SAN DIEGO, April 4, 2014 —Director Darren Aronofsky ’s ambitious film version of Noah and the deluge has something for everybody unless those particular bodies happen to believe in the original flood story as told in Scripture.
Although Aronofsky claims he “studied every word” in the Old Testament’s account of Noah, the results of such study seem to be as washed over as Noah’s water world.
To be fair, some of what we read in the Bible, did actually make it into the movie. The film does show a flood and Russell Crowe’s character is still named “Noah.” There’s a little more, but not much.
Since the real Noah is talked about in both the Bible and the Koran (which gives homage to the heroes of the Bible) three major faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) respect the person of Noah and accept his aquatic survival as factual history. For this reason, many amongst the diversely religious were hoping to see a somewhat inclusive movie.
It’s inclusive all right, but not for anyone expecting the Bible’s narrative to be treated with any resemblance to accuracy.
The Biblical account of Noah is found in Genesis 6-9. That’s “before Christ” for you history buffs. Still, it seems less like B.C. and more like P.C.
Politically Correct views abound, from environmentalism, to animal rights, to feminist superiority over men, to moral equivalency, to the very perception of religion itself, namely that “extreme religion” is harmful.
Atheists who like to describe the God of the Old Testament as unloving, vengeful, and bloody will be happy to see Russell Crowe portraying a Noah who views God exactly that same way.
Crowe’s Noah somehow gets the idea that God wants to wipe out humanity altogether, as opposed to removing evil people and then jump-starting the population. This means that even though Noah’s family will survive the flood, they are not to repopulate the earth. Thus, when Noah’s daughter-in-law Ila (Emma Watson) gives birth to twin girls, Noah sets out to kill them.
His wife Naameh, (Jennifer Connelly) of course, is wise enough to realize that Noah must have heard God wrong and should not commit this horrific act. Because of Naameh’s rebuke, some of today’s more radical feminists might enjoy sitting in the theater while they watch a psychotic, violent male challenged by a wiser, gentle female.
But while Noah may be loathed by feminists, he will not look quite so bad to environmentalists and animal rights activists. He is portrayed as a man who cares about the earth and the animals far more than he cares about people.
Aronofsky is not shy about this message and seems to think it matches the Biblical narrative quite nicely:
“It’s in Genesis…Noah is saving the animals; he’s not out there saving innocent babies; he’s saving the animals, he’s saving creation…..It was very clear to us that there was an environmental message…To pull that message out of it, we think, would have been more of an editing job than just sort of representing what’s there.”
Of course no environmentalist message would be complete without an obligatory concern for global warming. While comparing his movie to a United Nations climate change report Aronofsky said:
“The water is rising, and we already saw it once. We are living the second chance that was given to Noah.”
Did the flood of Noah’s day happen because early man was guilty of “warming” the earth by not being “green” enough or because God was judging man’s wickedness in general? Aronofsky’s film is somewhat vague and both reasons seem to be offered side by side without much explanation.
Neither does he explain how the world will be repopulated. Although the Bible tells us that all three of Noah’s sons had wives, only one son (Shem, portrayed by Douglas Booth ) has a wife in Aronofsky’s version.
Even after Noah decides to spare Shem and Ila’s baby girls, it is somewhat difficult to understand how two females will repopulate the Earth.
Inasmuch as it is made fairly clear that these will be Ila’s only babies (courtesy of Noah’s older relative Methuselah, played by Anthony Hopkins, who worked a miracle on the barren woman before the flood swept him away) the only other reproductive options for the two new girls would seem to be incest from father Shem, grandfather Noah, or their two remaining single uncles.
But however they plan to do it, Noah is content to view these women as the means by which God will replenish the Earth. His wife Naameh agrees and reminds everybody that Ila’s baby girls represent the fact that God always provides.
Perhaps they were planning to borrow an idea from Jurassic Park and use frog DNA to change one of the sexes. Undoubtedly Noah brought along a pair of frogs on the ark. If the frogs helped repopulate Earth, we can forgive them for not eating those 2 flies.
Such a story twist would not be much less fantastic than Aronofky’s other artistic licenses.
One of the most notable is Noah’s bitter enemy, Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), a descendent of the original Cain who slew his brother Abel.
And yet, Tubal-Cain is often portrayed sympathetically. We hear him longing to be closer to God with his question “Why won’t you speak with me?”
It gets better. Tubal-Cain actually sneaks aboard the ark while the rain is coming down. You’d think that a creative director like Aronofky would refrain from such a tired plot device. Didn’t we already suffer through a weekly stowaway on every episode of The Love Boat?
No matter. Aronofsky has his reasons. You see, Noah’s son Ham (Logan Lerman) is let in on the little stowaway secret. Indeed, Tubal-Cain tries to get Ham to turn against his father. Ham (already angry at dad for not allowing him to have a wife of his own) listens to Tubal- Cain quote from Genesis 1 where God gives man dominion over the entire Earth, including animals and vegetation.
On one level, the audience is expected to feel sorry for a man who was merely trying to honor what God originally commanded.
Still, those who are determined to find fault in the movie’s antagonist are told quite clearly where to look: Tubal-Cain’s downfall is in his failure to respect the environment as Noah did!
Two For one! We get moral equivalency and the moral superiority of an environmentalist both at the same time.
Of course, the Bible clearly states that Noah and his family were the only humans who climbed on board the ark but this stowaway scene comes late in the movie and by then all hope of Biblical reconciliation has long since been abandoned.
Nobody says that Hollywood directors should be expected to believe in the Bible. They can believe or disbelieve anything they want. Neither is there anything wrong with artistic license or historical fiction so long as the borders between fact and fiction are clearly marked.
But when writers or directors reinterpret the Bible by suggesting that its true meaning just happens (by an amazing coincidence) to resonate with their own personal beliefs about the social/environmental condition of our world today, that is another matter altogether.
Aronofsky’s co director Ari Handel says “It was very important… to not do anything which contradicted the letter of the text.”
That statement rings hollow.
Handel and Aronofsky would have done better to alter the premise and say, “Here is a reimagining. Suppose there was another planet in our galaxy which also had a flood and a man similar to Noah in some ways but different in other ways.”
It still would have been a lame story but lame stories are a director’s prerogative and that kind of science fiction alternative would have at least been an honest story.
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious obvious.
Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and columnist. Information about his radio show can be found at bobsiegel.net.
CNN News, The Hollywood Reporter, and All Christian News.com contributed to some of the hard news in this article.
A Note from Bob Siegel:
Some have defended Aronofsky’s added material by reminding us that he also used ancient texts such as The Book of Enoch and The Book of Jubilees which talk about the Watchers.
Even here, the director gets it wrong. According to these books, the Watchers were rebellious angels who took human form and had sex with human females. Their children were half angel, half human beings called “giants” or “Nephilim.”
In confusing sequences, the Noah film seems to portray Nephilim and Watchers as the same entities. They are also shaped like stone in the movie but according to Jubilees and Enoch, Nephilim were wicked beings in human form, who got wiped out in the flood . Their disembodied spirits became demons.
As you can see, this discussion gets us on to a whole different topic by opening up its own can of worms. That is why it is mentioned here only as an after note and was left out of the article proper.