David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Observations on film art

Another little DA VINCI CODE mystery

Thursday | December 21, 2006   open printable version open printable version


Kristin here—

First, a little background. In the new edition of Film Art, we have added a new feature. At the end of each chapter we recommend DVD supplements that tie in with the respective subject matter. The task of watching lots of supplements—around 60 films’ worth—devolved upon me. That wasn’t always as fun as it might sound. There were some informative sets of extras, but all too many were mutually congratulatory fests, with directors praising actors, actors praising directors, actors praising other actors, and so on. “X was just perfect for that role. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part.” You know the kind.

Film Art’s new edition is finished, but I keep looking for supplements we can recommend here or in the ninth edition. One promising-sounding DVD set was the recent “Special Edition” of The Da Vinci Code, with 90 minutes worth of extras.

I know The Da Vinci Code has a so-so reputation based on the reviewers’ responses. I went to it during its first run and was pleasantly surprised. It’s no masterpiece, but the idea that it is dull or slow seems very odd. It was entertaining and reasonably well-made, and I enjoyed it. It’s certainly miles above the overly long Dan Brown novel, which has a tendency to have information revealed in the dialogue and then redundantly summarized in the third-person narration. It also has those thudding cliff-hanger sentences at the end of just about every one of its choppy little chapters. The movie positively races along in comparison. And the washed-out historical flashbacks during the Grail explanations have a loony, experimental feel to them that appeals to me. It’s startling to see such epic scenes tossed in briefly in the midst of a modern thriller. I can see, though, where others might dismiss them as silly.

I don’t know how it happens, but sometimes a film comes along that all the critics simultaneously decide to trash, whether it deserves it or not. Some sort of telepathic thing, maybe, or perhaps in this case they all consulted each other during the famous long press junket on a special chartered train traveling from London to Cannes this past spring. (Ian McKellen has posted an amusing account of answering the same questions over and over during this journey.) The Da Vinci Code was the opening-night film at Cannes, and that’s where the lukewarm critical response began. The reviews were completely ignored by moviegoers, who made The Da Vinci Code the second highest grossing film of 2006 internationally.

Anyway, having enjoyed the film and knowing that its DVD was laden with supplements, I set out to purchase it. Investigation on the internet turned up the surprising news that there was an “extended version” available. That was news to me, and no wonder. When I searched further, I discovered that this longer cut was not available in the U.S. While the familiar 149-minute theatrical version can be had here—complete with a replica cryptex if you buy the deluxe version—the unknown 168-minute version cannot. Not only that, but though I Googled as hard as I could, I could find no explanation as to why there would be an extended version at all and why we Yanks have no access to it.

There’s a Region 2 French edition, as advertised on Amazon’s French site. The Germans seem to have the best selection, with the extended version available on a simple two-disc set, a deluxe edition that throws in a cryptex, and a boxed set of the two DVDs with six CDs containing the audiobook. The long version is also available on Region 4 DVDs in New Zealand and Australia. I have not been able to locate any Region 1 (U.S. standard) DVDs of this version. By the way, all the DVDs, regular, extended, fullscreen, and widescreen seem to have an identical set of supplements.

Perhaps an extended Da Vinci Code is not at the top of everyone’s Christmas list, but the lack of availability or even knowledge of this version in the States is puzzling. Was there something in this longer version that would bore, offend, or otherwise put off American viewers? Which version would one write about in doing some sort of analytical essay on The Da Vinci Code? Aided by eBay and a multi-standard DVD player, I set out to investigate.

The copy I bought, an Australian one, doesn’t have a list of where the extra footage comes. I didn’t sit down with two DVD players and two monitors side-by-side, so I can’t pinpoint every single difference. I had seen the film in a theater in June, and upon watching the extended version, I was able to spot ten additions, ranging from a couple of shots at the beginning of a scene to five new sequences. I don’t think these add up to an extra 26 minutes, so there are presumably some I missed. Those who are interested can have the pleasure of ferreting out all the details of the extra footage for themselves. (It does make one appreciate the Lord of the Rings extended-edition menus, where changes are marked with asterisks.)

