Thoughts On The Noah Movie
Debbie and I went to Cleveleys today, had brunch at Cafe Cove and sat down with some trepidation to watch Noah. Overall I found it worth the investment and it sparked some good discussions and little research by me by way of follow up. I can sum up my thoughts quite simply:
A thought provoking and challenging film that doesn’t attempt an accurate re-telling of the Bible story, but does seek to confront some of issues it raises and the grisly realities of it
Although I didn’t really rate the film making, I did enjoy the overall experience. Most criticism of the film centres on inconsistencies between it and the bible. I’m afraid those criticisms don’t work for me, as few believe the bible story to be the literal truth and the bible itself is riddled with contradiction. What the movie did was get to the core issues that the biblical story is addressing and stimulate some debate. I think that’s very healthy.
Issue 1 – The Movie confronts the issue of whether human kind is inherently good or bad, or whether we are all a mix of both. In the biblical story a clear judgement is made, hundreds of millions of people are so bad that they are not worth saving, only Noah’s family is good. In the movie this issue gets a lot more nuanced:
- Noah considers even his family to be a mix of good and bad and therefore, whilst worth saving, he (or maybe God) believes they are not good enough to be trusted with repopulating the earth
- Human kind can not be trusted as custodians of the Earth and to not abuse Earth’s other the animals
- Ham (very quickly) finds at least one person amongst those scheduled to die who he considers good enough to become his wife and to help populate the Earth, Noah disagrees
- All of the family, except Noah, consider themselves good enough to repopulate the earth
- Eventually Noah is too weak to follow what he considers to be Gods direction and so he spares his baby grandchildren. He despairs at his weakness but comes to terms with it.
Personally I side with the movie on this one. I think history now supports Noah’s original instinct in the movie, human kind is still has a bad side, although as Steven Pinker points out in Better Angels of Our Nature we are getting better.
Issue 2 – Whether human kind’s real crime is against God or against other humans, animals and the planet. In the biblical story the focus is on crimes against God. In the movie a strong case is made that mans downfall was as a result of his abuse of animals, the planets resources and our respect for other people. In fact the biblical position that man has been “given dominion over the animals and the earth” is used as a defence of man’s abuses.
Again I find myself siding with the movie. As a race we need to respect each other, animals and the planet in equal measure. We are part of the whole, we do not have dominion over anything, our ‘towering intellect’ does mean we have greater responsibilities though.
Issue 3 – Whether the Biblical creation myth is inconsistent with scientific theory and fact. When considered at face value they are of course completely inconsistent. However the movie does a nice job of showing that if you re-interpret the 6 days of creation as 6 ages then the bible story works as a framework for telling the story of the big bang, the creation of stars and planets and the evolution of life. Naturally I again sided with the movie.
The movie also did a good job of dealing with the fact that it would be impossible for all the animals to survive peacefully on the ark, with all of their food and excrement for 100+ days, instead they were subject to some mystical hibernation. It also confronted the issue of where all the timber came from to build the Ark and the fact that the Ark building and animal migrations would have drawn a lot of attention and therefore some fearsome mechanism of defence for the Ark would be needed.
One final area of debate concerned the portrayal of Noah himself, some commentators made the point that the biblical Noah was a kind and peaceful man, whereas in the movie he was a driven, cruel and tough (but also spiritual).
I liked the movie’s view, to succeed Noah would have needed to be a man capable of marshalling the vast human and physical resources required to build the ark, keep all of those people motivated, safe and fed for 10 years, whilst all the time knowing that every man, woman and child in the world were soon to be ‘executed’. Such a man would need to be a psychopath (recent books claim that CEO’s and Presidents are often psychopaths it’s not so bad) which is pretty much how he is shown (driven, ruthless and lacking in empathy).
There were a few significant negatives in the film, for example I didn’t much like the way the fallen angels were depicted. Overall I recommend it for anyone with an open mind who likes to think and be challenged.
As someone who doesn’t believe in a God but is still very interested in the Bible as a source of wisdom, I particularly liked this sentiment, from an article in the Christian Post:
Religious and biblically themed movies are cultural bridges for the gospel. Whether the movie is Noah,Bruce Almighty, The Village, The Passion of the Christ, Heaven Is For Real, Exodus, Mary, Mother of Christ or The Blind Side the bridge is built for us. Why destroy the bridge rather than walking over it? The gospel travels more easily over a bridge than over a chasm.
If you want more I suggest you read this article that briefly describes some of the motivations and research that went into the movie.
I will point out at this point that I’m no biblical scholar, but did I do an hour of research before writing this limited review.
The picture that I chose for this review is of Cleveleys beach, which topped and tailed this movie going experience.