The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code, shot by Salvatore Totino, brings a worldwide best-seller to the big screen.
Ever since Columbia Pictures and director Ron Howard announced in 2004 that they would bring Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code to the big screen, fans and critics of the best-selling novel have kept close watch. Catholic groups rallied against it, aghast at its fictional proposition that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, who bore him a child; that he bequeathed his ministry to her; and that the Catholic “powerbase” suppressed this information, recast Magdalene as a prostitute, and came up with an alternative history of Christ that still prevails. The pursuit of the Holy Grail is the engine that drives the story, but the Grail is not Christ’s chalice, as long believed, but rather a set of documents that confirm the true history of Christ.
Joining Howard on the project was director of photography Salvatore Totino, who previously shot The Missing and Cinderella Man (see AC June ’05) for the director. Unlike those two dramas, The Da Vinci Code is a fast-paced thriller that mixes riddles, historical flashbacks, and adrenaline-pumping chase scenes through Paris, London and Scotland. The story opens in the Louvre, where a curator is stalked and shot by an albino monk. Moments before dying, he manages to leave a trail of clues for his estranged granddaughter, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), a gifted cryptologist he knows will be called in by police on the case. Investigators also bring Harvard professor and symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to the scene of the crime, ostensibly to help unravel the clues, but in fact because he is their prime suspect. Neveu helps Langdon escape and the two flee, racing to find the keystone that the killer sought, which has long been protected by the Priory of Sion, a secret society that counted Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton and Victor Hugo among its members.
As much as possible, Howard wanted to shoot on the actual locations described in the book, among them Saint-Sulpice in Paris, Westminster Abbey and Temple Church in London, Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, and Chateau de Villette in France. But at the top of the list was the Louvre, where the story begins and ends and the mood is set. Gaining access required intensive diplomacy, and the museum’s restrictions made it one of the most challenging locations of the shoot. [...]
Published in the June 2006 issue of American Cinematographer.