An ostensibly nonfiction companion piece to "The Da Vinci Code," "Bloodline" jumps all too eagerly to conclusions that, as it never tires of reminding us, could rattle the very foundations of modern Christianity.

An ostensibly nonfiction companion piece to “The Da Vinci Code,” “Bloodline” jumps all too eagerly to conclusions that, as it never tires of reminding us, could rattle the very foundations of modern Christianity. Already grabbing media attention with its claims of new evidence supporting a secret relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, this nutty assemblage of art-history analysis, secret-society intrigue, amateur archaeology and paranoid thriller will be appreciated best by “Da Vinci Code” buffs and armchair conspiracy theorists in homevid and tube play. “Bloodline” drips into theaters May 9 in New York.

Even if British documaker Bruce Burgess’ smallscreen resume didn’t include titles such as “The Bermuda Triangle Solved” and “Bigfootville,” his credibility here would be highly suspect. As he unearths ancient relics and tracks down shadowy informants, Burgess willingly entertains all manner of wild speculation, yet seems reluctant to interview anyone who would so much as challenge his sensationalistic hypothesis or question his methods.

Result is a film whose brazen determination and innately intriguing subject matter compel interest, even as its revelations and reportage (“So there is a bloodline?” “Oh yes, very definitely” is about as convincing as it gets) feel too pat by half.

Burgess’ mission began in 2005 in Paris and eventually led him to the French medieval village of Rennes-le-Chateau, where, according to legend, 19th-century priest Berenger Sauniere uncovered secrets so explosive that the Catholic Church paid him handsomely for his silence. As popularized by “The Da Vinci Code” and the 1983 bestseller “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” (heavily referenced here), rumors developed of a Church conspiracy to conceal the shocking truth that Jesus, having survived the crucifixion, fled with Mary Magdalene to the South of France, where they and their children remain buried to this day.

Pic records Burgess’ treasure hunt as he tracks clues in paintings and messages in bottles, the latter allegedly left behind by Sauniere. Along the way, the helmer teams up with nonpro researcher Ben Hammott (a coded anagram for “The Tomb Man”), who makes the pic’s two juiciest discoveries: a chest containing Mideast artifacts and a mummified corpse at the bottom of an underground shaft accessible only to Hammott’s video camera.

Could the body be Mary Magdalene’s? Could Jesus’ final remains be down there as well? These are questions worthy of the highest expertise and skepticism that historians and archaeologists can bring to the table; conveniently enough, none have been able to examine the findings (Burgess and Hammott are currently awaiting French government approval for a full excavation) — not that it’s stopped the filmmakers from peddling their assumptions as “incontrovertible” proof in the meantime.

Taking up significant screen time elsewhere is Burgess’ interview with Nicolas Haywood, who claims to represent the Priory of Sion, the covert organization long rumored to have guarded the truth about Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s legacy. Appearing on camera is an odd way of keeping a secret, but the creepy-charismatic Haywood, offering cryptic hints from the shadows like some sort of Euro Deep Throat, must have known he’d make an irresistible subject.

“Bloodline” never misses a chance to inflate its importance or savor its subversiveness. Compounding the paranoid atmosphere and wholly embracing the notion of the Catholic Church as a league of murderous conspirators, Burgess suggests at several points that he and some of his subjects are being stalked.

Tech credits are rough but effective, with d.p. Sebastian Rich nimbly switching between multiple camera formats. The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and other Paris-based “Da Vinci Code” landmarks make brief cameos.


  • Production: A Cinema Libre Distribution release of a Cinema Libre Studios presentation of a 1244 Films production. Produced by Rene Barnett. Executive producers, William Billingsley, Barnett, Bruce Burgess. Directed, written by Bruce Burgess.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HDV, DigiBeta, DV, mini-DV, Super 8), Sebastian Rich; editor, Daniel E. Brown; music, Miriam Cutler; sound, Oasis Digital; sound supervisor, Red Broad; line producers, Jan Davis, James Beaton; associate producer, Janice Kaplan. Reviewed at Egyptian Theater, Los Angeles, April 30, 2008. Running time: 116 MIN.
  • With: With: Bruce Burgess, Ben Hammott, Nicolas John Shelby Spong, Margaret Starbird, Lionel Fanthorpe, Robert Eisenman, Aidan Dobson, Gabriel Barkay, Robert Howells, Gino Sandri. (English, French dialogue)