Friday, April 11, 2014


Not too much plot spoiling here because the story is well-known.

Russell Crowe scowls through almost every scene of this re-imagined biblical myth. He is a dark, brooding character, haunted by the feeling of a mission from his god but never fully clear what it will be. Each step of the way is revealed to him in dreams, symbolic moments, miracles and developing perception. His grandfather Methuselah has the power of vision and healing at his command and touch and is the patriarchal consultant for the whole family.

In that way it is more in keeping with the way people feel they hear God today. No voice from heaven but a need to act on hunches, consult the wise, and interpret these in terms of obedience/disobedience afterwards. Although Noah gets a good dose of God's special effects with very good CGI.

This Noah does not expect to repopulate the earth. Indeed he feels compelled to make sure this will not happen, leading to conflict with his own family.

It is a classic battle between good and evil. In order to provide some narrative tension we have a stowaway on the ark and much made of Ham and Japheth's concern that they have no wives. The biblical narrative simply describes the occupants of the ark as Noah and his wife, his sons and their wives (unnamed). By the end we see how the film thinks this might happen. It is a bit awkward for us. All the pre-genesis 12 stories take liberties with the table of kindred and affinity (if you take them literally).

Andreas Whittam Smith, writing in The Independent last week, said he was disappointed that it was not 'a literal reading of the ancient accounts'. He was looking for ark design tips, survival techniques and final-resting-place solutions. None of these questions are answered by the Bible so how a literal reading could have helped him is beyond me. Furthermore, in using the existence of fallen angels - the film calls them 'Watchers' - director Darren Aronofsky has solved the problem of how the ark's occupants manage to hold back the crowds of potential boat-crashers. He also invents a sleeping gas which solves the many questions about animal behaviour on board.

Myths and legends raise many questions of detail; we are not meant to worry about their precise answers. We are meant to be concerned about questions of selfish human behaviour where every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts might be only evil all the time. And if there is a god how such selfishness might be perceived.

The Bible wants us to be fruitful and multiply in peaceful co-operation. And this early agenda is strictly vegetarian. This film asks serious questions of those whose industrial behaviour robs the land of its non-renewables. We watch three endings in effect. The rainbow is there but we are not given its biblical meaning. Ham marches off but we are not told he is to be the father of the Canaanites, or how. Noah is seen by his sons, drunk and naked but we are not told how offensive this is in such a culture.

Our lovely friends at Damaris have made some fantastic resources to go along with the film and use it to explore the truth.

Enjoyable escapism with a lot to ponder.

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