One learns that it is dangerous and foolhardy to predict what might or might not be in a work of art before its release. Brown thwarted a number of writers who predicted based on a quote from an editor that the novel after The Da Vinci Code would be titled The Solomon Key, prompting several works about Dan Brown’s Solomon Key. That novel, at least with that title, never appeared, and in its place we have The Lost Symbol.
It is also true that the requirements and restrictions of cinema necessarily will mean some departures the novel’s text.
The film or rather films have a individual page on Facebook separate from the Dan Brown site now known as The Robert Langdon Series. (https://www.facebook.com/InfernoTheMovie/?brand_redir=187370908277894)
We do know that the film was shot partially on site in Florence and Venice. The actual release had at one time pointed toward late 2015, but apparently the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was seen as unwanted competition.
The film has been announced for a release in the United Kingdom on October 12 and in the United States on October 28, 2016 (10.28.2016). Directed by Ron Howard, it stars Tom Hanks; both reprise their respective roles played in the The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009).
Since the spring of 2016 the film Inferno has had an extensive and growing publicity campaign spearheaded by online references on Facebook and Twitter.
The first trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbNBB1D37U8)appeared on May 8, 2016 followed by a second official trailer for the movie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH2BD49sEZI) on May 9, 2016. Other trailers (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3062096/) along with publicity appearances by Tom Hanks could be seen beginning in June 2016.
SONY has released at least two posters (http://screenrant.com/inferno-movie-2016-posters-tom-hanks/) for the English speaking world. The United Kingdom one mentions Tom Hanks, but the photo features a man and woman running through a cathedral. The US version has a large photo of Tom Hanks on the background of a spiral staircase. An Italian poster (http://upcomingmovieposters.tumblr.com/post/137724621513/inferno-poster-5) foregrounds Hanks (Robert Langdon) on a background of a burning Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, St. Mark’s in Venice, and the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3062096/
A new featurette was available in late August 2016
The cast includes:
Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1023031731111257)
Sienna Brooks as Felicity Jones (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=968109049970425)
Ben Foster as Betrand Zobrist (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=881455788650207)
Irrfan Khan as The Provost (https://www.facebook.com/InfernoTheMovie/videos/600646870099014/)
Ana Ularu as Vayentha
A new twist was the appearance of a game, Journey into Hell, with the prize being a trip to Italy.
One of the first reviews was in The New York Times
If you intend on seeing the movie, read no further for what follows is an attempt to highlight how the novel and movie versions overlap and in fact complement one another.
The arrival of Inferno on movie screens will likely delight millions of newcomers and non-readers of the novel. It will both fulfill expectations and offer new twists for loyal readers and fans of the Robert Langdon series. Now that the movie has appeared there are literally dozens (47?) of clips and trailers on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/InfernoTheMovie/videos/
A movie by its very nature must make choices based on time constraints, the locales, the actors themselves and the need to tell a coherent story inside of itself. Read Ron Howard’s own explanation of some of the choices he made. http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/movies/inferno/44654/exclusive-inferno-ron-howard-talks-about-changing-the-ending
Inferno the movie follows closely the chronology and development of the novel’s plot. From the opening suicide of Zobrist, the awakening of Langdon in a hospital bed and flight to Dr. Brooks apartment, all happen at breakneck speed with flashbacks still unexplained and close to the original source. The very speed of plot development occasions a richer experience at the apartment where Robert Langdon wonders about the recorded words “very sorry…,” discovers in his bloodied jacket pocket the biosphere with a cylinder — actually a Faraday Pointer inside. The Faraday Pointer shown on a wall reveal to us Botticelli’s Map of Hell, with several scrambled letters and a message in English from Zobrist. As he checks his email he finds another clue from Ignatio Busconi: “Paradise twenty five.”