One can understand why a longish film would be trimmed by 25 minutes. It’s enough to reduce by one the number of times it could be screened per day, which is clearly a significant obstacle. Still, the extra scenes and bits do make a difference, though it’s often minor. In the scene at Teabing’s (Ian McKellen) country house where the group moves from the kitchen to the study to look at the Last Supper slides, the establishing shot of the new setting has an oil painting of a woman framed prominently in the foreground. It presumably was meant to hint at a backstory for Teabing, some great lost love whose absence may have contributed to the man’s obsession with the Grail. The painting is clearly visible in one shot of the shortened version, but since it comes during the invasion of the house by Silas (Paul Bettany), the viewer is not likely to notice it.

Later, in the conversation between Fache (Jean Reno) and his assistant at the airport, Fache asks whom he has betrayed in using his ruthless means to pursue Langdon. In the release print, the assistant simply tells Fache that Teabing’s plane has changed course and is going to London. In the longer version, he goes on to say that he will bribe the airport official that Fache has beaten up. Thus rather than simply doing his duty and giving Fache information, the assistant firmly allies himself with his boss in his illegal doings.

Another brief extra moment comes in the second scene of Silas flagellating himself. The theatrical version cuts away from the action rather abruptly. In the extended version we see a quick series of flashbacks to previous murders that he has committed, presumably all at the behest of Bishop Aringarosa. Not really necessary to the plot, but it does make it clear that Silas realizes that his actions are reprehensible.

These are mere nuances, but the longer added scenes contribute more significant material. Two brief conversations show Aringarosa alone with the head of the Opus Dei council, basically establishing their collusion outside the council meeting itself.

Another new scene takes place aboard Teabing’s plane. It is a conversation in shot/reverse shot, with Sophie (Audrey Tautou) despairing and telling Langdon (Tom Hanks) to go to the U.S. embassy once they reach London, ending his efforts to help her. She suggests that she will simply throw the cryptex away. His insistence that he will stick with her creates one of the most emotionally charged moments between the two. Many critics complained that the Sophie-Langdon relationship lacks chemistry, but this scene’s restoration helps by showing a warm exchange between them. (Not that a lack of chemistry is a problem, given that the two are not supposed to be forming a romantic couple, just a friendship born of necessity.)

The second added sequence comes after the scene in the Temple Church, with a cut back to Teabing’s château. Fache’s assistant inspects an elaborate surveillance post in the barn, including recordings marked with the names of the four men killed by Silas. This event makes it quite clear why in the climactic scene at Westminster Abbey Fache arrests Teabing rather than Langdon and Sophie. In the shorter version, his change of quarry is rather fuzzily motivated by his realization that Aringarosa has duped him. (Maybe I missed some other plot point, but the surveillance-post scene certainly makes things clearer.)

Finally, a new scene follows Fache’s arrest of Teabing. The detective meets with Langdon and Sophie in an office and expresses his regret over having wrongly pursued them: “I should have been smarter.” Although not necessary to the plot, this scene does give more prominence to Fache’s character, making him a more sympathetic figure.


It presumably made sense to cut these sections to allow for more screenings in theaters, but the question remains, why was the extended version not released in the U.S.? Along with all the commentaries and supplements that the studio added on, surely the words “extended edition” would have added some appeal to the DVD set. After all, the longer version was made and released elsewhere, so presumably the added expense wasn’t an issue.

The only reason I can think of is that the added scenes weren’t considered obvious or flashy enough for American audiences. Extended editions on the Lord of the Rings model tend to be done for fantasy and sci-fi films or other genre pictures that might be assumed to have a fan audience eager for any little extras they can get. Maybe that’s not assumed to be the case for other types of films. But then why bother to do such a version for the rest of the world? I’m baffled.

For those living in Region 1 territory who like The Da Vinci Code and who have a multi-standard DVD player, you might want to take the extra trouble to track down the extended version. There always seem to be a few on eBay (though watch out for the bootleg copies someone in Asia is selling there!), and they can be had through the big internet sellers in Europe and Australia.

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David Bordwell
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