Very late review – “Noah”

There are so many exciting and inspiring stories in the Bible – wouldn’t it be good if someone occasionally made a popular film out of one of them?

Well, in 2014 someone did, a film which I somehow missed watching or reading reviews of.  This was “Noah”, starring Russell Crowe.

I don’t often post about films, because I have no understanding of the technical side of film-making: cinematography, direction and special effects.  But we watched it the other day, and here is my review, only two years late.

For those who don’t know the story, it goes like this (Spoilers alert):

After Adam and Eve sin and are cast out of the Garden, the human race is divided into the descendants of Cain, who develop weapons and cities, and the descendants of Seth, who obey the Creator and reverence creation – to such an extent that Noah rebukes his young son for picking a flower, because they don’t need it.  Some angels disobey the Creator by going to help humans, and are punished by being turned into CGI rock-giants.

The descendants of Seth dwindle to one mysterious man in a cave (Methuselah), his son Lamech, and his son Noah.  Cain’s descendants murder Lamech.  Years later, Noah has acquired a wife from somewhere and they have three sons.  They also adopt a foundling girl, whose injuries apparently do not affect her everyday life but make her barren.  Noah discerns partly by dream and partly by talking to his grandfather that the Creator will destroy all evil people by a flood, and he needs to build an ark to save the animals.  The rock-giants/angels assist, and the animals arrive by divine provision and are put to sleep.

Noah visits the evil city, or possibly only dreams he does, and doesn’t like it.  His wife intercedes with old Methuselah on behalf of the Girl.  Methuselah is an eccentric prophet/batty grandfather, whom oddly no one invites onto the ark, and he heals the barrenness.  (Methuselah may be an avatar for God; he is played by Anthony Hopkins, Odin in “Thor”, which is rather suspicious.)

The descendants of Cain attack, because they think people should choose and control their destiny, which is basically to fight.  The rock-giants defend Noah’s family and the ark, express repentance and are restored to heaven just in time before the flood.

Noah has decided that not only are Cain’s descendants evil, but so are the entire human race, including himself.  He not only refuses to rescue the girl Ham loves, but does not allow his family to save any of the people they hear drowning about them.  On learning that the Girl is pregnant by Shem, he declares that if her child is a girl, and thus a potential mother, he will kill the child to ensure that humanity dies with them.  This, he believes, is the Creator’s command.  Although horrified, none of his family take the obvious step of overpowering him and tying him up until he sees sense.

Ham has been tempted by the dark side, ie their relative Tubal-Cain, who manages to live as a stowaway for an entire pregnancy (40 days and 40 nights?) without Noah noticing.  There is some fighting.  Twin girls are born, and Noah is dissuaded from killing them at the last moment by the Girl’s singing.

The ark lands.  Noah gets drunk out of guilt or religious confusion.  Ham gives up on his father and leaves.  (This will make it more difficult for him to have any descendants by having sex with his nieces, or (bigamously) his sister-in-law, or (incestuously) his mother, who does not appear to age during the years of the story.  Maybe the film-makers are hinting that the flood wasn’t worldwide after all?)

Noah decides that maybe the Creator meant to give them another chance, and reconciles with his wife, without ever apologising for his behaviour.  Then there is a rainbow.

As I watched this, I kept wondering, “Is there a message trying to emerge from this mess?”

We should not forget that Noah does not belong exclusively to the Bible.  He features in Islamic tradition and also (I’ve just discovered) in certain non-canonical OT books such as The Book of Jubilees and The Books of Enoch.  These may explain why the film presents Noah being mocked and attacked by other people (which isn’t in Genesis) and his association with fallen angels. It doesn’t explain anything else.  The main plot seems to be pure invention, and one has to ask why the inventors decided to take it the way they did.

Our Sunday-School images of the Noah story are a fairly fun tale about animals going in two-by-two, rather glossing over the judgment angle.  The film says and shows as little of the animals as it possibly can.

The Biblical story of Noah is absolutely clear – Noah went into the ark with his wife, his sons and their wives (eight people).  It is obvious surely that God did intend the human race to start again with the good ones.  The main way the film alters its source material is in order to make this apparently impossible or difficult, by removing two of the wives, and introducing the barrenness motif and Noah’s craziness.

So after some thought, I decided the message of this film was: People are really bad and corrupt.  But don’t let your disgust or your strict religious beliefs stop you from showing mercy, especially to newborn babies.

This is a nice message.  Does anyone in the world, apart from members of IS, need to hear it?

And also… Noah decides to reject all of humanity, male and female, including himself, because of his trip to a city, where the only thing I saw any female do was be dragged off to be sold/raped.  Throughout the film, none of the three female characters do anything morally bad, unless you count praying for your daughter-in-law’s healing to be bad.  Women, according to Noah, are bad… because men are?

Noah’s views need not be the film-maker’s, of course.

Women, according to the film, exist for the following purposes: a) to become mothers and thus preserve the human race.  (Most of us would think the human race equally needs fathers… but men have other roles); b) to be the victims of men’s violence; c) to be morally right at all times, but largely ignored; d) to be completely powerless, except by appealing to men by singing (a man’s song).

As a woman, I am depressed and insulted that films as disempowering as this are still being made in the 21st century.

As a Christian, to think that this is a film intended to appeal to people who’ve heard of the Bible is also depressing.

Love from the PPI Blogger

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