Robert and Sienna rush from the apartment and in her car it is she who solves the anagram of concealed in the painting into “CERCA TROVA.” “Seek and Find” leads them to the Palazzo Vecchio said to be not far (sic) from the Boboli Gardens. Pursued by Vayentha, Agent Bouchard from the World Health Organization, a slew of Carabinieri and a mysterious woman who will be identified as Elizabeth Sinskey, Robert and Sienna climb on a bicycle seat to hop the wall into the Boboli Gardens. Here a view from a drone and all too quickly run through the arborway, La Cerchiata, in the expansive garden leads them to the gray door next to the unnamed Buontalenti Grotto. (In less than a minute they traverse 1.5 kilometers). The door is open and they rush in fewer than ten seconds through the one kilometer long Vasari Corridor exiting into the Uffizi gallery and then mysteriously end on the floor of the Hall of the Five Hundred.
Langdon looks up to identify the green flag with CERCA TROVA. Here appears Marta Alvarez who takes them to the Mask of Dante only to discover it is missing and the thieves are Ignatio Busconi and Langdon himself. With Sienna he escapes in the confusion and descends to the ground floor where Sienna uses her smartphone to google “Paradise twenty five” that will lead them to the Baptisty. But to escape they must go through Armenia (the secret door behind the map of Armenia in the Hall of Maps, while Bouchard sends his agents through a secret door in Lo Studiolo. Making it to the ceiling rafters Robert and Sienna are discovered by Vayentha, and Sienna trips her to fall through the ceiling to the floor in a dramatic shot that one is hard pressed to relate to the famous Apotheosis of Cosimo I. The pair do make it out the secret door onto the street and through the crowd make their way to the Baptistry of San Giovanni of the famous Cathedral of Florence, il Duomo.
The Baptistry seems under repair and they easily pass the fencing thought open doors to reach the baptismal font where the mask of Dante is discovered in a Ziploc bag. Sienna notes the gesso paint which when removed reveals the message given in full in the novel, but here condensed to mention the doge of Venice, decapitated horses, and lagoon. Here they are discovered by Agent Bouchard who has actually tossed his cell phone and suggests a train trip to Venice, covering their tracks by calling (how does he have a phone?) to order plane tickets to Geneva.
At the airport Dr. Sinskey is joined by Mr. Sims, the Provost of the CRC (Command Risk Consortium) , who admits to having worked for Zobrist, but who is now having pangs of conscious having discovered from the video tape that Zobrist intends to release a virus, a plague. He also recognizes that the two are on their way to Venice.
On the train Robert has a flashback reveling that Bouchard is lying. (We subsequently learn that cannot believe anything negative said of Dr. Sinskey. After bashing Bouchard in the head with what looks like a fire extinguisher, Robert and Sienna make their way to St. Mark’s Basilica and climb up to the horses, where Robert claims the actual horses are in a museum. (Does he not know that they are actually inside?) He asks a guide about the horses severed heads. In Italian, translated by Sienna who we know also speaks French) they are told the name of the doge Henricus Dandolo with a brief history of his trip to Constantinople. Robert realizes they are in the WRONG COUNTRY and declares the need to rush to Istanbul (present day Constantinople).
Trying to escape Bouchard they descend into the crypt of the Basilica and Sienna is lifted to make her way out. She abandons Robert noting that Zobrist is not a madman, but her lover. Robert caught by Bouchard is taxied out of Venice presumably on a water taxi and awakes in a gondola repair shop. Here Bouchard reveals himself as an opportunist desiring the secret virus for self-gain. They are inexplicably surprised by Mr. Sims, the Provost who garrotes Bouchard and then somewhat gratuitously twice pounds his head with an iron tool. Sims reveals to Robert the major outlines of the plot to use Langdon to unravel the mystery of the Cylinder taken from the dead Zobrist and presumably intended for Sienna. They are met by the door on dry land by Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey arriving in a vehicle.
Together they head to Istanbul where at the University of Istanbul, having donned a head scarf purchased at the Grand Bazaar, but in front of a sign for the Istanbul Used Book Market, (Sahaflar Carsisi ). Sienna seeks out an accomplice, an instructor at the University who recognized the need to proceed to the Basilica Cisterns. Robert, Sims and Sinskey go first to Hagia Sophia to find the tomb of Henricus Dandolo (for cinematograph purposes transported from the second floor to the ground floor). Listening for water trickling they too are directed to the Cistern.
