Cracking the Da Vinci Code (2004) (NTSC)
|Category||Documentary||Menu Animation & Audio|
|Year Of Production||2004|
|Running Time||88:04 (Case: 90)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Simon Cox|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
You might have heard of a mildly successful novel that has been doing the rounds in the last year or so. It is called The Da Vinci Code and is written by American Dan Brown. It sold more than 20 million copies and has been translated into 42 languages and has become one of the most widely read novels of all time. Like I said - mildly successful.
It is a fast-paced thriller with a climax at the end of every brief chapter. It is a novel filled with symbology, riddles, brainteasers and twists all set in locations that many have visited on their holidays around Europe. It offer ideas that challenge many of the everyday beliefs millions hold close to their heart and as a result has sparked a major controversy within religious circles with many claiming it to be anti-Christian.
The story for those three people on the planet who have yet to read this bestseller is as thus:
There is a murder in the opening pages. The curator of the famed Louvre museum in Paris has been killed, but before he died he managed to leave a series of cryptic clues designed to help catch the killer - and protect an ancient secret. The police call in Robert Langdon, an esteemed American academic who specialises in artistic symbology. Working with a French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, Langdon slowly unravels the codes and riddles left by the elderly curator and begins to unearth a long-protected secret. Most of the secrets are buried within the works of the famous artist Leonardo Da Vinci, including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Secret societies and revelations that will shake the foundations of Christianity and smash centuries-old tales about the Holy Grail will be revealed by the time the novel has reached its climax.
The Da Vinci Code has had its critics, primarily the Catholic church who are not painted in a particularly favourable light in the book - though for many this work of fiction (it is fiction remember) probably cuts a little too close to some home truths. Literature critics have also pulled it to pieces, dismissing it as nothing but poorly written airport fiction. But it also has many glowing in their praise claiming it to be "unputdownable". Some are little confused, with one newspaper reviewer claiming It is terribly written, its characters are cardboard cut outs, the dialogue is excruciating in places and, a bit like a computer manual, everything is overstated and repeated but it is impossible to put the bloody thing down.
But for all its controversies and critics, The Da Vinci Code has sold by the truckload around the world and has stayed at the head of the bestseller list in many countries for near on a year. In Australia it occupied the top spot for nearly all of 2004, only just slipping off in the latter stages of December to make way for another Bryce Courtney offering. The film rights have of course been offloaded for a massive sum, with Ron Howard set to turn the story loose on the big screen in the next year.
It has also started another industry of its own. Punch in "Da Vinci Code" into Google and more than 2.3 million hits will appear. There are websites dedicated to explaining all about Da Vinci, the Priory Of Sion, the Knights Templar, Opus Dei, the golden ratio, and of course the Code itself.
There are also a multitude of books written on the subject and a host of documentaries featuring the thoughts of all manner of academics who always seem to claim they knew all about these hidden messages in Da Vinci's work for decades. Heck, there is even a Da Vinci Code diet.
Which brings us to this documentary. Titled Cracking The Da Vinci Code, it has been produced by someone called Simon Cox, who also narrates and appears on screen for much of the program. Unlike the mass selling book, this program is complete and utter rubbish and should not sell even one copy let alone 20 million.
Firstly, it is a fraud. It is the label boldly proclaiming "Featuring Dan Brown" that should see this disc go down as the biggest con job yet attempted on the DVD buying public. Author Dan Brown would never consent to being a part of this garbage masquerading as a documentary. All Brown's contribution consists of here is a 30-odd second audio-only snippet recorded at the New Hampshire Writers' Festival in 2004 and which is readily available as a download from the author's official website www.danbrown.com.
So after that cheap and virtually stolen introduction, what we have here is easily the worst documentary I have ever seen. It is so bad it is difficult to know where to start listing its faults, there are that many of them both from a technical viewpoint and an artistic one.
Where do you start? Technically, it is just plain amateurish. Poorly recorded video, inconsistent lighting, poor framing resulting in interviewees being cut out of frame mid sentence, low fidelity, echoey and poorly recorded audio, and the most annoying screen transitions you have ever seen.
Content wise it is just plain dull. Simon Cox does these inane pieces direct to camera (much like a lone overseas traveller might do) and he should win an award for managing to take a relatively exciting and interesting topic, one that has spawned a novel that has sold millions, and turning it into the most mundane documentary you have ever seen. It is repetitive and unclear. Vague and condescending. Bewildering and trite. At the end of the program no codes have been cracked, no explanation offered, and nothing new learnt other than what any hack could have extracted from the Dan Brown novel and half an hour on the Google search engine. The so-called experts he interviews about the code are either cynical and bitter that their books on the subject were ignored for the better part of 10 years and now someone else is cashing in or they are just bloody boring. Cox does visit some of the famous landmarks mentioned in the novel, but here the documentary takes on the feel of a holiday video.
If this is the future of documentary making, Michael Moore has no challengers and he might as well just accept the next ten years worth of Academy Awards.
One word can sum up this disc - avoid.
The source material was obviously filmed with hand-held video DV cameras, and the transfer reflects that. The aspect ratio is widescreen 1.85:1, but it is not 16x9 enhanced. It is also an NTSC disc so make sure your display device can handle it.
The actual transfer is fine, with no real problems. But the same can not be said for the source material. Dreadful shot framing, poor lighting, no makeup on the shiny and spotty faces of the talent, sometimes dark, sometimes blurry, and sometimes the interviewees even move out of frame and the camera doesn't follow them, leaving a person's back on screen doing the talking. The transitions used to flick between video footage and images of the Da Vinci artwork are truly dreadful and possibly the most annoying faux slide projector style transitions I have ever seen.
Colours are bland and depressing. The rubbish lighting doesn't help.
There are no apparent MPEG artefacts. Some minor video artefacts appear.
There are no subtitles.
This is a single layered disc.
Amateur video - amateur audio.
There is only one audio soundtrack on this disc. It is a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround soundtrack and is barely adequate for the task required. Some of the interviewees sound like they were recorded in a bucket. At best it would appear the director used the internal microphone on the DV camera he captured the video on. A suggestion - at least invest in a decent radio mike.
There are numerous audio sync problems throughout with several of Simon Cox's pieces to camera appearing to have severe sync problems.
There is no dedicated surround channel or subwoofer use.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 and Region 1 discs are identical.
A terrible documentary - easily one of the worst, most amateurish and poorly made I have ever seen. It is a blatant attempt at cashing in on someone else's success. Avoid like the plague.
The video and audio are second rate. Nothing to do with the transfer, just the poorly made source material.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|