Noah written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel, directed by Darren Aronofsky (Paramount Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Protozoa Pictures, PG-13, 138 min)
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Douglas Booth.
Ever since I heard the announcement that Darren Aronofsky would make a biblical epic, I’ve been giddy. Darren Aronofsky, you see, is one of my favorite filmmakers. He has a tendency toward bringing light to the dirty aspects of humanity and exposing it for all of its flaws. Knowing Aronofsky’s style, I fully expected Noah to move me deeply, to revolt me, and to display the shades of gray we all experience in life.
Despite many protests from Christians about its accuracy, Noah follows the general arc of the biblical epic. Before you start throwing tomatoes, I recognize there are items of the story that aren’t consistent but I maintain all these arguments about the historical inaccuracy of the film is to miss the forest for the trees.
The Antediluvian World
The film begins with a young Noah about to receive a birthright blessing from his father. During this message, we learn about the deeply depraved antediluvian world where resources have been maxed out and life looks to be solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.
Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family exist as a small remnant of those who cherish the earth, seeking to live within it rather than exploit it.
During an intense dream, Noah feels judgment upon humanity and the impending doom of all people. Seeking more detail, he journeys to find his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins). On the way, he encounters fallen angels, dispatched from heaven and imprisoned in stone. These “Watchers” sense something different with Noah and seek to help him.
Upon finding Methuselah, Noah gains the clarity he needs to discern his dream. The world will be destroyed by water and God has called him to build a boat to protect the animals in a new Eden once the stain of humanity drowns in the waves.
As Noah begins his task, his heart is heavy, as he knows he and his family possess the same depravity that inflicts all humankind. If the curse applies, is not judgment also necessary?
On Evangelical Backlash
While I expected backlash from Evangelical Christians, I’ve been surprised at the absolute horror they all seem to express. For starters, the source material would never be long enough for a feature film and inevitably additions are necessary. While I admit Aronofsky strays from the source in certain instances, I would contend the general thrust of the story remains.
For these critics, I think worst of all is the depiction of Noah’s internal conflict. Many want a black and white character and Noah has every shade of gray imaginable. But Aronofksy’s choice to create a conflicted character brings out Noah’s humanity. We understand Noah and we feel like we’re in his shoes because our lives are gray. We don’t always know what the right decision is in business or in a relationship. We aren’t always 100 percent positive about where we should go, or where God calls us to go.
The gray goes far beyond Noah in the Old Testament. Moses encounters the wrath of God when he refuses to circumcise his son. David, a Man after God’s heart, lusts after a woman, commits adultery, and has the woman’s husband murdered. Lots of holy characters in Scripture encounter inner turmoil. And yet the story moves forward.
Lastly, many have expressed concern over the environmental motif in Noah. Noah and his family represent a green ideal, a group of people seeking to live within nature rather than exploit it to humanity’s needs. Theologically, the Noahic Covenant that occurs after the flood provides the foundation for the principle of Creation Care—that God charges humanity with the responsibility of stewarding nature rather than dominating it. There are streams of thought in Christian tradition that ignore or actively disagree with this idea, but it is a valid position and I’m glad Aronofsky frames the film along those lines.
Noah moved me, revolted me, and allowed me to empathize with the despair of an unwinnable position. Well recommended, provided you go into it knowing what to expect.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5