Until I saw this documentary, I knew nothing about the DaVinci Code. I never read a book about it; never saw a movie about it; never read an article about it. Yes, I heard about it. In fact, I used to watch a Canadian show called DaVinci's Inquest. I loved that show! It was a cop show though.
I didn't know if the DaVinci Code was like Morse Code, or was a code of ethics, or was something that the FBI had to crack, or was similar to hieroglyphics. DAVINCI AND THE CODE HE LIVED BY from the History Channel never explained it in the film. But they did infer what it was. “To push beyond all expectations, beyond all obstacles,” said the narrator in some kind of accent. “If circumstances hold you back, always find another way to achieve your goals.” They were rules that DaVinci lived by; life lessons that he observed and learned and wrote down. At least that’s what they were according to this film. These are similar to positive affirmations that women today use through self-help books.
DaVinci was born in the region of Florence, which was ruled by the Medici family who were the bankers and “controlled all the votes.” Rival bankers competed for the city’s wealth. Assassination was common.
DaVinci was an illegitimate child. He knew that success for him was very limited because of this. He had no formal schooling. However, he had some artistic skills and was able to work as an apprentice through a friend of his father who worked in a guild. Guilds were abundant in Italy. Florence was “governed” by the guilds. DaVinci was not only smart and creative but in my opinion he was an opportunist. I think if you wanted to stay alive during that period of time, you had better use all your wits! Life was cheap. Maybe Leonardo had a strong will to survive and it motivated him to apply himself in many directions out of fear. He was able to join a guild at age 20.
One of the experts said that psychologists think that he may have had ADD. He said they think he had some type of problem: anxiety? Depression? Obsessive-compulsive? They are not sure what.
We should all be so lucky to have been as "sick" as DaVinci. Part of the reason they think he had some type of problem was that he often didn't finish his paintings. Even the Mona Lisa isn't finished. He carried it around with him for years. They said the only reason it survived was that he had it with him when he died.
Part of the problem was that his patrons were always pulling him away from his projects. Or, life events cut projects short like the gigantic horse he was working on. He created the clay model before doing the 60 ton bronze model but the clay model was destroyed by an enemy army. Consequently the metal was then melted down for canon balls. What artist wouldn’t be depressed after that scenario?
The Narrator vs. the Actors
The narrator tried to speak with a bit of an Italian accent. Just a little bit. Just enough to annoy me. Sometimes he sounded Spanish. He probably thought he was narrating a film on Spanish explorer Ponce de León. The narrator needed to take it down a notch. He was overly dramatic. He repeatedly referred to DaVinci as a bastard.
On the other hand there were the actors. The only word I can come up with for the acting is: bland. It'll be a cold day in June when real Italians act blandly. They looked like they all had undergone Botox injections.
If you like graphic murder, hangings, and stabbings you will like this film. I wouldn't recommend it for children. In Iran, if you are a woman who has committed adultery, they stone you to death with rocks and stones. In DAVINCI AND THE CODE HE LIVED BY, there is a scene where the Pazzi family suffers payback for the murders they committed. After being hanged, one poor dude gets dragged through the streets. Instead of rocks and stones, the Italians throw squash, onions, and tomatoes on the vine. No kidding, vine and all. And these were red, ripe tomatoes. I could've made a nice sauce with them.
Isn't it interesting how you never hear about death by vegetables from the Italians in Renaissance times? But you can get this on the History Channel for a fee. Or, now on DVD!
Italy’s Border History
I did learn something about the history of Italy. The Napolitano’s (folks in Naples) went to war with the Florentines (folks in Florence). The Napolitano’s were slaughtering the Florentines. The head of Florence, Lorenzo di Medici, risked his life by asking for a meeting with the head of Naples, King Ferdinand to suggest that they merge their strengths instead of fighting each other to fight the Ottoman Empire next door. Smart! This worked. France was also trying to conquer areas of Italy, particularly Milan. Therefore, DaVinci moved to Milan.
There are several experts who dole out information about DaVinci. One said, "I think......" He thinks. In other words, he wasn't sure about what he was going to be telling thousands maybe millions of people while he was on camera. I think you should zip your lip if you're not sure about your facts! Another commentator seemed like somebody they pulled off the street to replace an expert who didn't show up! “It’s a nice time to be born as a really brilliant person.” And “this may be one of the things that Leonardo is never given credit for: he seems to know the political winds and he seems to blow quite nicely with them!” Ooooohkay.
Director Robert Gardner said in the Behind the Scenes Featurette that it was an epic movie and there were a lot of extras. Maybe so but that didn't do much to help this film. The costumes were made in Poland. Most of the film was shot in Lithuania. Several old churches, as old as 14th century in Lithuania were also used in the footage as well as 19th century Ducal palaces. On their pre-visit they found a church with scaffolding which they felt would be great to hang their lighting. When they came back, the scaffolding was gone and they had to make haste for a replacement. There’s nothing like a visit from Hollywood to instigate house cleaning.
Italian Spoken Clearly
The one thing I did like was that every once in a while the actors spoke a few sentences in Italian. They spoke slowly and clearly. (Instead of the rapid fire way that Italians usually speak.) I was actually able to translate what they said even though they had the English subtitles on the bottom of the screen. I enjoyed that. If you are studying Italian or if you know some Italian, you might enjoy that too.
We all know about the Mona Lisa painting but there was another portrait painting that DaVinci did before he painted Mona. I loved it. The Lady with an Ermine. I’m not sure I had ever seen it before. DaVinci is known for the way he painted the Mona Lisa smile but I'm telling you that nobody paints eyes the way he does! The eyes on this woman had me mesmerized. She was gorgeous.
DaVinci kept notebooks all his life. Like journals, he put everything in them. He wrote over 15,000 pages. We are extremely fortunate that he kept them so meticulously and that they survived. However, they had been lost for several centuries before being found again. We can only speculate what life would be like now if others at the time had access to his ideas.
During a time when they didn’t have an accurate way to keep time, DaVinci was creating sketches of men walking on the bottom of the ocean or flying in flying machines. He drew some of the best sketches there are of anatomy minus the benefit of formaldehyde and light bulbs. He sketched and had ideas for tanks, lightweight bridges, and catapults.
He often wrote backwards as in a mirror. It is speculated that he was trying to write in code. (Gee, they finally addressed it.) He seemed “obsessed” with creating weapons. Maybe he figured if he could help defeat their enemies he could get back to his painting. He was in several lawsuits for not finishing his paintings. I’d be creating weaponry too. If not to kill the enemy, perhaps the lawyers.
DaVinci was considered handsome. He dressed well. He was well liked, kind, and highly sensitive. He loved nature and was not a meat eater. (He was the first vegetarian perhaps? Italians love vegetables!)
DaVinci used to cut up dead bodies and study the hearts of the old and compare them with hearts of the very young to learn about what we now know is arteriosclerosis. Lots of blood here as he examines a heart while a 100 year old man lies dead on a table with a hole in his chest. (No, it wasn't Time Conway or was that Mel Brooks?) It was repeated throughout how DaVinci was ahead of his time. Necessity is the mother of invention.
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