Derivative Bloodline
A pathetically faux-suspense docudrama rehashes a long-discredited legend about Jesus.


Thomas S. Hibbs

The new film Bloodline from writer, director, and star investigator, Bruce Burgess — whose credits include The Bermuda Triangle Solved — purports to be an investigation of the most outlandish of the many outrageous claims from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code: that Jesus did not die on the cross, but survived and later lived in France with his wife, Mary Magdalen, and their children. Bloodline is not so much an investigation of this claim, as it is a continuation of the marketing plan for Brown’s book.

Just as the film version of Da Vinci met with mocking laughter from viewers at Cannes, so too Bloodline incites laughter at its crudely contrived methods of building suspense and its preposterously self-serving claims of the discovery of evidence. The filmmakers, who claim to be advancing the cause of reason and evidence against the superstitions of religion, never pause to engage the many detailed criticisms that have been raised, by Amy Welborn among others, of Dan Brown’s revisionist history.

Burgess, whose project began in Paris in 2005, follows a rather laborious path. His investigation is triggered by the dubious interpretation of a scant series of clues and multiple interviews with those supposedly knowledgeable about the evidence for the grand thesis of Jesus and Mary’s life in France. The quest, such as it is, culminates in the French medieval village of Rennes-le-Chateau, where 19th-century priest Berenger Sauniere supposedly uncovered secrets so explosive that the Catholic Church paid him to keep it quiet. (Of course, that story was concocted by publicity-seeking restaurateur Nöel Corbu in the mid-1950s.) The film’s staged investigation of the church in that town leads to a discovery of a secret room, accessible only through a remote camera and containing the mummified remains of a female corpse, and items such as coins, a cup, and a veil.

Almost the entire film consists of a series of unfounded suggestions. The film pathetically attempts to build a sense of the danger in which the investigators find themselves because they are about to reveal a truth that will undermine the entire history of Christianity. But the only evidence of such a threat is the repeated heavy breathing about it by those onscreen. Phones are supposedly being bugged; individuals connected with the notorious Priory of Sion are reportedly turning up dead at an alarming rate and from mysterious causes. In a hilarious series of shots interspersed throughout the film, Burgess himself looks increasingly worried and haggard as the undocumented threats against him mount — giving the film the feel of The Blair Witch Project a la Dan Brown.

People are interviewed using voice distortion techniques. Repeatedly interviewed is the very odd looking Nicolas Haywood, who claims to represent the Priory of Sion and who repeatedly claims, after mentioning the danger and breathing deeply, that there is conclusive evidence as to Jesus and Mary Magdalen’s history in the region. But no investigation into the mummified corpse is forthcoming, so the filmmakers’ wispy theories are left lingering in the air — like a bad smell. They never bother to ask: What sort of conclusive evidence regarding the corpse could prove the thesis about Jesus’s French family? I wonder why not . . .

As if to confirm their location on the lunatic fringe, the filmmakers decide to interview Episcopal Bishop John Spong of New Jersey, who has already publicly repudiated all the central claims of Christianity, in search of an objective assessment of their hypothesis. Spong asserts that, if the alternative story had been known in the past, there would have been no slavery, no anti-Semitism, and no prejudice against left-handed people or gays.