Monday, March 31, 2014

Sight Unseen

I'm a firm believer that one need not see a movie to be able to dismiss said movie, sight unseen.  One does need, in these cases, to depend on the knowledge and judgement of reliable sources with a similar world view.  I've read two full reviews of the movie Noah, both written by Christian reviewers with a similar world view to my own.

Steven Greydanus, is a highly respected Catholic blogger and reviewer.  He gave Noah a rave review for it's artistry and vision and attempted to allay the fears and criticisms of the many Christian voices warning Christians to stay away from this one.  He not only wrote a review of the film, but also a follow-up of sorts detailing and defending the most troubling aspects of the film. You can read his review and follow-up here and here.

Popular Christian blogger, Matt Walsh, had a completely different take on the movie and the questions he raised regarding the film led me to believe I certainly do not want to support the makers of Noah with my money or my time, regardless of the artistry, regardless of the intriguing theological questions it might provoke.  You can read his full review here.

There are many problems with this movie, but I'm only going to expound on three.  First, I found the way in which Russell Crowe and Aronofsky very publicly and bizarrely lobbied the Holy Father and the Vatican to screen the film to be odd and off-putting.  You can read part of Crowe's Twitter campaign and the controversy over the film makers meeting with Pope Francis here.  If you have the time, you can scroll through Crowe's Twitter feed and read the entire self aggrandizing, "Come on Holy Father, it's a wonderful movie" self promotion.  I have read it, and it turned my stomach and unfavorably colored my opinion of Crowe and the movie.

Secondly, the director Aronofsky, is a professed atheist. That being said, I don't believe his being an atheist is necessarily an impediment to his making a faithful Biblical film.  It is his unabashed bragging about being an atheist that calls this ability into question.  His own description of the film makes me question the film's value.  He was extremely proud of the fact that this film is an environmental crusade film, describing the wickedness of men leading to the deluge as being the  wasteful negligent destruction of God's good creation.  Don't get me wrong.  I am a firm believer in good stewardship of the earth, and that we should care for God's creation with prudence.  It's the constant Hollywood barrage of environmentalism that I find really annoying.  We get it already.  For goodness sake, I feel guilty if I throw something in the trash that can either be composted or recycled.  While the finished film is a bit more even handed with regard to environmentalism, it is the director's own promotion of the man Noah as being "the first environmentalist" and his proud declaration that his film is the "least biblical biblical film ever made."  Do we, as Christians, want to support this?

My final issue is the most significant for me, and has to do with the portrayal of Noah, himself.  As a Catholic, I am aware there are aspects of the Bible that should be taken literally, and aspects of the Bible that are more stylized and symbolic and are not to be taken literally.  The Biblical Noah story is one that has both literal and non-literal features.  One detail I believe should be taken absolutely literally is that God spoke directly to Noah and expressed his wishes to Noah for the Ark in a very clear way.  The film depicts God's revelation to Noah as a dream or hallucination left open to interpretation by Noah, leading to conflict and confusion.  The second important detail regarding Noah's character is the Bible clearly describes Noah as a righteous man; as the only righteous man on earth,  otherwise, why save any of humanity?  This does not mean Noah was flawless or unfallen, but that he lived his life according to God's Will to the best of his ability and righteously.  Aronofsky's Noah is a dark, angry, morose man, who at one point threatens to kill his unborn grandchild, if she is a girl. Neither of these aspects of the film reflect the Biblical Noah, and I find the depiction to be very troubling, bordering on sacrilege.

As a review by someone who has not seen the film, my recommendation is to stay away, if only to keep from financially supporting the makers of this film.  If you feel compelled to see Noah based on it's artistic appeal and to form your own opinions on it's merits or flaws, wait to see it on Netflix and please, let me know if I'm far off base.

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