship, to convince readers that he did a lot of "research" and that his novel is the straight scoop. Nor would it be considered a sufficient answer if the targeted group were [insert here any number of obvious examples]. (It took six years for United 93 to be made, and that's not fiction.)

But then Howard seemed to sour the rhetoric, starting to throw around the term "fascist" to describe people who raised objections to being slimed by his movie, or to Church officials who suggest that a movie that characterizes the Church as a bimillennial murder plot might not belong at the top of Catholics' viewing plans in the coming weeks.

So an official Opus Dei spokesman in Italy has issued this statement (hat-tip: Zenit):
On Thursday the Italian press published interviews with Ron Howard, director of "The Da Vinci Code" film. In statements attributed to him, Howard said that "to deny the right to see the film is a fascist act," and also "to tell someone not to go see the film is an act of militancy and militancy generates hatred and violence." The Opus Dei is mentioned several times in these interviews. The phrases seem to refer to recent statements by Church authorities.

I would ask Ron Howard to keep calm and express himself with respect.

It is not wise to lose sight of the reality of the situation: This film is offensive to Christians. Howard represents the aggressor, and Catholics are victims of an offense. The one offended cannot have his last right taken away, which is to express his point of view. It is not the statements of ecclesiastics or the respectful request of Opus Dei -- to include a notice at the beginning of the film that it is a work of fiction -- which generates violence. It is rather the odious, false and unjust portrayals that fuel hatred.

In his statements, Howard also repeats that it is simply a film, an invented story, and that it must not be taken too seriously. But it is not possible to deny the importance of the movies and literature. Fiction influences our way of seeing the world, especially among young people. It is not right not to take it seriously. Artistic creativity certainly needs a climate of freedom, but freedom cannot be separated from responsibility.

Imagine a film that says that Sony was behind the attacks on the Twin Towers, which it promoted because it wanted to destabilize the United States. Or a novel that reveals that Sony paid the gunman who shot the Pope in St. Peter's Square in 1981, because it was opposed to the Holy Father's moral leadership. They are only invented stories. I imagine that Sony, a respectable and serious company, would not be happy to see itself portrayed in this way on the screens, and that it would not be satisfied with an answer such as "Don't worry, it's only fiction, it mustn't be taken too seriously, freedom of expression is sacred."

In any case, those who have taken part in the film's project have no reason to be concerned. Christians will not react with hatred and violence, but with respect and charity, without insults or threats. They can continue to calculate tranquilly the money they will make on the film, because the freedom of financial profit seems to be in fact the only sacred freedom, the only one exempt from all responsibility. They will probably make a lot of money, but they are paying a high price by deteriorating their prestige and reputation.

I hope the controversy of these months will not be sterile but serve to reflect on the relative character of financial profit when high values are involved; on the importance of fiction; on responsibility, which always supports and protects freedom.