Plot Twists and Secrets in the Film and Book
Note: this section reveals what happens at the end of the story, so if you
wish to enjoy the book or film without knowing what happens ahead of time,
please choose another topic.
Apart from minor characters and subplots that are missing from the film, the
most dramatic difference between the book and film concerns the Camerlengo
(played by Ewan McGregor). In the film we eventually learn that he is ambitious and
deeply misguided, but in the book he is more unambiguously evil - demonic, even.
In the book, the Camerlengo chooses to let the worldwide media know about the
Illuminati plot to destroy the Vatican, thus creating global sympathy for the
helpless Church (p319). Of course, this is a deception since the Camerlengo
knows where the bomb is since he hid it himself.
Unlike in the film, while live on camera, he concedes defeat to The
Illuminati, acknowledging that Science has won and Religion has lost. However,
he then publicly fakes a last-minute miraculous revelation, claiming that God
has revealed the location of the bomb to him. Of course, he then retrieves the
bomb from where he stashed it earlier, and 'saves' the Vatican.
The book notes that the public cheer at this revelation because they've "had
an assurance of the beyond, a substantiation of the power of the Creator"
(p429). The Cardinals too are sure they've been witness to a supernatural
revelation and salvation, with one exception: Mortati, who still has doubts.
In both versions the Camerlengo's success is short-lived; we discover that
The Illuminati threat is a charade he has fabricated built upon bits and
pieces of actual history. We also infer that the Camerlengo has himself hired
the assassin who stole the anti-matter, and brutally murdered Vittoria's father
and the four Cardinals. In the book it is revealed that he killed the Pope once
he learned that he had fathered a son, thus breaking his vow of celibacy.
However, he then learns that the Pope's child was conceived through in-vitro
fertilization (thus preserving his chastity) (p456) and that the child he
fathered is the Camerlengo himself.
The epic scale of this personal drama is perhaps better suited to a TV soap than a
serious film, so its understandable that the filmmakers chose to simplify the
screenplay. Nevertheless, it's clear this is in the book in order to continue
the exploration of the difficulties that can occur when religious
traditions run into scientific advances.
The novel does an effective job of introducing two important questions that
occur when science and religion meet:
- If God created all the natural world, are there are aspects of it that are
sacrosanct, where we should pause in case we mistakenly 'play God'? For more, see
the section on Ethics.
- Does the belief that God acts in the world require those acts to be
supernatural? For more, see
Science and Divine
So as the story concludes, and The Illuminati threat has been shown to
be an insidious fiction, it's perhaps ironic that a key message of the film is
to beware of being taken in by conspiracy theories.
- When the 'bomb' detonates aboard the helicopter above
Vatican City the book describes this as a blinding flash, a shockwave that
winds people, which is followed by warm air. But the energy released by a
quarter gram of anti-matter annihilating is about equal to that of a 10 kilotonne atom bomb, i.e. close to the 13 kilotonne yield of the weapon
dropped on Nagasaki. Few helicopters can fly more than a few miles high,
so sadly all the people below (including our heroes) are likely to have
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| Contributed by: Adrian Wyard