Noah, a film by Darren Aronofsky starring Russel Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson was just release on March 28. Many Christian Pastor’s have been challenged to ignore the rumors and see the film. We have been challenged to abandon our narrow minded view of scripture and allow for artistic license. The argument is that we ought to support even gross distortions of a Biblical account as a means of supporting “faith based” films.
Well – I’ve seen the Noah film…and I disliked it very much. In fact, is so disliked it that I immediately posted to my Facebook and Twitter accounts an admonition to others not to bother seeing the film. I feel that the film does more than take artistic license – it distorts the Biblical text so grossly it is, as Darren Aronofsky said “the least biblical biblical film ever made.” He’s right – he would have done better to call it “Waterworld 2 – a prequel to another really bad film” and kept the Biblical controversy out of it. Of course, adding a Pseudo-Biblical slant kept it from being a 125 million dollar embarrassment.
Since then, there have been a number of comments about my review of the “Noah” film and I would like to comment on them. In short, some people take issue with Christians being too narrow minded. This film, they argue, is just entertainment, we shouldn’t get so uptight and it was never intended to be a literal version of the Biblical story. The argument can also include a subtle rebuke about being “judgmental” or, even, missing an opportunity to encourage Hollywood to make more “faith based” films…as if using a Biblical name for a main character along with a general plot point from a Bible story-line is sufficient to call a film “faith based.” One Pastor went so far as to say he was ashamed to be part of a faith community that was so easily upset. (Really? Try making a film about Mohammed and see if there is a difference in reaction from the Islamic community and perhaps our Pastor friend won’t be so ashamed to be part of the Christian community that engages in dialogue on Facebook vs Jihad)
But I think these counter-arguments to my review miss a few points. 1) My review AS A MOVIE-GOER is that this film is one dimensional, poorly filmed, nearly monotone or monochromatic…in other words, REGARDLESS of the story line I personally did not like the film-making. Several of the actors did, in my view, an outstanding job with their performance. I give a thumbs up to Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson in particular here. But when you compare the film-making of “Noah” to, say…”Oblivion” (with Tom Cruise) – both of which were filmed in Iceland – the difference in quality is tremendous in my view. Noah comes across as dark, foreboding and uncomfortable (and this may have been the director’s intention. In fact, I’m willing to bet it was his intention). This just didn’t appeal me. Oblivion came across as sweeping and breathtaking. Both films were shot in the same area but the actual film making was so much more appealing to me in Oblivion. I didn’t like “Noah” as a film first, script second.
But the second issue IS something I will comment on as a Pastor, as an evangelical, born-again Christian. It is too important to me because the truth is the vast majority of people in western culture today don’t really know what the Bible teaches in the first place. Even Christians, for the most part, are unaware in this regard. For example, the Bible DOES record Noah getting drunk after the flood but makes no mention at all of the people’s reaction to Noah building the ark – both ideas are in the film, but one is Biblical and the other is not. Many people assume much but have never really read the Genesis account – Christians included.
So…A film that purports to be an “interpretation” of the Genesis account but significantly distorts it runs the risk of planting seeds of misinformation about the Genesis account into the minds of people who are so misinformed. In other words, a subtle shift in worldview can be affected by such a film. Furthermore, the addition of elements into the film that are mythological (Magical stones, rock-monster “watchers”, Edenic seeds that magically produce instant forests, magically glowing snake skins etc) implies A) that the writer/director of the film considers Genesis to be myth and B) the writer / director wants to COMMUNICATE, through the medium of a block-buster, A-list actor film – that Genesis is nothing but myth. That’s something I don’t want to support because it runs counter to my personal views. MANY people do believe that Genesis is myth and they have the right to think so. I believe they can and should argue their points as strenuously as they like because I intend to argue that Genesis is real history just as strenuously. Many people, many very smart people with advanced degrees even, believe that Genesis is a historical account. Not everyone views the 1st 11 chapters of Genesis as unhistorical. So, while Aronofsky should be afforded the freedom to express his views my argument is that Christians ought NOT to support the dispersion of his views.
Clearly the controversy has generated ticket sales – that isn’t a coincidence. That’s actually brilliant marketing. And equally clearly – this CAN be an opportunity for discussion that may lead Christians to explain the Biblical story. That is true and I think Christians, Pastors and para-church ministries like Answers in Genesis should capitalize on this controversy.
But also true is the historical Christian belief is that the Bible is the word of God. The historic Christian faith teaches that the Bible is inspired by God, that it is true. Thus, a distortion of this story is a distortion of the revealed word of God. In fact, it could be considered insulting to our faith to so distort it. There are Christians, of course, who have a lower view of scripture – they think Jewish mysticism and even Gnostic musings from the past can accurately shed light on the Biblical text. I don’t believe this nor has this been the view of the historic tenets of the Christian faith. Many Christians today are not as certain of their view on scripture as accurate or historical (particularly Genesis) but that has not been the case for the majority of the last two millennia. So, supporting this film at the box office only serves to undermine a high view of scripture.
Now…It is acceptable in my view for the director of this film to be allowed, encouraged, even applauded for his bold use of his 1st amendment rights to make such a film. He may wish to voice his opinion that Genesis is a myth – as I have my right to say that it isn’t and that I’m concerned the mythological elements of this film do damage to the public perception of Genesis. But I think that Christians would do well NOT to support this film by paying to see it so that further attempts to belittle, distort or otherwise re-interpret the Bible would be discouraged.
Of course, the irony is that I paid to see this film – but I did so in order to speak intelligently about it. It’s not hypocrisy because I had no real warning about the film – just rumors. But this review IS a warning! What I would like to see, and would encourage Christians to support financially, are films that portray an accurate portrayal of Biblical history.
In summary, I didn’t like the film for film-making reasons and I didn’t like it for Biblical reasons. There are plenty of films out there that make no comment on the Bible that I don’t like too! But I’m no so one dimensional that I can’t enjoy a film that has religious overtones that don’t agree with the Bible either. I hope that clears up my comments.