The time has finally come for me to write a review on Aronofsky's latest film, Noah. Being a Seventh-day Adventist I am going to base my review from the Adventist world view (the Great Controversy) but even if you are not an Adventist, or a Christian for that matter, I believe my points will be, nevertheless, interesting.
Before I begin, allow me to say that I am not here to criticize Noah or Aronofsky. I am also not interested in ad hominem arguments regarding Aronofsky (which many critics have resorted to) and neither am I here to vent about how my Christian feelings have been hurt by this film. Instead, I am going to provide, what I believe, is a very relevant evaluation (not critique) of the movie.
It is at this point that I must admit that evaluating this film is not going to be easy. There was a profound philosophy that permeated the film and I wish to extract that philosophy without stretching the details or judging the motives of its director. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity I am going to divide this evaluation into three separate posts. The first (the post you are now reading) will deal with the aspects of the movie that I liked. The second, the aspects of the movie I did not like. I will then discuss the apparent philosophy behind the film and end with some personal thoughts on the significance this film has for the Great Controversy and the character of God.
Aspects of the Movie I Liked.
The Biblical story of Noah, as every other story, contains both a macro-narrative and a micro-narrative. The macro-narrative (or meta-narrative) is the part of the story that is big. It deals with themes, values, context and concepts larger than the story itself. The micro-narrative constitutes the small details that have to do with the story itself and have little impact on the overall story (such as how many sons Noah had, what wood the ark was made of etc.). In my evaluation I am going to focus mostly on the macro-narrative, not the micro.
When it comes to the macro-narrative I was honestly surprised at how well Aronofsky did. That is not to say he captured the macro-narrative perfectly, because ultimately he butchered it (more on this later). But he did capture aspects of the macro-narrative that surprised me. The first is that Aronofsky built his story on the fall of man (Gen. 3). The serpent in the Garden of Eden, the forbidden fruit, and man’s disobedience were all present and constantly affirmed throughout the movie. The movie then proceeded to explain how the fall of man did not end with a simple act of disobedience but that every fiber of mankind became corrupt so that even those who were good natured (such as Noah and his family) were still, in and of themselves, infected with sin.
Then came what I would have to consider the greatest aspect of the film: the depravity of man. Aronofsky captured this with sheer eloquence and astounding depth. The world he painted was one so full of evil and wickedness that it becomes evident to the viewer that Gods judgment upon the world was entirely justified. Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Many of us don’t ever stop to really think about what a world would look like in which the thoughts of men’s hearts are only evil continually. Aronofsky captured it perfectly. From the beginning of the film we are transported into a world where it is practically impossible to live in peace. Animal brutality, human trafficking, abductions, mass killings, pillaging, and violence are so widespread that it is impossible for good people to get away from the depravity. The selfishness of humanity is placed on display in such a fascinating and gut wrenching manner that not only does God’s judgment seem vindicated or justified, but entirely necessary. The natural world has been almost entirely destroyed. Mankind, like a cancer, has devoured everything in its path until there is hardly anything left for food and water. As a result, an already wicked race becomes so desperately decadent that Gods destruction of the planet is contrasted as the only possible way to keep the human race alive—a race which is well on its way to self-annihilation. While the Bible already paints this picture, Aronofsky skillfully (and tastefully I might add) stuns the viewer with a reality we often think little of.
There is no need for me to elaborate on how magnificent it was to see the ark being constructed and the animals entering the ark. The cinematography and artful graphics necessary to pull this scene off were spectacular. The same can be said of the actual flood. The biblical story once again comes to life when the viewer sees tens of thousands of wicked men rushing toward the ark in an attempt to get inside. As rain falls from the sky, the “waters of the deep” explode and large pillars of water come pouring forth from the ground. The world is submerged almost immediately awakening one to the cataclysmic significance of this event and rapidity of Gods judgment.
Then came a very significant scene, at least for me. The camera takes us inside the ark where all seems calm and quiet. Meanwhile, echoes of wails of the wicked lost reverberate within the hollow vessel. It is eerie. It is unnerving. However, this scene helped me to recognize the emotional and psychological effect this event may have had on Noah. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Noah and his family were negatively impacted by this event. Unlike the film, the Bible tells us that Noah and his family attempted to save as many as possible and no one was interested. They would have been entirely at peace with the destruction of a race which had rejected the offer of Gods mercy for over 120 years. However, it would certainly have been painful for them, as it was for God, to hear the fearful cries of the wicked which they had, for so long, tried to save. Could it be that events like this are what caused Noah to get drunk after the flood was over? I won’t put too much stock in that idea. After several months in the ark he may have simply missed grape juice a little too much and gone overboard (no pun intended), but it is an interesting thought.
Finally, the restoration of the world and the chance to start again is portrayed at the end of the film. The world is once again peaceful and Noah and his family start over. The viewer gets a glimpse of how strange it would have been for Noah and his family to be the only living people on earth. The story ends with the rainbow in the sky, Gods promise to never again destroy the world by means of water.
At this point I would like to inject another aspect of the film I appreciated. Aronofsky brilliantly illustrates the humanity of Noah and his family. Many times we tend to view the biblical characters as having an almost superhuman level of patience and integrity. Aronofsky therefore, does well in bringing Noah back down to the human level. Although (and I will deal with this in the next post) he goes too far in my opinion, he certainly helps the viewer picture Noah as a man of like passions, with weakness, struggles, doubts, and misplaced zeal’s that allow one to capture, even if for a moment, the incredible profundity of what it may have meant spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically to have been the man whom God elected to prepare the world for judgment and restoration.
At this point, many of you may be thinking one of two things. Either you are thinking that this film sounds amazing or you are getting ready to nail me to the wall with the terrible aspects of the movie I did not mention. I would like to encourage you to place both of those concepts to the side until the next post in which I discuss what I did not like about the film. This post only dealt with the things I did like and is, therefore, vacant of any of the severe historical and theological errors. It is those errors that I will analyze in the next post.
Image Source: http://christiannews.net/2013/11/17/new-noah-film-starring-russell-crowe-flooded-with-controversy/