30 May 2009

Manila Times column for 24 May 2009: "Just how factual should fiction be?"

forgot to post this here earlier this week.

original post here.

so parang mini-review ko na rin pala ito ng ANGELS AND DEMONS.


By Libay Linsangan Cantor
Just how factual should fiction be?

I never imagined I’d be using the word “factual” and “fiction” in the same sentence; blame Dan Brown and his latest book-to-film oeuvre, Angels and Demons. The Internet is buzzing with “fact checks” about just how factual are the details used in the novel-turned-film’s story. I wonder if the fact-checking is necessary at all, though.

This isn’t the first time Brown’s work was subjected to this type of flurry. Who could forget 2006’s The Da Vinci Code, led by no less than the Roman Catholic Church. And with the church at the helm of such an “investigation,” one could never forget it so easily—but that’s another story.

I saw the film when it opened, and Angels and Demons was entertaining, to say the least, as it was like a virtual tour of the Vatican City. (It was tourist eye candy to the highest level). Don’t ask me about the book version as I am not a fan of Brown’s literary skills. As a friend once said, Brown writes like he wants his books to be made into films (it screams for it, he said), so I just wait for the film version.

Many are questioning the authenticity of details in the film, from the biggest (the accuracy of events in the Catholic Church’s history) to the smallest (the exact locations of certain churches). The story revolved on finding key places in the Vatican where kidnapped bishops will be killed next, using centuries-old documents/writings as clues. Did Brown really need to be that accurate when he was using existing facts to fashion his narrative development? Well, yes, and no.

There is such as thing as “artistic/creative license” and, according to his critics, Brown uses his quite liberally, to the point of making it as an excuse for the seeming lack of research in his material. It’s one thing to fictionalize a story running parallel to actual events, say a star-crossed love story inside an ill-fated cruise liner that crashes in its maiden voyage (hello Titanic, is that you?). But hey, that one actually worked. What about Brown’s?

For purely entertainment purposes, the use of historical information was handled well in most parts of the story. But there is still that danger of audiences taking everything as true. The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan once said, and people still has that tendency of believing everything they read, hear and watch over the media. So yes, I know how Brown’s critics feel, but I am also entertained by these facts he presents, as I enjoyed his artistic licensing of most of them.

In the end, you can’t please everybody. But maybe everybody should think of just how they want to be pleased, and not impose their standards on the rest of us “commoners.” What do you think?

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

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