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- Movie: Bloodline--The Movie
- Written By: Bruce Burgess
- Directed By: Bruce Burgess
- Produced By: Rene Barnett
- Distributed By: Cinema Libre Studio
23.5 Degrees Movie Review: Bloodline---The Movie
What if the Greatest Story Ever Told was a lie?
By Jason Rhodes
May 24, 2008
Sidestepping inconvenient historical details and unburdened by factual evidence, director Bruce Burgess, whose prior directorial masterpieces include Dreamland: Area 51, The Bermuda Triangle Solved? and Bigfootville, takes a running leap and catapults himself squarely onto the Dan Brown bandwagon in Bloodline, with longtime cohort René Barnett (major title credits - same) taking the producer's bows.
Roughly 45 historical errors (give or take) into the film, Burgess reassures us that the Catholic Church’s cover-up of a married Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene is genuine, "proven". In a dimly lit grainy close-up shot, trepidation on his face and in his voice, Burgess half-whispers: "it's all true."
Bloodline builds on the themes first introduced by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln's 1982 pseudo-historical book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. The story centers on a 19th century priest, Abbé Bérenger Saunière, from the remote rural French village of Rennes-le-Chateau, whose sudden unexplained wealth and extravagant spending habits from 1890 to 1910 have fueled endless speculations about its source.
Did he find a hidden Templar treasure in the environs of Rennes-le-Chateau? Or was it Visigoth loot? Or a cache of precious artifacts from Solomon's Temple? Or the tomb of a Merovingian king? Or of Mary Magdalene, the exiled bride of Jesus Christ? Or something so detrimental to the Catholic Church that he was paid handsomely for his silence? Or was it the Habsburg family who paid him off?
Ask 10 different RLC enthusiasts and you'll get fifteen different answers—all "proven" without benefit of actual "proof." Evidence is the bête noir of the alternative historian. Where it exists, it must be discounted as false or inconclusive if it contradicts the alternative hypothesis; where it does not exist, the informational void is chalked up to intentional destruction and a conspiracy of silence.
Thus the cottage industry of books and documentaries that grew from seeds first sown in "Holy Blood"—and culminating in Dan Brown's blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code—seems assured of a long life so long as questions can never actually be answered, only selectively interpreted from a long list of possibilities.
Barnett and Burgess have produced a virtual Frankenfilm that builds ever higher on the myths, speculations, and fabrications stacked precariously like a house of cards in countless retellings over three decades.
Here you will find the usual suspects, mainly B-list British researchers whose names are familiar to anyone who's followed the RLC enigma. Creepy characters drop cryptic breadcrumbs on behalf of the Priory of Sion, the arch-conspiratorial wing of the Knights Templar who claim to have maintained the secrets of Jesus and Mary Magdalene's "bloodline" down through the centuries (but whose own lineage begins only in 1956).
But Barnett and Burgess succeed where other have failed by bringing us something we can actually see on film - a tomb discovered by amateur archaeologist Bill Wilkinson, aka Ben Hammott, an anagram of "The Tombman", who discovered it by dropping his video camera down a hole in a clumsy moment. Luckily for Wilkinson, his camera always seems to be running at the right time to record sensational finds, which usually occur each time he alights from his battered camper, including coded messages in bottles buried inches below topsoil signed by Abbé Saunière himself, and a chest containing 1st century Herodian-era artifacts touted as the perfume jar and wedding cup of Jesus and Magdalene.
If authenticity is lacking in the back-story, it doesn't advance to the forefront as a result of these new evidential finds. Dr. Gabriel Barkay, professor of Biblical archaeology at Bar Ilan University in Jerusalem, is careful to note that while the Herodian relics can be authentically dated to the 1st century CE, such relics can be easily obtained from antiquities dealers (BiblicalArtifacts.com has a nice selection of identical perfume jars at surprisingly reasonable prices, as does eBay). Dr. Robert Eisenmann of California State University, Long Beach echoes similar cautionary statements regarding artifacts recovered under less-than-scientific conditions.
