I watched NOAH for the second time this past weekend and thought it’d be helpful to post one last blog article on some aspects of the film that could potentially raise questions or make moviegoers uncomfortable.
1. What’s up with the rock people (watchers)?
Likely one of the first things you’ll be talking about as you exit the theater is the watchers. These rock-imprisoned angels are Aronofsky’s creative vision for the Nephilim or fallen angels we read about in Genesis 6:4. The watchers in the film seem to by largely inspired by the Book of Enoch. The short of it in the film is that the watchers fall in love with humanity and attempt to help them after the fall. The watchers are portrayed as redeeming themselves by helping Noah build the ark and then protecting Noah and his family as they’re boarding the ark. As the watchers each die, they are released from their rock prison and are taken up into the sky (heaven?). I struggle to grasp where exactly the idea came from to ultimately redeem the watchers, but my gut feeling is this is an attempt to show the Creator acting in mercy.
2. Is the Noah portrayed in the movie a righteous man?
2 Peter 2:4 describes Noah as a herald of righteousness. Yet, the Noah we encounter in the film does things that many of us would deem unbecoming of a righteous man. So, where’s the disconnect? The important thing for moviegoers to understand is that the filmmakers are getting their definition of righteousness from Thomas Aquinas. For them righteousness is a balance of justice and mercy. In the film, they attempt to show Noah moving parallel with the Creator (God), from a place of justice towards mercy.
3. Why does the antediluvian world look like a barren wasteland?
As the NOAH movie unfolds, we quickly see that the earth looks like a polluted and mostly decimated wasteland. Chances are the inspiration for this aspect of the film is Genesis 6:11-12, which describes the earth as ruined or corrupt. The film strives to help us visualize how the violence and sinfulness of man could have had an adverse effect on all of physical creation.
4. Does NOAH have a pro-life or pro-death agenda?
I’ll play devil’s advocate on this one and suggest that the movie has a pro-life agenda. As the water is rising and the door shuts on the ark, you were probably wondering where exactly are Ham and Japheth’s wives. Shem has Ila, Noah has Naameh, but what about these other two? The answer… They were on the ark too, but they happened to be in utero. A few scenes earlier Methuselah “heals” barren Ila, who immediately runs off to consummate a union with Shem. After the ark is set afloat, we learn that Ila is pregnant. Towards the end of their voyage, she gives birth to twin girls. So, one small silver lining in this challenging film is that they do suggest life begins at conception. Of course, there’s also that troubling scene where Noah seems hell-bent on slaughtering these two newborn babies. Fortunately for moviegoers, the filmmakers are trying to have Noah parallel God in their story and at this point he transitions from justice to mercy, deciding not to kill his granddaughters.
5. Why did God choose to save Noah?
Genesis 6:9 describes Noah as godly and blameless, which is why God chose to save Noah and his family from the deluge. As we discussed in question two, it’s hard to think of the Noah portrayed in the film as righteous. Labels like godly and blameless feel difficult too. The Noah of the film is portrayed as having an extreme burden to care for and preserve creation and this seems to be why God decides give Noah and his family the task of building the ark. One of the odder features of the story is that Noah understands they are so save the innocent animals and then the humans must die out. Essentially he thinks that God is restoring Eden minus the humans. Ila speaks with Noah at the close of the film suggesting that the humans surviving was God’s plan all along as the Creator gave the choice to Noah, knowing that he’d ultimately choose mercy.
Extreme use of creative license aside, the biggest disappointment for me with the film was that God is portrayed as very distant and unknowable. God is shown as speaking with Noah through vague visions and Noah doesn’t appear to be overly confident that he fully understands what God is asking him to do. As somebody who the bible describes as walking with God, I was expecting the film to portray more depth in their relationship.
It’s been fascinating to read the varying reactions to the film. They range from praise all the way to downright hatred. Ultimately, I think we’re seeing a conflict of Christian worldviews at work here. Those who take a very literal approach to the book of Genesis, especially chapters 1-11 have tended to express concerns over the extreme license taken in the film. Less concern has been voiced by those who see the early parts of Genesis in a more figurative sense, perhaps likening it to other ANE creation and flood accounts. Personally, I tried to have realistic expectations going into the film. I knew that Aronofsky and Handel were not professing Christians, so I suspected it wouldn’t be the story I’d tell, had I been behind the camera. I enjoyed watching their adaptation of the story. As far as my belief and theology go, I’ll still get those from the Bible.
Have you seen the film? Did you love it or hate it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.