In Defense of Noah
Ron Seifried | On 08, Apr 2014
There has been a considerable amount of backlash toward Darren Aronofsky’s adaption of “Noah.” Most of it is unwarranted and underserved. Cinematic biblical stories have never been true to the source material, but many commentators gloss over these facts and distort an artist’s interpretation to enflame potential clickable ratings on their websites & cable news shows for personal gain.
There is nothing wrong to promote a personal viewpoint as long as words are not twisting what a filmmaker is trying to express.
Noah is a big budgeted PG-13 film about mass genocide, corruption, morality, survival and love opening amidst a sea of explosive tent-pole spectacles based on a sliver of the greatest story ever told.
Noah is not a masterpiece, but it is an important film that should be discussed. There are no superhero capes or masks, no sexy outfits with revealing cleavage.
It is compelling and at times beautiful. But with any adaptation, complaints abound that the movie is not as good as the book. Despite the 100+ years of Hollywood’s book adaptations, whether fiction or non-fiction, the amount of content in the written word will never be equaled on the big screen. This is impossible and most importantly, impractical. If you go into “Noah” with a personal viewpoint on how the Ark looks or how the story moves forward, you will surely be unhappy with the results.
But “Noah” is not for the deeply religious who don’t normally go to the theaters. Paramount Pictures is in the business of making movies, and therefore needs to generate a profit and satisfy its shareholders. With a reported budget of over $150 million, “Noah” is the most expensive biblical film ever made. For this reason alone, it needs to appeal to a mass audience. The cast of Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson is equal to a superhero summer blockbuster.
Director Aronofsky and his co-writer Handel explained in interviews that this telling was their version of a midrash, a Jewish tradition of filling in missing parts of a story with one’s own personal imagination, but staying true to the general theme of the text.
Part of the outrage is that the filmmakers have taken certain liberties and swayed too far from the original text, thereby creating an alternate universe with a separate timeline. Then again, the Bible did not have a script consultant on staff to check the dialogue.
One of the most ludicrous complaints is that the word “God” is never uttered. The reason for this is the name “God” was replaced by “Creator.” The Creator is constantly mentioned by almost all of the major characters inside and outside the Ark, leading one to believe there were no agnostics or atheists ten generations after Adam and Eve. The Creator is mentioned so much, one can argue he should get equal billing to Russell Crowe. There is no voice of the Creator, but the presence is certainly felt throughout. The lack of a George Burns or a Morgan Freeman notwithstanding, “Noah” may have the most powerful version of the Creator ever put on film.
“Noah” also takes place in a time before God reveals his name to man, which by the way was not God.
God created us to use our imagination, and “Noah” is one pure example of believers successfully utilizing this skill. Where the text leaves certain aspects of the story out, the filmmakers researched many other ancient flood stories from different cultures to fill in the gaps. Is this creative license going too far? Perhaps. But if the story is not adjusted, the film will be much shorter and not as interesting.
Moving away from the Sunday school song and Noah building an “arky, arky,” Noah is a conflicted man who needs to make tough choices throughout the entire film. He is very much loved and respected by his family, but he is not entirely righteous. Without giving away any spoilers, the film’s Noah resembles more the other flawed patriarchs of the Old Testament than the scholarly old man with a white beard most of us grew up with.
By complicating the personality and soul of Noah, we become more connected with the man who saved the Earth and better understanding his thought process. We can now relate to Noah as a loving, yet imperfect man.
I already know what happens at the end of the story, but I remained firmly planted in my seat to see what will happen next. Try that with one of the myriad of remakes Hollywood is churning out today.
The visual imagery is stunning with muted colors and fantastic special effects. The animals entering the Ark was believable and moving. Taking a visual cue from Peter Jackson’s tree Ents in “Lord of the Rings” or Michael Bay’s “Transformers,” we get rock giants in place of the Fallen Angels. This may push the story toward a more graphic novel twist, but the Angels are never cartoon caricatures and their own back-story and redemption is as moving as the devastating flood.
And what a flood. Aronofsky does not overstay his welcome to the world of big budgeted effect shots. For me, two visuals were breathtaking during the flood, and one takes place inside the Ark without any water. For a story that centers on the destruction of humanity, the visual and aural combination of Noah telling of God’s creation in an intimate setting with his family is both beautiful and terrifying.