Even the bottled notes attributed to Saunière, written in French, contain several grammatical errors and a sentence structure that reads like English translated word-for-word into French with the aid of a dictionary. One of these notes, purportedly signed by Saunière, shows his name incorrectly accented with an “aigu” instead of a “grave” - a faux pas that no native speaker of French would be guilty of making.
The central piece of evidence revealed in Bloodline is a mummified corpse found in Wilkinson’s accidentally discovered tomb, wrapped in a white linen mantle emblazoned with the red cross of the Knights Templar. The linen looks remarkably white, well-preserved, and rot-free for having survived a millennium of dampness at the base of a subterranean cave in the French Pyrénnées.
Open boxes of gleaming polished chalices near the body were similarly unaffected by time and oxidation, not unlike the props on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland.
Hairs extracted from the head of the corpse (the extraction was not shown on camera) were sent to the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University (Canada) for analysis. According to Barnett and Burgess, the result of Mitochondrial DNA testing revealed a Middle Eastern origin for the deceased (ergo, this could conceivably be Mary Magdalene, although they seemed to have arrived at that conclusion well in advance).
Well - yes and no. The report from Lakehead was shown on camera and identifies the mtDNA sample as belonging to Haplogroup I, which migrated out of the Near East and into Europe between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago prior to the last Ice Age. It is virtually unknown outside of Europe, but is no stranger to the French Pyrénnées. One major subculture belonging to this haplogroup settled in southern France and Northern Spain 10,000 to 20,000 years ago during the period archaeologists refer to as the "âge du Renne", or Age of the Reindeer.
And, perhaps tellingly, this group is called the "Magdalenian Culture" - the name being derived not from Mary Magdalene, but from an excavation site called La Madeleine in the Dordogne region of southern France where its relics were discovered in the 19th century.
But forget all those bothersome dates and inconvenient details that tend to unnerve alternative historians and spoil a good story - "Renne", "Magdalenian" - close enough, right? Why split hairs?
Adorning the Bloodline poster is an image known and loved by Magdalene devotees far and wide - a stained glass window from the Kilmore Church in Dervaig, Scotland, touted as portraying Jesus and a pregnant Mary Magdalene in a wedding pose. What one never sees on Magdalene fan websites - and certainly won’t see here - is the memorial inscription on the lower portion of the window identifying the young lady as Miss Mary Forrest, who died unmarried in 1904.
The poster can be downloaded for free from the Bloodline website and fans are encouraged to distribute it widely at their own expense.
Perhaps the most saccharine moment of the film came when a forensic artist drew a life image from a photo of the mummified corpse - a female figure, naturally, although the lab at Lakehead has since pointed out that their test did not reveal the gender of the corpse. The Magdalene fans in the audience could be heard sighing their approval, although one seated near me expressed disappointment that the artist made her a brunette instead of a redhead.
The inconsistencies aren't limited to what is captured on celluloid. During a Q&A session following a screening at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theater in West Hollywood, California, producer Barnett crowed over Bloodline's "sold out" performances, adding that the film had out-grossed Speed Racer on its opening weekend. Not exactly. Speed Racer played on 3,606 screens nationally and grossed over $18.5 million in its opening weekend, while Bloodline appeared on one screen and took in a grand total of $6,658.00 (as reported to Box Office Mojo).
Bloodline wasn't even the highest ranking new release in the New York theater it premiered in—Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead opened the same weekend at the Village East Cinema, taking in $10,624.00.
On it's second weekend, playing on three screens (one in New York, two in Los Angeles), Bloodline grossed $12,875.00—an average of $4,291.00 per theater representing a 35% decline in revenue from its opening weekend.
Still, the Laemmle was filled to near capacity when Barnett made this announcement. At the conclusion of the Q&A, the audience (approximately 200 people) was offered free tickets to any future screening, which raised questions about whether or not most who see this film are actually buying their seats. Papering the house doesn't exactly equate to selling out the house, and the lackluster grosses reported after premiere weekends on two coasts doesn't bode well for a national release, let alone recouping the $1.5 million spent getting lipstick on this pig.
Bloodline is being shown in selected theaters in a platform release (industry term for “rented theaters”) in New York and Los Angeles, and moves to Yelm, Washington at the end of June.