No, it’s not an exact replica of the
Biblical account. (That would be
difficult to do, anyway, because there appears to be a couple of different
versions conflated even in the scriptural narrative, such as, in Genesis 6:19,
Noah’s supposed to bring two of every kind of animal, but in the next
paragraph, in Genesis 7:2, it’s seven pairs of each.)
So, at one level, you just decide how you’re going to tell the story,
and go for it.
It’s a curious story, anyway.
Despite the many sweet children’s Sunday School lessons about Noah
saving the animals (and yes, I still gleefully sing “Arky Arky” on my
guitar with my own Sunday School children’s class), and the colorful rainbow
afterwards with God’s promise (kids can use every crayon in the box!),
there’s a distinct negativity brooding over this whole disaster epic.
Yes, the “real” Bible scholars will tell you about the Gilgamesh
epic, and how there are flood stories in other ancient cultures.
They’ll also tell you that this epic, like the “
” narrative, and indeed all of Genesis 1-11, has a “legendary” kind of
feel to it, whereas, the Abraham cycle, beginning in Genesis 12, appears to
signal the beginning of the “historical” narrative.
I will leave that debate to those who read Hebrew better than I, but
that knowledge also means that as a practicing Christian, I don’t have to
insist on a literal rendering of the Flood, anyway, even though I still
maintain a high view of scriptural authority. Apparently,
this movie has already been banned in certain Muslim countries because of an
allegedly irreverent treatment of one of their prophets---Noah is also named
in the Koran. But of course,
secretly loves this, because you can’t pay for that kind of publicity.
But it is true that this movie creates a
Noah character that’s not exactly saintly.
Russell Crowe is a veteran, talented,
actor, and his strong, brooding, he-man, aggressive, patriarchal kind of
portrayal of Noah itself makes for interesting conversation about what kind of
man Noah actually might have been. Here
he develops his urgency about building an
from his deeply disturbing dreams. He
lives in a context where the culture surrounding him really is dark and evil,
and given over to utter violence and disrespect for human life, not to mention
the rights of women, kind of like we think of certain parts of the world ruled
by rival, warring gangs or tribes: cruelty is rampant, life is cheap, and
there is nothing resembling kindness, compassion, civility, or religion.
Noah, by contrast, regularly speaks of
“The Creator,” and raises his family---his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and
three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, to respect The Creator, and to care for
the creation, like good stewards. But
this little peace-loving family is decidedly in the minority, and we wonder if
they’re just going to be overwhelmed and overtaken by the seemingly
unstoppable chaos and violence all around them.
Maybe even before Noah can get the big boat built.
Here’s where the writers (Ari Handel
and Darren Aronofsky, who also Directed) get really creative.
They parlay the brief mysterious mention the of Nephilim (Genesis 6:4)
into a set of giant fallen angels, seemingly made of rocks, but still able to
roughly communicate, and they, as a sort of penance for their rebellion, are
charged with providing security for Noah and his little family, protecting
them from the pagan mobs. Hmm. I
suppose it’s possible; it’s just that the Bible doesn’t say.
Nor does the Bible say that Noah took in
a female refugee (Emma Watson), who later married one of his sons (the Bible
actually says that all the sons already had wives, and they all went in the
ark together: Genesis 7:7). But
that’s a minor quibble. Overall, this
movie credibly uses the great CGI technology now available to realistically
depict both the animals’ migration to the ark and the Flood itself.
True, they show Noah wrestling with his own demons, which is at least
hinted at in scripture (Genesis 9: 20-29).
But overall, this is a whiz-bang
movie that’s great fodder for Sunday School class discussion.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,