Here a gala concert is being performed in perhaps the most exceptional and dramatic scene of the movie. A full orchestra sits in tiny groupings on platforms inserted into the waters as Sienna, Robert, Elizabeth and Sims rush searching for the bag. The pillar with the upside down Medusa is mentioned only in passing as the chthonic monster. In a wild ending Sienna and her accomplice, the university instructor, struggle with Sims who is eventually stabbed to death by Sienna. Found by Robert. the two discuss the fate of humanity as she threatens to detonate two bombs that will release the virus from the bag. Meanwhile Dr Sinskey has located it and is in the process of contain the virus bag. Sienna is forced to jump into the water and actually detonates a bomb in the process killing herself.
The accomplice, still alive, tries to release the virus from the sealed container and struggles with Robert and Elizabeth in the water. Eventually shot The accomplice is eventually shot and dies. Elizabeth and Robert find and successfully reactivate the containment device thereby saving humanity.
At the entrance to the Cisterns Elizabeth and Robert watch as the body of Sienna is removed and note that they both will once again head their separate ways — the story of their lives — alluding and compared to Beatrice and Dante, she to Geneva and he to Cambridge. She does return his iconic Mickey Mouse watch and he returns to Florence where he surreptitiously replaces the Dante Mask, the illuminated mask being the final image of the film.
So much for the plot. How do the settings, characters, themes and details coincide and differ from the novel?
The novel and the film do rush us literally through Florence, Venice and Istanbul with a return to the beginning in Florence. In Venice spectacular shots take us from the Badia Tower, the scene of the suicide, to the apartment and fictitious Pensione La Fiorentina across the street. As we drive down the Viale Machievelli we arrive at the entrance to the Boboli Gardens at the Porto Romano. A quick hop over the wall and an overview provided by a drone show us part of the gardens. The unnamed covered pathway leads very quickly to set of stairs into the courtyard of the Grotto where the grey doorway allows entrance to the Vasari Corridor. The ten second run through the corridor exits into the Uffizi and then the Hall of the Five Hundred inside the Palazzo Vecchio. Vasari’s painting is identified as well as look into the room where the Dante’s Mask is displayed. The secret passages via the Map of Armenia that Langdon reveals can be viewed on the Secret Passages of the Palace, Lo Studiolo with its own secret door, and the exit door onto the street are all seen. So too is the Baptistry of the Duomo.
There are for readers of the novel some inaccuracies and several omissions. The Boboli Gardens are neither so small that they can be walked or run through in less than a minute or two. The distances are significant, both in the garden itself to the grotto and then through the Vasari Corridor. The Hall of the Five Hundred is in the Palazzo Vecchio not the Uffizi that remains unnamed, but where the pair exit the Corridor. The doorways do not lead exactly to the roof and Vayentha’s access to the rafters exits to her left instead of her right where the actual staircase is. The walk to the Battistry is not defined and skips past the Church of Dante, Chiesa di Santa Margherita dei Cerchi.
Faithful readers will note the omissions. There is no mention of the Art Institute used to breach the wall. The gardens run through in a minute ignore the magnificent fountains and hill looking down at the Pitti Palace. The Buontalenti Grotto with its sculptures is seen only in passing and the door to the Vasari Corridor is unlocked. The actual ten second race through the Vasari Corridor fails to highlight either its treasures or the centrality of Vasari to Florence and the plot. Inside the Hall of the Five Hundred, as anyone who has been there knows, on Vasari’s Battle of Marciano that is the key to the mystery, the words in the flag cerca trova, are not visible to the naked eye. The extra hidden meaning that indeed the message might refer to a painting hidden behind by Michelangelo is never mentioned. The actually Dante mask is not in a sealed room, it is but one for the rooms that can be seen on tour. The major omission in Florence might be the failure to pass by the Church of Dante and Beatrice. Here both Langdon and Dan Brown had left a note seeking artistic inspiration. Beatrice is barely mentioned, once in passing by Sienna, and the motif re-appears applied to Robert and Elizabeth Sinskey. Also absent in the final scene is Langdon’s return to Florence Duomo for the funeral service for Ignatio Busoni and his stay at the Hotel Brunelleschi, Piazza Santa Elisabetta, 3. Readers of The DaVinci Code may recall that Langdon had told Sophie he would be there a month later, hoping she might come.
