Review: ‘DaVinci and the Code He Lived By’

There have been few historical figures generally regarded as a genius in their time, let alone being described as centuries ahead of it. Leonardo DaVinci is one such figure, and it turns out that much of what he invested his creative mind into had much to do with where he was and what was happening around him.

You have to love The History Channel. Pick a time period or famous person of the past and you can bet as interest in that time period or person grows, an expos?© will follow. This isn’t the first or last documentary of the original “renaissance man,” but the timing is in question, especially with the repeated use of the word “code” in context. Yes, we KNOW there’s a movie with Tom Hanks coming out soon based on a book about a secret code that may have religious implication, so on and so forth.

“DaVinci and the Code He Lived By” (there’s that word again!) doesn’t touch on any of the fanciful speculation, focusing instead on the facts that can be backed up by DaVinci’s works and 1500+ notebooks. With a handful of historians on hand with additional opinions, simply staged re-enactments and more than a few recreations of DaVinci’s scaled models tell the tale. The man himself began from an incredibly humble beginning, relying instead upon his own quest for knowledge and the need to know how things worked (or could work) to raise his social status from tradesman shutout to royal advisor.

Other subjects touched upon or addressed by the documentary included accusations of sodomy and sired companion that remained with him throughout his days, but Leonardo had no great love of his life. Married to his thirst for knowledge and advancements, he apparently had no time for such things (not that many women of his time would tolerate his inattention to them in favor of his obsessive and sometimes fleeting pursuits). DaVinci was also accused of leaving many works unfinished, satisfied when he could clearly see their conclusion rather than complete the work. And while he had no love of politics, he grew to understand how fulfilling the wants of a person could open many doors.

With a ninety minute total running time (two hours with commercials), “DaVinci and the Code He Lived By” is a perfect introduction to the works and ideas behind a self-made man with everything against him. But in addition to the known facts, there are several guesses made throughout the documentary to fuel speculation of missing time periods, secret contacts, and possibly hidden works that fiction writers have already embellished upon. After all, who’s to say what secrets a man hundreds of years ahead of his time may have kept after learning at an early age that even the speculation of blasphemy was considered a capital crime?

“DaVinci and the Code He Lived By” will be presented exclusively on The History Channel starting December 4th, 2006 at 9pm EST.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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