I saw an early screening of Noah last night. I’m still processing the film a bit. However, I wanted to share some thoughts on the film because I know a number of people will inquire about it. I will share details, obviously. If you don’t want any spoilers with those details, since we all know the basics of the story, perhaps you don’t want to read this.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Throughout the film, this passage kept coming back to me. The film had been teased as pro-environmentalism. There is that aspect of the film, but I kept coming back to this passage. Growing up in a western, evangelical church context, Christians had a deep disdain for environmentalism. There is still aspects of that disdain today amongst Christians, but it is not as prevalent. However, the tension between environmentalism and western, evangelical Christianity still exists, and you can see that in some of the criticisms of the film. Yet passages like this show there will be a redemption of creation in the future. God is concerned about creation, and we should be as well. (The environmentalism message is not as subtle as JRR Tolkien’s in The Lord of the Rings.)
Another thought that kept coming back to me while watching the film is the director, Darren Aronofsky, is an atheist. He was born and raised in a Jewish family. The lens which he views the story of Noah is going to be different from mine. The person of Noah has been an person of curiosity for him since his youth. The story of Noah and the ark crosses over into multiple religions, not to mention some mythological details, and Aronofsky has duly researched Noah in all those contexts. He isn’t trying to make the stereotypical Christian narrative of the story. Aronofsky’s filmography shows dark, sometimes bleak, stories. I’ve seen Pi and Requiem for a Dream, so I was not expecting the Sunday School version of Noah.
For me, it was interesting to see the story of Noah depicted from someone who doesn’t share my perspective. The points raised by Aronofsky are probably reflected by a number of people who don’t adhere to Christianity. At times, you see Noah and his family wrestling with the thought they will be the only surviving members of humanity. As a Christian, we can sometimes take for granted issues like this, but for people outside the church they wrestle with the idea of God wiping out humanity. How do Christians respond to that? A trite answer we might have learned from youth group will not suffice.
Are their deviations from the traditional, Biblical narrative? Yes, but if you are expecting a straight, Biblical narrative you will be disappointed. There were things I disagreed with, like the development of Noah’s son Ham (for example), but I still enjoyed the film. There was always going to be creative license with it. There are also things in Son of God and The Passion of the Christ that deviate from the Bible, where the filmmakers took creative license, but Christians (generally) were enthusiastic with those films. Maybe it’s to a lesser degree, but there is creative license. The filmmakers’ Christian/Catholic faith, and their marketing to Christians, helped with acceptance of Son of God and The Passion of the Christ.
The story of Noah is well-known, but when you look at Genesis 6 you realize there aren’t many details. Still, it’s impressive the world Aronofsky created for this movie. Russell Crowe does a great job portraying the complexities of Noah, and what he may have been wrestling with in the lead up, and aftermath, of the flood. Noah wonders if he is an instrument of God’s justice, an once he carries out justice if even his family are supposed to start humanity over. This part of the story will bother some Christians. I wasn’t sure what I thought of it, but the plot development of it was not forced. It fits with Aronofsky’s themes within the film. The family’s tension of faith in the Creator, and in following their father as he interprets what God wants, is well done. I thought the cast did an outstanding job.
I liked the referrals to creation, the Garden of Eden, the fall, and Cain killing Abel, throughout the film. It’s a reminder the story of Noah is a part of a bigger story. The telling/showing of creation may bother some Christians. It was a beautiful scene, and you see the beauty of creation throughout the film. Some of the visuals are stunning. The use of the starry sky, like the characters silhouetted against it, or the stars in the sky of day, was beautiful. Some of the visuals are also heartbreaking. When Noah and his family are in the ark, they can hear people outside drowning. You get a glimpse of people clinging to a mountain peak as the ark floats nearby. It was a powerful scene to me. We can sometimes gloss over what it must have been like for Noah and his family to go through this. Yes, it was God’s judgment on humanity, and Noah and his family understood this, but it didn’t make it any easier.
Bill Maher calls God a “psychotic mass murderer” because of Genesis 6. Maybe you think Maher is an extreme example, but a number of people take issue with God’s idea of justice. The idea of justice, and knowing there are innocents caught amidst this judgement, is shown. Yes, I understand all of us are “fallen” and “separated from God”, but I’m viewing this from Aronofsky’s perspective. How do we explain this to a world that sees an uncaring God behind letting children drown and women being used as trade?
The antagonist, Tubal-cain, is from the line of Cain. (Cain was a “fugitive and wanderer” of the earth after God judged him for murdering his brother Abel.) In Genesis 4:22, we find out Tubal-cain was a metalsmith, and some say the inventor of warfare. This is portrayed with his character. Tubal-cain’s father, Lamech, was a murderer, and also had more than one wife. He took what he wanted, with no regard for others, and this imprint on Tubal-cain is portrayed in the film. I liked how the film showed the violence and sin of men in the buildup to the flood. (If you’ve seen Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, you might have a flashback to The Two Towers when Saruman talks of industry, building up his army, and ruling the land at the expense of everything else.)
If you are familiar with the Nephilim, you might make the connection with the Watchers in the film. In the Book of Enoch (non biblical canon), the Watchers were fallen angels that fathered the Nephilim. The Nephilim are referenced early in Genesis 6. I thought it was a cool interpretation/creative license with the Watchers.
Noah is from the line of Seth, and his descendants show a deep respect for the Creator and creation. They call God “Creator” throughout the film. Some have taken issue with this, but I didn’t have a problem with it. You don’t see Noah and his family eating meat, which is in line with the film’s themes. And, some Biblical scholars have speculated whether or not man would have eaten meat in the Garden of Eden.
I thought Noah was a fascinating film. Beautiful at times. Not every Christian will like it, and a number of them will hate it. Depending on their reasons, I wouldn’t take issue with them. I would like to see it again. Would I recommend it? Depends on who I was talking to. Again, I think there are a number of points that Aronofsky raises that Christians should grapple with so they can better engage the world around them when it comes to God. Redemption is coming for humanity, and creation. The gospel is “good news”, and we need to better articulate why it is.