Venice and St Mark’s get even more cursory treatment in the movie. We do get a ride down the Grand Canal on a water taxi but with no mention of the detail and churches along the way. A notable omission is the Church of San Geremia (the Church of Saints Jeremy and Lucy) that houses relics from Santa Lucia (Lucy). Langdon in the novel uses the occasion to tell the story of Santa Lucia, who in one historical legend plucked out her eyes to preserve her chastity.
From the balcony of St Mark’s Langdon visits only the roof that holds the replacement horses and looks down onto the square. The actual horses are not in a museum but inside on the same floor. The broad expanse of the Cathedral in all its golden glory including the golden mosaic ceiling and the Pala d’Oro, with its famed icons are captured only in passing, as the couple rushes to the crypt. When Sienna escapes she does not make her way to the famed costumer, Atelier Pietro Longhi to speak with Giorgio Venci, who in the novel provides her transportation. In the movie she simply emerges in the market in Istanbul.
Robert awakes having been taken captive by Bouchard in a water taxi to a workshop for gondolas. The interior of the workshop resembles the one of Paolo Brandolisio, located on the island of Venice behind St. Mark’s. An inconsistency here is that as Sims and Langdon exit the workshop, they Dr. Sinskey joins Robert and Sims by driving up in a car. This cannot be on the island of Venice for auto traffic is not permitted.
On to Istanbul, Sienna goes straight to the University of Istanbul, not mentioned in the book, where she finds an accomplice. They then go directly to the Palace Cisterns: Yerbatan Sarayi. Robert arrives at Hagia Sophia and asks for the grave of Henricus Dandolo. From there he with Sinskey and Sims heads to the Cisterns.
The Cisterns are reproduced in a glorious red glow and have little platforms along with the walkways. The statue of Medusa with its upside down head appears briefly in the film instead of being the central clue that locates the virus bag.
The major factual error will be for those seeking the tomb of Henricus Dandolo on the ground floor of Hagia Sophia. It is in fact in the balcony across from the more famous fresco, the Deesis Mosaic identified in the novel. There is also no extended chase through Istanbul for Robert to eventually Sienna and reach an understanding of the actual effect of the virus.
The movie credits identify the on scene locations of Florence, Venice, and Istanbul. Some of the filming took place in Budapest.
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is at the center of the novel and movie. The Professor (not identified as the Harvard Symbologist and Art History expert) continues in the role as he had in the earlier films The DaVinci Code and Angels&Demons. Sienna Brooks played by Felicity Jones is a striking companion, make believe doctor, and rescuer until it is revealed that she had been Bertrand Zobrist’s’ lover. This is made explicit in the only love scene of the movie pairing on screen Sienna and Zobrist (Ben Foster). This is visually satisfying and downplays any romantic interest of Robert for his younger companion. Instead Langdon is paired in the film’s most significant departure from the novel with a one time admirer (lover) of Elizabeth Sinskey, portrayed by Sidse Babett Knudsen. Their relationship which emerges is compared to the Dante’s unrequited love for Beatrice, for the modern day pair is always separated for professional reasons.
The Provost is assigned the name of Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan) of the fictitious Command Risk Consortium plays a more active e role in the novel befitting the actor who actually emerges as the murderer of the agent gone bad, Bouchard, and is himself killed stabbed to death by Sienna in the Cisterns. Christoph Bouchard (Omar Sy) appears to combine two characters of the novel: a little agent Christoph Brüder of the World Heatlh Organization and Jonathan Ferris of the Consortium.
One invented character is the accomplice for Sienna in Istanbul, a Professor at the University, played by Philip Arditti.
