Biblical story telling, Darren Aronofsky, Emma Watson, Film review, God floods the world, God punishes sin, gospel, Ham, Iconography, Inner torment, Is it OK to watch Noah, Japheth, Jennifer Connolly, Justice, Leicester Square, London, Methuselah, Mise-en-scene, Moving Picture, Noah, Noah and the Ark, Noah movie, Noah Premiere, Noah struggled, Noah UK Premiere, Noah was angry, Ray Winstone, Righteous Anger, Russell Crowe, Shem, Sir Anthony Hopkins, The Ark, theology, UK Premiere, Unbiblical Film
The New Noah Movie… and all it’s glorious controversy
Last night I had the privilege of attending the UK Premiere of the new Noah movie in Leicester Square, London – one of the perks to being a radio presenter at United Christian Broadcasters I suppose.
A few people have asked for my opinion on the film, so rather than having lots of separate individual conversations I thought I would just blog about it.
I’ve decided to come at this from 3 different angles:
From the perspective of a Film Lover
Darren Aronofsky has created a superbly epic and genuinely enjoyable movie; I loved every minute of it. (Without sounding unnecessarily nerdy) I loved the mise-en-scene in this picture. Aronofsky has an eye for creating engaging and breathtakingly beautiful scenes – there were moments when I caught myself thinking out loud; “oh wow that’s beautiful” I said on a number of occasions. The iconography was thought-provoking too – so much symbolism that I’m convinced I need to watch it again, maybe chew over it a few more times to fully appreciate all the flavours.
It’s not just Darren who out-did himself – the cast were also inspiring – their commitment to the development of each of the characters was impressive. The more I think about it, the more I struggle to identify a better person to play Noah than Russell Crowe. Emma Watson had my heart in her hands again with her engaging acting – this girl is good and she just seems to be getting better. Not forgetting Jennifer Connolly and Ray Winstone who were also both brilliant in their respective roles.
As a person who really enjoys watching a great movie I was not in the least bit disappointed, and on that premise alone I would happily recommend Noah as a film worth watching. I love that God has blessed people with creativity and talent that means I get to enjoy great storytelling through the medium of film. God is good.
From the perspective of a Bible Lover
It’s often been said that my middle name is pedantic, I’m the guy that picks up on the smallest detail and holds it under the microscope – in my mind our theology compass needs to be as close to correct as possible because if we are just a degree out then, whilst it might not seem like much, 100 yards down the road we will suddenly find ourselves way off our target and the only outcome of poor theology is heartache.
That being said I think this whole issue really hinges on what you’re expecting from the movie. Darren Aronofsky is an atheist and his desire (believe it or not) isn’t to see God glorified, his desire was to make a great movie, in fact at the premiere he talked about his passion behind making a great and provocative movie and how he’d wanted to do this since he was a 13 year old boy and in this, I believe, he has succeeded.
If you’re going to this movie in the same way you’re going to scripture – to understand and engage with the inerrant word of God then you’re going to be disappointed – but I would suggest caution if you did that with any bible based movie – films created by flawed men and women will not carry the same weight as the bible that was written by God (albeit via Holy Spirit inspired people).
Darren and team have been really clever and careful in how they’ve handled this story. In fact very little (from what I can see on first glance) actually contradicts with the short narrative we have of the story of Noah in Genesis. I say very little, although there are some minor discrepancies like the fact that neither Shem, Ham nor Japheth had wives whilst on the ark – which not only is not true to the story but also makes repopulating the earth slightly more confusing, although just to be clear Shem does have a girlfriend that comes on board.
Other than that the big concerns are not the contradictions to the Noah narrative (as I say there is very little) but on the creative license that has been used in areas where the bible is somewhat silent.
A big part of the story focuses in on “The Watchers” who are rock like characters who help Noah in the building of the ark. Who are these rock like characters? Well they are fallen angels – it seems that it’s a mild reference to the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6. Not a great deal is known or understood about the Nephilim and there are numerous theories as to what Moses was talking about here – but my biggest concern is that these fallen angel characters were depicted as good guys who were really just misunderstood by God who was quite grumpy with them – akin to a foolish parent who didn’t see what really happened between two brothers and so hands out discipline unfairly (I’ve been there a few times I’m sure… but God never has!). I’m not comfortable with the notion of branding the demonic and outright rebellious as misunderstood and really good at heart, nor am I comfortable with the notion of a callous and careless God dealing out discipline willy nilly.
Interestingly enough a lot of people are concerned because the character of God throughout this picture isn’t portrayed appropriately – “where’s the loving side of God?” people have been asking. I would somewhat side with this complaint – God is portrayed as distant in this movie, and I think the film is poorer for ignoring the Father heart of God BUT at the same time I think our generation has massively sanitised not just bible stories but God Himself. He has been and remains fiercely committed to justice and righteousness, at no point has He stopped being bothered about how we treat people on this planet of ours – I loved that this movie reminds us of God’s righteous anger towards sin and injustice.- it was uncomfortable to watch at times… I think it was meant to be.
What I think this film was particularly helpful with is bringing certain aspects of the familiar Noah story to life with a healthy dose of reality. We read our bibles far too quickly sometimes and don’t let the reality of the story affect us – Darren’s interpretation helps to put some meat on the bones. One of my favourite examples of this is the portrayal of Noah in the movie. Growing up as a child Noah was nothing more than a peace-loving hippy who liked rainbows and doves, but in reality he trusted God enough to build an ark when everyone else mocked him, he would then have had to protect the ark as well as his family when the rain started to come and the floods started to rise – this would have been difficult. Russell Crowe’s manly portrayal of Noah was a breath of fresh air in my opinion – watching him come to terms with the wickedness of man and God’s commitment to justice, whilst at the same time recognising the wickedness in his own heart and staying true to the task at hand all whilst doing his best as a dad to look after his family was moving to say the least. The way the character of Noah was brought to life for me was one of the best things about the movie.
From the perspective of a People Lover
The truth is there isn’t any film that we shouldn’t watch without a good level of discernment and sadly I think our generation is sincerely lacking it, however I think it’s possible to let God use a film like this one to stir thoughts and questions from our friends.
I’m a big believer in engaging with people where they are at – not just bashing them over the head with the bible shouting the clichéd “Jesus died for your sins so you don’t have to go to Hell”. People need to be engaged with on a personal level, on a level that they feel is relevant to them and their lives – I think this film gives us ample opportunity to do that.
This film presents us with a number of fairly hefty themes and subsequent questions that will no doubt be a talking point between you and your non-Christian friends… if you let them.
“Why does God allow suffering to continue post-flood?”
“Will God come back and judge us again?”
“How can I be saved from judgement?”
What a phenomenal opportunity you have to unpack the story of Noah and show them God’s glorious grace. How easy it could be for us to can bring Jesus into the conversation; Jesus Christ the truer and better Ark. The one vessel who carries us safely through the storm, the one vessel who endured the beating of God’s righteous wrath against all our sin, whilst keeping us safe – hid within, the only way for us to experience and enjoy new life after the flood.
From the perspective of a film lover I thought it was superb, from the perspective of a bible lover there are cautions, but lots of good too and finally from the perspective of a people lover I whole-heartedly recommend engaging with this film and more importantly engaging with those people in your life who don’t yet know about rescue from judgement that comes to us in Jesus.