I don’t know about you but I always make it a point to immediately confirm my faith and beliefs by making a beeline to any recently released large scale motion picture that I consider even remotely related so that I can receive validation. Not!
Although it’s been three weeks since the cinematic premiere of Noah to my surprise the fervor and debate continues. Why?
Upon its release, moviegoers went to see director Darren Aronofsky’s new film Noah starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly and many assumed the movie would be congruent with their traditional biblical interpretation. A large portion of this audience walked away mystified because the film does not, sadly for them, chime perfectly with their images of the famous Old Testament story.
What is the entire hullabaloo about anyway? I went to see the movie because I adore Russell Crowe whom I refer to my friends as Triple “C”. No other actor of our generation is as commanding, compelling or charismatic. I think I have watched Master and Commander on DVD at least 20 times – Jack Aubrey is a rare breed. I also enjoy Jennifer Connelly (although I enjoy her husband Paul Bettany more.) I looked forward to seeing an exciting, epic production of an ancient story brought to life through great acting and gorgeous special effects.
While I do believe that all things are possible and hold to the notion that there may have been a colossal flood at some point in the earth’s history, such as described in every ancient civilization, I grapple with the notion and therefore am unable to support the idea that perhaps God really did want a “do over.” I tend to see the traditional telling of the biblical “Noah” story as an allegory. Does this mean I am not a devoted Christian? The simple answer is no. Does it mean I chose to think beyond a simpleton’s grasp? Yes. But So what? What does this have to do with the flipping movie?
“Noah”, the written story, is short. In fact “Noah” is one of the briefest accounts in the Bible weighing in at roughly 96 lines with many details vague or simply missing. This is startling considering the enormous renown the tale has garnered over the millennia. The story has been told and recounted many times, in many formats ranging from oral tradition to standardized bibles, to children’s picture books to cartoons. The images are indelibly tattooed upon our minds regardless of the nebulous facts or inevitable embellishments over time.
Is it the duty of a film maker to deliver a play by play, blow by blow account of the original story? Or is it his right to deliver an artistic interpretation or employ creative license? Or… is it the right of a movie studio to create an engaging film in which their investment will be returned with a profit? Perhaps it ideally is a combination of all of the above.
At any rate, according to various news outlets, film critics and social media platforms, many attending the film have voiced loud criticisms. There seems to be two chief complaints:
The fallen Angels are depicted as giant rock monsters, and the use of the title ‘Creator’ instead of the glaring absence of the specific use of the title ‘God’.
What does the original resource have to say about all this anyway? Well, I doubt there has been any other book in the annals of time, whether through oral tradition or in writing, that has been interpreted and reinterpreted more than The Holy Bible. Scholars, religious and believers cannot even agree on how many books are in “The Old Testament”, let alone the entire Bible. What makes anyone think we can agree on what really went down with Noah and his family (and those crazy fallen angels) is beyond me. However, in general, it may be almost agreed that the traditional retelling of Noah shares these similar notions:
In Genesis 6:1-4 The ‘Fallen Angels’ are depicted as follows: 1When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with[a] humans forever, for they are mortal[b]; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days-and also afterward-when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
So, Aronofsky depicts the fallen angels as members of an angelic hierarchy that ‘feel sorry’ for Adam when he and Eve mess up big time in the “Garden.” By the way, I thought the depiction of Adam and Eve as bald, extra-terrestrial looking beings of light running around naked and playing in the grass was… unique.
My interpretation of the “Old Testament” story suggests the ‘fallen Angels’ are the sons of God who in turn marry human women and create the Nephilim which are ‘Giants’ and become the heroes of old, men of renown. That’s it – that’s all it says. There is nothing that indicates the fallen angels came to help Adam after his fall from grace because they feel sorry for him as the movie suggests. Nor does the Bible claim that the fallen angels are turned into hideous gigantic monsters formed from earth and rock and resembling gargantuan Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots made out of boulders.
But so what? The films depiction is the directors creative licensing, enlisting his private imaginings to deliver novel, curious , and hopefully enjoyable interpretations to a character(s) that is left undeveloped in the original writing (and in my opinion, the entirety of the original ‘Noah’ story is underdeveloped. Don’t take my word for it – read it.)
Another cause for Sturm und Drang among viewers is the title ‘God’ or the lack thereof in the case of the film. The movie uses the term ‘Creator’ and apparently to many this is unacceptable.
Excuse me? The term ‘Creator’ is wrong? Why? The bible as a whole, and especially the Old Testament, is resplendent with various terms for ‘The Almighty’ – which one is the appropriate term? Perhaps the term used should have been Elohim (Eloah singular) as found in Genesis 1:1-24. Or it could have been the term Yahweh (Yhvh) found in Exodus 3:15. Or the film could have used the regal sounding Adonai found in Lamentations 2:1-9, or better yet El-Shaddai located in Genesis 17:1,2. The fact is God doesn’t really care and that is what makes the complaint so fruitless and ridiculous.
The word ‘God’ is a historically recent term, a word stemming from a Germanic root (stemming from a Sanskrit root) and related to gott which in German means good. So, because of this we cannot tolerate a movie that uses the term ‘Creator’? The premise is that ‘God’, “Yahweh”; “The Lord” is the creator of the universe, of all that is seen and unseen. The movie makes that clear. Why is there any argument over this in the first place?
If complaints are going to be issued, why have there been few complaints about the real disappointments of the movie? In my humble opinion, these are:
1) The director is already dealing with a dark subject – but then unnecessarily catapults it into a malevolent fear festival. Now granted there is nothing remotely uplifting about the entirety of humanity being laid to waste. I remember as a small girl reading the story of “Noah” every time I would go to the doctor or dentist office – there would be The Bible Story by Arthur S. Maxwell, hardcover edition. I clearly remember getting all agitated looking at the illustrations and thinking about all those people grasping and clinging to the sides of the ark. But I do not remember having fear that Noah was a mad man with delusions of infanticide running through his brain.
2) Emma Watson’s acting inconsistencies were distracting. The character could only have been a brand new mother experiencing a post-delivery melt down. Why? Because any mother will tell you – if Russell Crowe took one more step toward the babies – he was going to be dead meat. No mother is just going to stand there while a ‘grandfather’ holds a ginzu knife over the heads of the newborn babies and just ask him ‘to be quick about it’ or ‘get it over with’, or whatever inane comment she made which I have unfortunately banished from my recall. This part was completely annoying and unbelievable.
3) The complete and utter waste of Anthony Hopkins’ talent.
Did I enjoy Noah? Yes. It’s a spectacle – exactly as it was intended to be. Would I use it as instruction material in a children’s bible study class? No. Did Triple “C” deliver? Absolutely! But whether or not I liked the film has nothing to do with the controversies being played out in the media. Do I think the chief complaints noted have merit? Not at all. Is the film a success? Without a doubt.