I know it’s been discussed to death, but I finally had a chance to see Darren Aronofsky’s movie “Noah.” I love the story of the Bible and I love epic movies, so I was looking forward to seeing this one.
On one hand, I enjoyed the bigness of the story. I’m a guy who enjoys good visual effects, so for me this movie was a fun – though very loose – interpretation of a familiar story. It was sort of “Genesis meets Lord of the Rings” – with giant stone people (Watchers) instead of Tolkien’s tree people (Ents). And it did agree with the Bible that the Creator sent the flood because of humanity’s great sins.
On the other hand, in this movie those sins seemed to be limited to eating animals and hoarding natural resources to build cities. The implication was that if people stopped doing those two things, the Creator might be appeased, no matter what other horrible crimes or sins they committed against him or against each other.
Also, I thought the Creator’s role was too passive. I try to seek God’s role within a story even when he is not overtly mentioned. I did see God’s intervention, but it was too subtle. For example, when facing a vast army by himself, Noah states, “I’m not alone.” That sounds like a statement of faith in God; but then the Watchers rise up around him, implying that Noah’s support comes not from the Creator but from them.
However, I appreciated Aronofsky’s and Russell Crowe’s interpretation of the man Noah. As in the Bible, this Noah is righteous, and the Creator does give him an important task. But this Noah is not a Sunday-school Dr. Doolittle who loves animals and faces the coming apocalypse with a kindly smile. Instead, he is a receiver of prophetic visions, overwhelmed by the foreknowledge of global annihilation. He foresees that there will be a rebirth of life after the flood as part of the Creator’s plan, but he also foresees the end of all life that existed before the flood. To any human, seeing such visions – and then living through their fulfilment – would be horrific.
Further, the movie is scriptural in that it shows an awareness of wickedness not only in humankind, but also in Noah and his family. According to scripture, Noah is righteous; but he is also a human, born of Adam and full of sin. So he is righteous not because he is perfect, but because God declares him so (as with Abraham – Roman 4). He is a finite man trying to wrap his mind around a divine revelation that includes the destruction of all life on earth. Who can approach such a concept without terror and dread?
I believe “Noah” shows the horror of this historic event. The divine command, the enormity of the task, and the catastrophic nature of the event must have weighed heavily on Noah’s mind. But he persevered and carried out God’s instructions, while at the same time he had to hear the desperate screams of drowning masses in his ears. Long after the waters had receded, and even after God’s new covenant and the promise of the rainbow, he must have experienced survivor’s guilt.
After all, he did get blitzed, winding up drunk and naked for his sons to see – but the Bible never explains why. How could—why would—a righteous man do that, after God spares his life and establishes a new covenant with him? For that matter, why was this tidbit even included in scripture? It seems the author just wanted to let us know that Noah got drunk. And naked. What made him strip off his clothes? Was it just to show grief, as elsewhere in the Old Testament (Genesis 37:29; 44:23; Esther 4:1)? Or perhaps the author simply wanted us to know that Noah, though righteous, wasn’t perfect.
We don’t know.
But this is one thing the movie does extremely well. Russell Crowe portrays Noah as a conflicted, flawed human who is still considered righteous by the Creator. That tension rings true to me.
So what exactly is this movie? You could say it’s just a very loose adaptation of the Bible story in that it is about a man named Noah, a big boat, and an even bigger amount of water. It goes wide in the area of poetic license, and I would have liked to see a more active Creator and a more complete definition of wickedness. But overall, I believe Aronofsky treats the story with respect.
And Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Noah as a fallen, righteous man is precisely how Christians should view the people we read about in scripture – the ones God counted as righteous. Every single one of them had faults and sins, just as we do. For them and for us, the only hope is God’s grace and redemption. I see that truth in the movie “Noah”– and I appreciate the honesty.
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