For everyone unaware, Hollywood’s next big biblical epic is coming out next year. Darren Aronofsky (director of Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream) is set to release Noah in March 2014. With a star-studded cast, including Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson, this marks a return of the serious, big-budget films that explore the biblical stories for a new generation. I have loved the epic biblical movies of yesteryear, such as The Ten Commandments or Samson and Delilah, and more modern retellings, like The Bible miniseries, so this new film makes me very excited. If you haven’t checked out the trailer, you can see it here.
However, not everyone is excited for this film. I started my day this morning with an article by a fellow Christian railing against the danger of Noah. As the rest of my post is going to be refuting this article, you should probably go read it first:
Now, I have several issues with this writer’s challenge right from the start. The author claims that he has “various sources” who have given evidence that the film is not biblical. I am skeptical of such vague claims about the source of the plot points he attacks later. Without knowing who these people are, I have no way of knowing their intentions, or even their qualifications for judging the biblicalness of a film. Are they film critics, biblical scholars, or just a couple of crew from the film who are harbouring because Aronofsky took the last cucumber sandwich from craft services? I have no idea. Yet, for the sake of argument, we will continue as if the following claims are true.
I have no idea what the inter-personal relationships are going to be like in the film, but I would bet quite a lot of money (if I was the gambling sort) that much of the dialogue is not going to be taken from the Bible. Before my conservative friends get upset, let’s have a look as to why. In the entire Flood story, from Genesis 6 – 9, only one person says anything at all: God. After Noah is told to build the ark, the Bible tells us “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” (Gen. 6:22) God then gives Noah directions about which animals to bring on the Ark, and we are again told, “And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him. (Gen. 7:5) Not exactly riveting cinematic material.
If Noah adds characters and interpersonal issues for dramatic reasons, we should not jump to the accusations of “unbiblical.” The artists are merely telling the story in a different way than the Bible has. We will return to this idea in my conclusion.
The issue of Noah’s character, again founded on vague details like “Noah said essentially…” is also hard to build a strong case for. In Genesis, we are told that Noah was the only righteous man of his generation, but we are also told that he passes out, drunk and naked. The first words recorded of Noah’s are curses against his son. Definitely a person of complicated spiritual and emotional well-being. The author of this article seems to balk at the idea of a mentally strained Noah, but I believe there is evidence that the patriarch may have been affected by the ordeal.
After a staggering list of unsupported claims about the plot and trivial detail differences, the author attacks the editors for the “con-job” they have pulled by stringing together enough of the film to make Christians and Jewish people willing to see the movie. This theory makes the filmmakers seem far more sinister than I think we can accuse them of being. Even if it turns out that this movie has very little in common with the biblical story, every trailer editor has the job of making the movie seem exciting and worthy of our fifteen or twenty bucks at the theatre. Of course they want us to be excited to see the film, because Noah needs to make money or else Aronofsky will have to stop making movies.
Finally, our friend asks if we want our children and families to watch a movie that inaccurately portrays such a pivotal part of the Bible’s narrative. My answer is yes. I want my kids to know what the world is saying about our faith. Am I worried that they will be lured away from the true account into believing what Hollywood tells them about the Flood? No, because I am not leaving the spiritual education of my children to Hollywood. It is my job to instruct my kids in the truth of the faith. When they see this film, they will know how the Bible tells the story.
This should be true for all Christians and Jewish people. If you are leaving your spiritual formation to big screen movies, you may need to start afresh. I don’t think a retelling of the Flood story is going to lead any away from God.
As for those who do not know the story, I believe that this movie could be a huge blessing. After watching what appears to be an epic film with an incredible story, perhaps people will go “read the book.” I did that with The Hunger Games, so there is no reason to expect this situation to be any different. And anything that gets more people reading the Bible is good in my books.
In the end, this is a question of the place of an artist in telling God’s story. Are we allowed to change details for dramatic effect? How important is the number of Noah’s sons for the Flood story? In the context of the Bible, you can argue that it is very important, for each son’s lineage is traced further in the book. Yet, in the Flood story, the important detail is that Noah and his family were saved by God for His purpose. The number of animals, the size of the boat, the opposition that the family faced are all secondary to the main idea: that God saves. If this is captured, then the story is told.
Actually, my only qualm about this film so far is to be found on IMDB. Under genre, Noah is labeled as a fantasy. I understand that to a secular person this may be considered true, but to the faithful, this is a little insulting.
But people are making good art about God. Perhaps this should be celebrated and not condemned. If we do that, maybe we will see more good art about the Creator in the future. Maybe.