The theme of overpopulation is central to the plot and is presented via Zobrist’s lectures on youtube and the Doomsday Clock with the time being one minute before midnight. The concept of exponential population growth is illustrated by Bartlett’s Beaker.
The virus that he has developed is seen in far more apocalyptic terms referred to as spreading in a matter of 47 days to over 95% of the population. The actual sterility plague or virus of the novel was intended to render one third of the population infertile. It is not referenced; thus the movie version increases the risk or threat to humanity. The little detail of Marta Alvarez’s pregnancy and her delivery at the end reward only readers of the novel.
The references to Transhumanism disappear entirely. Recall that Dr. Brooks, Sienna, is actually Felicity Sienna Brooks. This explains her Transhumanist name, FS-2080, where the numbers express a year that is 100 years after one’s birth. On the dustcover of the American edition of the novel when it first appeared, we can find in numbers on the upper right of the back cover: DB 2064. Dan Brown was born in 1964. His initials D. B. (he does not publish a middle name) along with his age at 100 (2064) would be his Transhumanist name. There may be int e ring that Sienna wears, a gold circle, an allusion to the logo of Transhumanism.
The theme of Dante. Admittedly literary, is invoked mostly via the death mask and the painting by Botticelli’s, The Abyss (Map) of Hell, based on Dante’s Inferno, the first third of his Divine Comedy. Omitted is the race past the Dante Museum in Florence and the church where is Beatrice is buried.
The hunt for the clue “Paradise twenty five” is resolved much simpler by Sienna who uses her smartphone to find Canto XXV: “I use Google.”
Langdon, Brown and his readers delight in details and clues. So the suit that Lanfdon is given in the film is a Brioni suit worn over a blue dress shirt. In the novel the jacket is borrowed from a neighbor. In the movie it is identified as Zobrist’s. The sport coat that Robert wears in Cambridge is a plaid but more like an expensive Brioni blazer than a Harris Tweed.
We are given an email address for Langdon, almost too quickly on screen to be identified fully firstname.lastname@example.org (perhaps “robertlangdon1964”). The number 1964 would correspond to Dan Brown’s own birth year.
The Mickey Mouse watch is a constant companion in the series and Robert is reunited with it, having lost it in his abduction.
The Gilded Age, is a book in which Sienna finds an amulet from Zobrist. The book is likely the 1873 work by Mark Twain: The Gilded Age, A Tale of Today.
Google is recalled by Sienna. In an earlier novel, The Lost Symbol, we can read the warning of the Professor: “’Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research.’”
Technology is used however as we find a wikipedia entry on Zobrist and even a youtube video of Zobrist’s’ Manifesto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5SrbrkVWfk.
There is a curious Russian connection. When Dr. Sinskey is still a mystery woman, she uses her cell phone to make a call and speaks the Russian words: Да, давай! (Yes, go ahead-do it). Brown has alluded to Russian before in reference to James Sanborn, the sculptor, and using the character Nola Kaye that transliterates into Russian as an anagram for (Ya Elonka, I am Elonka) in The Lost Symbol. (cf. 33 Keys to Unlocking The Lost Symbol).
Readers and close followers of the novel and previous novels and films should be delighted —reinforced by the familiar and excited by the new twists and turns. One plus was the clever way to involve the aging Robert Langdon and Tom Hanks with an age appropriate love interest.
Viewers unfamiliar with the novel may be taxed too much to follow the actual plot and story. As it races it may not be clear how the art, architecture, geography, and references to Dante, all lead us to the seat of ancient Constantinople. The message of the novel in which the virus is actually released remains unsaid. Brown has commented on more than one occasion of the dangers of overpopulation. One may choose to disagree with him and the scientific data is mixed but it is the message of the novel. If the film has a message it is that “Many of the worst greatest sins in history have been committed in the name of love!”
There is much more depth to the novel and I invite you to explore this blog further using the categories at the top of the page. An overview of the novel, its themes, the art and architecture, a can be found in 22/7 Keys to Dan Brown’s Inferno. An illustrated guide with instructions to walk along in Robert Langdon’s steps through Florence and Venice is available for free online or as an iBook.