Posted by Jameson | Posted in Film | 12/16/2013
To my fellow believers. I would love to write to you in a time of great rejoicing to say the biblical epic of Noah as we all learned in Sunday School will soon come to life on screens around the world. Unfortunately, such is not the case. So, dear Christians, I regret to inform you that Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” is not for you. Do not cling to the false hope that it could be the next revival film – it will not.
I’m writing this for a simple reason. We, as Christians, tend to believe that stories in the Bible in some way belong to us, ‘God’s people’. They do not; they are stories which we happen to know best and nothing more. I am not inferring they are not divine or inspired – I believe they are, but the stories in the Bible belong to the human race. Noah is no exception. The story of Noah is not only a story of the Bible; it is actually one of the oldest written stories in the world appearing in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Quran as I was recently reminded by a friend.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen premature criticism of the film, speculation about the script and comments suggesting that Russell Crowe might just ‘not get who Noah was’. Admittedly, many of these thoughts are with good reason. I’m not so much disagreeing with them as I am saying they are entirely misplaced.
Let’s first dismiss the notion that Russell Crowe somehow ‘misinterpreted’ the character of Noah. He is quoted in an interview on Noah as stating ‘he’s not benevolent.’ Remember Mr. Crowe is acting from a script and not the Bible, but even as such he would be quite right. Noah faced perhaps the single most difficult decision of any human in history. He was asked by God to set right the trajectory of humanity by allowing the non-faithful to wash away. Whether or not those individuals received ‘chances to believe’ is irrelevant. God’s intent was made clear from the beginning, but in the end ‘not benevolent’ had very little to do with Noah’s faithfulness.
The story of Noah is dark. It takes place during a brutal time of history when things were evidently bad enough for God to hit the reset button. It is violent. This is a story that deals with borderline genocide. We often forget God could be so intense in the Old Testament. It is a story of ridicule, mockery, hard labor, self-searching, survival and the question of insanity all wrapped up into the mind of one man.
THIS is the side of Noah we will see through the course of this film. Darren Aronofsky’s films have traditionally emphasized spending time in character’s heads – often times indistinguishable from reality. Aronofsky has directed a grand total of 5 films since his 1998 student thesis ‘Pi’. Each one of these films are dark, they are rare observations into the psyches of people who are dealing with various obsessions. ‘Pi’ tells the chilling story of a young man struggling to make sense of chaos. ‘Requiem for a Dream’ follows various addicts through their dealings with drugs. In ‘The Fountain’, Hugh Jackman’s triumvirate characters struggle to find eternal life. ‘The Wrestler’ follows the downfall of an ailing wrestler and his attempts to make amends. ‘Black Swan’ is the story of a prima donna ballerina who fights to understand the difference between good and evil, reality and hallucination as well as relationships and isolation.
Historically, it has been challenging for Aronofsky to receive funding for his films. He is known for his stubborn manner of holding fast to screenplays and not accommodating studio feedback and changes – something that doesn’t typically fly in Hollywood. Aronofsky is quite frankly one of the smartest filmmakers alive today – so much so that he often alienates viewers. I do not make a habit of recommending Aronofsky’s films because they are brilliantly troubling and I have not earned the right to make that call on behalf of someone else.
In short, Darren Aronofsky doesn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t owe God an accurate portrayal of Noah just as his goal is not to appease the masses (at least that isn’t important to him). Darren Aronofsky has set out to do one thing: tell the story of Noah as he sees it. This is not selfish ambition on his part. It is a desire to remain true to his art and tell stories the only way he knows how; and make no mistake – he is a master.
Do not expect a movie entirely about faithfulness. Do not expect a movie about a clear message from God to his people. I can not say with 100% certainty what we will see from Aronofsky in ‘Noah’. It may be a film about environmentalism, betrayal, family, insanity, murder or all of these things. Does Aronofsky want you to go see this movie? Of course. Does he care for your critique and analysis? Probably not. He is telling the story as he sees it – and who are we to say otherwise?
So, dear Christians, here is what I expect:
I expect to be challenged. I expect to writhe in my seat. I expect to be conflicted. I expect to find faults and discrepancies. I expect to be confused. Darren Aronofsky is not making this film for me, so I will not feel safe and reassured. At least not until the promising rainbow at the end of the film. If there even is one.