Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah - my contribution to the battle raging

Lisa and I decided on a last minute date Friday night. I wasn't sure if I would get to see Noah this weekend. So when the opportunity opened up, I jumped. I also knew that people would want my opinion.

I've already posted a few comments on the movie. If you have seen any of those, you know I have a very positive opinion of Noah. I've gone so far to say that it is more of a Christian movie than other films released by Christian distributors. I'll get into the why of that as I go along.

One of the reasons I was very interested in seeing this film was the amount of anti-Christian rhetoric that was being leveled against it before it was released. I started hearing the Ultra-conservative opinions being formed against the movie before the media screenings. That means these opinions were being formed before even seeing any of the content in context. But I have to confess, I also had my pre-conceived ideas about the movie.

Months ago I saw some early blurbs on some things that would be included. I was worried that the movie would go way off the rails. Some of the early hints included the more "imaginative" elements that Darren Aronofsky included. That kinda made me nervous. I do take the Bible very seriously as a literary piece, a narrative of generations of people throughout history, and as the inspired and authoritative word of God. I also take efforts to translate the Bible to different media very seriously.

At that point in the information release process, I wasn't as interested in seeing the movie. I was thinking I could find something more interesting to do with my time and money. Seriously, Captain America 2 comes out next weekend.

When I heard the complaints about the movie beginning to pile up, I started to form a different opinion. I usually take a position in opposition to the growing sentiment. That may be positive against negative, negative against positive, or maybe just a "let's wait and see" position. The more opposition I heard, the more I felt this movie couldn't be nearly as bad as certain voices were saying it was. So I was ready to go into the movie with a positive opinion. If only to spite the judgmental voices.

I went into the movie with a notepad and pen ready. That was the first time I've ever done that in a theater. And my beautiful wife had plenty of head shakes for that. Let me also say that taking notes in a darkened theater can at times be a challenge. But I wanted to mark the scenes that stood out in my mind on the first time through.

Noah was a great movie. There were hardly any moments that lost my attention. It was engaging. It was beautifully done in terms of technical effort. The plot never got weighed down. The actors injected life into the characters. Overall, it was a movie worth watching. But most people reading this want to know about the biblical content.

I would love to be able to claim status as a biblical scholar. I am not. I have a fair knowledge about the story of Noah and some fair understanding the background of the Bible and how it came to be. One thing that seems to have been forgotten about the story of Noah (and perhaps the most important thing about the story) is that it is a prehistoric story.

Tradition tells us that Moses imparted the story to someone and it was written down. Moses lived centuries after what would have been the Noah event. In fact, in terms of narrative you have to journey backward through 400 years of Egyptian habitation/slavery, the entire line of Jacob/Isaac/Abraham. At that point you have to deal with the lineage passages that includes multiple generations between Terah and Noah. Prehistoric means that the events occurred before a written record preserved the story. All of the book of Genesis falls under the definition of prehistoric.

When you read the story of Noah, you find that it is a little thin on details. We don't notice the lack of details though. We have heard the story recited, acted out on screen, or even filled in the details with our imagination. We are sometimes shocked when we go back and carefully read the story. We are confronted with the filler that we have assumed. Even though we fill in the blanks, we don't consider that to be wrong.

The story of Noah has many comparable stories from other cultures. There has been an effort to synthesize all of these stories to prove nothing unique about the Noah narrative. There may be some similarities but the Noah story has a unique point of view regarding Yahweh's relationship to humanity.

What does all of this have to do with the movie? Everything.

Aronofsky created a movie built on the biblical narrative skeleton. All of the elements of the familiar tale are present. In many ways, Aronofsky chose a literal and simplified telling of the tale. For example: there are only two of every animal to repopulate the earth. There are actually two passages related to animals. The first is the male/female of every animal to repopulate. Then there are seven of each clean animal compared to 2 of the unclean. To simplify the movie, only the male and female are shown.

In the interest of telling an engaging story, certain liberties were taken. We know nothing about any of the characters. We don't know their personality or how they related to one another. Without these interpersonal and personal traits, the characters will be wooden and uninteresting. There are also some narrative elements that are connected with no previous connection. The inclusion of Tubal-Cain and Methuselah were liberties but both characters are biblical and bring some interesting storytelling elements.

One of the biggest problems I've heard from people is the Watchers. According to the movie, the Watchers are angels cast from the presence of God for their desire to assist humanity in their plight. Because of their willingness to disobey God, they are cast down to earth. In the process of crashing into the world, their glorified forms become fused to the rock. They become rock protectors of Adam's descendants. They become an interesting narrative tool in the movie. But they have no precedent in Scripture. Or do they.

There is a passage of Genesis that introduce the Nephilim. There is a mystery surrounding who these are. Some have filled in the blanks by describing them as the children of angels and humans. The only other place where the Nephilim are described is in connection with Goliath, a person of enormous proportions and strength. Someone who is beyond human ability. It seems strange to say the Watchers are a figment of imagination while allowing the Nephilim the freedom to exist as supernatural beings.

The Noah movie is not anything more than a talented and visionary film maker creating a story based on the source material that is provided. Aronofsky has taken the biblical story and told it with style and flair. He may not have used the typical or traditional imagery. But he has been faithful to the story. And that makes it worth watching for Christians.

That isn't what makes it a Christian movie, though. But that will come later.

Post a Comment