I wasn’t going to re-open my blog with a bit about a movie, but having seen Noah over the weekend and reading all of the vitriol and gnashing of teeth coming from “Christian” commentators, I feel inclined to respond with a few points and observations.
1. Noah is one man’s telling of the Old Testament story
To all the folks commenting that Aronofsky’s film is the worst movie they’ve ever seen, anti-Christian, a “massive departure from the facts” of Scripture and so-on, I have to ask: Did you ACTUALLY watch the movie? It seems that many people went in with their blinders on, ready to see the film only through whatever prejudicial lens they carried with them.
This version of the Noah story certainly takes a degree of creative license – that is a given for someone to create a 2+ hour-long narrative using what accounts for little more than a few chapters of Genesis. This is Darren Aronofsky’s portrayal of the Noah account. If someone gave me over $133 million dollars and a contract to create my own vision of the Noah movie, I’d definitely make my own creative choices and flesh out the story according to my own vision. Would it be different than Aronofsky’s film? Quite. But that doesn’t denigrate the work he’s accomplished here, which I think in many ways is quite Orthodox, however intentional (or unintentional) that might have been.
2. Aronofsky’s Noah is a sinner in need of mercy and grace.
Russell Crowe did a superb job portraying Noah’s internal struggle of trying desperately to follow the will of God (yes, called “The Creator” in the film), something most God-fearing humans can identify with. It was not the story of the film that God wanted all of humanity to be wiped out – as many commentators have asserted – but the story of a God who wanted to wipe out evil and give a righteous few (who are still sinners) a chance to begin again. That the character of Noah was embellished with human frailty is not heresy – it’s real, and perhaps the most plausible aspect of the film.
3. Adam and Eve are portrayed as beings of light.
Whether Aronofsky realized it or not, his visual portrayal of Adam and Eve as beings of light is not so far-fetched. After all, we were created in the image and likeness of God (something the film reiterates numerous times), and as we pray in the Great Doxology during Matins, “in your light we shall see light”. Those who have attained theosis during this life have been known to radiate a mysterious light. Christ Himself was transfigured into a radiant light on Mount Tabor. I think it was a fitting visual rendering that those who dwelt originally in perfect union with God were humans radiant with the light of God.
4. God’s Covenant with Noah included caring for His creation.
And by that, I refer to the initial salvo of laws concerning the consumption of meat:
“Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. 6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” Genesis 9:4-6 (RSV)
The film illustrated why Noah and his kin refused to eat meat – not out of some misguided environmentalism, but because of how meat was being eaten by the wicked men of that age (in the film there is a scene of an animal being devoured while it was still living). God’s covenant with Noah did not include any restrictions on the eating of meat, with the exception that it must be prepared in a proper manner (which we would see God expand upon drastically in His covenant with Moses). Although the film did not explicitly detail this portion of God’s covenant with Noah, it doesn’t take much to see how the vegetarian issue is no issue at all.
5. With Christians like us, no wonder Aronofsky is an Atheist.
No, Aronofsky’s Noah is not a “Christian” film. It doesn’t have an altar-call at the end. It doesn’t have Third Day songs roaring through the soundtrack. It isn’t a movie my six-year-older can watch. However, I’ve yet to see a more compelling visualization and performance of this pivotal episode of salvation history, and I dare anyone else out there with $130 million dollars to do better.
Christians who want to critique this film – or any others like it that may follow – would do well to save their criticisms for things like the script, the visualizations, the film’s score, the cinematography, but leave the “Aronofsky is an atheist and we’re going to hell for watching his movie” commentary out. Darren Aronofsky also was created in the image and likeness of God. Let’s pray for him instead.