Cinema. I enjoy films. I love the way they engage nearly all of my senses with elements that draw me emotionally: strong characters; visually magical sets and production; vibrant cinematic landscapes; bigger-than-life action. Directors and writers, filmmakers in general, are the present-day storytellers, the Wells, Twains, Doyles, Flemings, and Carrolls of yesterday. They mark predictions of futuristic societies; warn of dystopian disparity; provide escape to fantastical worlds and journeys; entice us with suspense, mystery and intrigue; give insight to the frailty and darkness of the human condition.
One reason films are popular is because images are so very powerful. The images we absorb we often retain and can embed their messages deep in our consciousness. That’s why movies are not only provocative but can be shaping, persuading how we think and feel about things and events.
I am very aware that filmmakers, as was the same with the novelists of yesteryear, have an intention if not an agenda beyond the simple ability to entertain when bringing their stories to life. Every person has a worldview, what they believe to be purpose and truth. Every storyteller’s philosophy of life will burn its way into the fabric of their tale. In fact, the story becomes a living apologetic for the filmmaker’s understanding of mankind’s origin and purpose, the reason evil exists, and what happens to us when we die. It’s for this reason that I often ask myself the question, “Why was this film made?” after viewing a movie. This IS the question that must be asked of the recent theatrical release of the film Noah.
Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, an adaptation of events predominantly found in the book of Genesis in the Bible and Tanakh, seems to be definitively divergent from these accounts. Though I have yet to see the film, I have friends whom which posses a solid fundamental Christian world-view and who are thoughtful and dedicated to their faith who have seen the motion picture. Some have embraced it as harmless entertainment, endorsed it as a spectacular achievement, or walked-out of a screening in protest.
Being a Biblical Theist, I am always wary of any theatrical rendition of biblical narrative. I take most of these with a grain of salt, using wisdom, discernment, and careful comparison/contrast with scriptural texts to evaluate their content. However, not everyone is mindful or caring enough to consider doing so. Pastors and Theologians I’m acquainted with have endorsed Noah. What does this communicate about the film’s content?
Noah, the film, has come under a fair amount of scrutiny for the liberal interpretation of known texts of the account. It is important to be attentive to subtly subversive elements in all forms of media. Since I have not seen the film, it is indeed difficult to form my own opinion. However, a recent commentary by Dr. Brian Mattson seems to have the most comprehensive understanding of Aronofsky’s source material and philosophical agenda for Noah. I will refer you there and encourage you to read the entirety of Dr. Mattson’s remarks.
Part of the art of film making is to make the images on the screen feel real. A good storyteller creates empathy for the characters and events, causing people to feel as if we are there watching the story, even history unfold. My concern with Noah rests with how a filmmaker’s interpretation of an ancient text which I honor, admire and love will influence millions of viewers to believing that the visuals and plot that engulf their mind from the cinema screen is the traditional view of the world-wide flood account. Even more concerning, as Dr. Mattson distinguishes, is how many Christian leaders have endorsed this version of Noah. It is indeed disheartening that church leaders would sanction a film that had many distinct concerns that strayed from Biblical texts. The Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthian church echo profoundly, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” 2 Cor. 11.3-4
I know I will view Noah in the future. I may even enjoy it. However, that does not mean that the film depicts accounts that many cultures’ have acknowledged for several millennia. Meanwhile, it’s imperative to know not only what you believe, but why you believe as you daily encounter contrary issues, even on the silver screen. If nothing else, the inaccuracies and liberties in Noah are great discussion starters towards what is actually detailed in the Genesis account.
Editor’s update: I have now seen the film. Thoroughly enjoyable as entertainment; Completely deplorable as a historical account. I won’t go into the mountain of textual and contextual inaccuracies (the least of which is that the film doesn’t even have the birth order of Noah’s sons correct) as there’s plenty of places on the blogsphere that cover these issues. Read the Biblical account.
What bothered you the most about the Noah?
What do you consider to be Noah‘s high-water mark?
Have you been able to use Noah for positive discussion towards the biblical texts?