Noah has divided opinion. I can see why. It raises fundamental anthropological questions whilst playing fast and loose with biblical narrative. Not everyone likes that but I did! Perhaps a warning needs to be given. Some obvious points raised which seem to have escaped those critics who lambast the film for using artistic licence.
Firstly this film was made by Hollywood not the Vatican. It does not come with an imprematur and we would therefore be foolish to expect a neat Catholic narrative. If you seek a theological masterpiece making reference to the ark as symbol of the church, or to the waters with the dove over them as symbolic of baptism- you will be disappointed.
Second the film was made by Hollywood not biblical literalists. So if you were expecting an adaptation that simply stuck to the text, again, you will be disappointed. This is a film that plays around with scripture, introduces its own ideas and interpretation, but it nevertheless serves up some very good philosophical questions to the 21st Century. And for that I am grateful.
And anyway- you couldn’t really make a coherent biblical film about Noah! For Genesis is hazy on facts. At certain points animals arrive in pairs but elsewhere in much greater number because some are needed for Jewish sacrifice. And how could EVERY creature possibly have been present? How far did the flood spread? How did the animals not kill each other? How did they feed the carnivores? So many questions with no obvious answer. The point being that literal fact, in this ancient text, is of much less importance than the theological truth it conveys and teaches.
And that truth is presented in the film rather well. For this is set in an era before Christ. The faith has not yet been fully revealed but is still in the process of being revealed. So the main characters, though they strive to do the will of the creator, do not always understand the events they are caught up in. They do not have the benefit of really knowing God like Christians one day will.
So Noah poses the questions more than it answers them. To me as a Christian Jesus is, in fact, the answer. But the film is not about Him. It is about Noah and that all important question…and it needs to be raised. An d the question is this…
Are we human beings redeemable? Can the good we do outweigh the evil we ever seem to perpetrate? Do we deserve salvation or destruction for our sins? Can we be saved? It is a question the film poses forcibly and leads to some dark and uncomfortable moments.
At first Noah imagines he is the answer to the problem. This is easy for him. God has called him to build the ark and recreate the world with his family. It leaves him happy and balanced. This is the first part of the film, which is how the story is often presented in Sunday School and then left. We all enjoy easy accounts of the good guy.
But then the narrative and mood shifts as it dawns on Noah that he himself is a sinner. As much part of the problem as anyone else on the earth. No longer do we see a happy, balanced Noah. Rather he becomes deeply disturbed and disturbing. A fundamentalist mindset kicks in as a battle rages within his soul. Should he annihilate his own family and end it all forever? Or does he let them live and thereby leave the problem of the fall alive and kicking?
The film handles this internal struggle well. Poor Noah driven almost mad as the devil seeks to use him, the vessel of God’s work, to destroy humanity forever. It leads to a dramatic moment of awful tension which I will not speak of lest I spoil it for viewers….be warned this is Noah as you have never seen him and not suitable for young children. The film is not short on violence.
Within the film the Genesis account of creation is presented beautifully. As is this great question as to the nature of mankind and the problem of his rebellion against God. The film ends with the rainbow and the promise, unspoken, that God is with his people. What a great lead up to Good Friday then when the greatest conundrum for God and man was finally answered. When we discovered how God would bring together in perfection the need for mercy and justice as he gave his own life for our sake on the cross.
Much more could be said, especially as to the handling of Ham and his curse from his father. But the bottom line is this. It is a good film that poses philosophical and theological questions. Two people left the theatre early but all who remained to the end sat in silence afterwards. That is always a very good sign.
Go and see it but do explain to others that it contains elements born from fantasy. And at this point I must say something about the “Watchers”. These are meant to be the Nephalim (fallen ones) mentioned in scripture who are presented to us much like the Ents in Lord of the Rings. Many have grumbled that they do not play a part in the bible account. But I think the use of them was solid not least in the way they eventually show us God’s mercy.
8/10 then- a great film with a strong performances. It poses fantastic questions to spark debate but true scripture it isn’t…my own real quibble was that the clothes worn looked rather too modern. But that is a debate for another day…