Last night I sat down at Fox Studios, Sydney and watched the new Noah movie, starring Australian Russell Crowe. I’ve been blogging and chatting on social media about this film for a few weeks now, so I wanted to share my first thoughts and impressions after viewing the film for myself.
Spoiler Alert: May contain aspects of the plot and story of the film, if you haven’t seen it yet.
Director & Writer Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is a beautiful artwork. It is a visually stunning, expertly crafted, well told story. It is by far the best artistic film I have ever seen. It is an epic adventure film. A cross between The Road and The Lord of The Rings. The film shocks and breaks expectations. It presents a very different impression of the story, to the one we may have been taught in Sunday School. It presents a brutish, imperfect Noah who struggles daily to keep his family alive while living in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world where humanity is at its very lowest point. This is not a sandal & robe wearing biblical film, like we have seen in the past, but rather a fresh look at a pre-history, pre-Abrahamic covenant world without rules or order. It clearly portrays a world that God has abandoned and wants to destroy.
While taking a large portion of poetic license, I felt that the film still stuck to the basic story we find in the Bible. Remembering that the story of Noah in the Bible is very short and we really do not know anything about the character of the person of Noah at all. Most of what we know of Noah comes from the teaching we received in Sunday School from cut out flannelette shapes of the ark and animals. Last night a friend of mine commented that she had always pictured Noah as a nice old man with a white beard, unlike the one portrayed in this film. But the reality is that even the ‘nice old man’ image we may have of Noah does not come from the Bible, but rather from a Sunday School interpretation of it. The Noah story in our Bible is much darker – and frankly much shorter than the ‘Bible stories’ we may have been taught. The film adds many story elements needed to create a 2 hour 20 minute film, including events which happen between the ‘other people’ and Noah before the flood, plus what happened during the many days they were on the ark – which the Bible gives us zero information about. Remember that if this film was taken exclusively from the short story the Bible gives us, then it would have been a 10 minute movie!
The film goes deep into Biblical and extra-Biblical history to create a pre-historical world which today we really know nothing about. I was pleasantly surprised to see the inclusion of ‘The Watchers’ from the Book of Enoch. While this book is not regarded as canonical by most Christians, it is an important part of Jewish history – so much so that it is even quoted in the New Testament Letter of Jude (Jude 1:14-15). It was interesting to see Aronofsky’s interpretation of these creatures and how he interwove them into the story. The Watchers, the Nephilim (mentioned in the biblical Noah story) and the like are frankly completely mysterious and a biblical element we have trouble explaining.
Another film element I found very interesting was that the stars in the sky were much brighter (as you could imagine they would be at the very beginning of the world) but also they appeared blurry, almost as though you were looking at them through a layer of water. This was particularly of interest to me as there is a theory among Creation Scientists which says that there was another protective layer between the earth and the sky before the flood, which was made of water. The theory goes that at the time of the flood when the waters of heaven met the waters of the earth (Genesis 7:11-12), that this other layer was the water which fell to the earth, and therefore no longer existed, leaving the earth a little less protected from the sun. So the imagery of the bright blurry stars indicates how well read Aronofsky is, as he appears to have incorporated this theory into the film.
In conclusion, this is a movie. A movie is a medium designed to tell a story. A movie is not designed to preach a sermon, or even deliver a message. This film is a beautiful artwork. To state simply that this film is not an accurate portrayal of the biblical story, is to say that Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Tournesols‘ is not an accurate portrayal of sunflowers! A statement which would be seen by all as ridiculous and irrelevant.
As a Christian what do we do with this film? We watch it. We encourage our family and friends to watch it. (The film leaves the viewer with many questions.) We start a conversation about the film. We direct people to the Bible. We help provide some of those answers, and we relate the redemptive story of Noah, to the redemptive story of Christ. That’s it.
What are your thoughts on the film…?