Faith & Film: Noah

“Noah” is one of the more bizarre movies I’ve seen in a long time. Writer-director Darren Aronofsky could have called it “Noah Meets the Transformers”!

The Transformer-like creatures that appear in Noah are apparently Aronofsky’s interpretation of the obscure passage Genesis 6:1-4, which immediately precedes the story of Noah and the ark. In this passage, the Biblical author refers to “sons of heaven” who mate with the beautiful “daughters of men” and created the Nephilim, who were “heroes of old.” The footnote from my New American Bible describes this passage as a fragment from an old legend, accounting for a race of giants and introducing the theme of moral depravity, leading to the great flood. Noah and his family come across these curious creatures, who are menacing at first, but then befriend the family. If you’ve ever wondered how Noah and his small family built such a large ark, Aronofsky suggests that the Nephilim/Transformers did a good bit of the work. They also protect Noah and his family from the depraved people in the region, who are descendents of Cain.

In Aronofsky’s version of the story, Noah has three sons, one of whom (Shem) is married to Ila. In Genesis, all three are married. Shem’s wife is thought to be barren, due to an injury she received. Noah takes this as a sign that God (in a nice touch, Noah calls God “Creator”) wants the entire human race to die out. Noah’s mission was to preserve plant and animal life during the flood, leaving Noah and his family as the last humans. When they died out, the human race would be finished, leaving earth to animals and plants, which never disobeyed God. When Ila turns up pregnant, Noah has another dilemma on his hands. Does God still plan for the human race to die out?

Genesis reports that God made a covenant with Noah, along with his sons and their wives. Clearly the sense was that the sons and their wives would continue the human race. So, once again, Aronofsky’s version deviates from the Bible.

In Genesis, Noah also communicates with God. One of the aspects of the movie that I liked is that God is silent. Noah tries to understand and do God’s will, but, despite his efforts, God does not communicate with Noah. Who hasn’t felt God’s absence at some time in his or her life? As interesting as this subplot is, it has no basis in Genesis; in the Bible, God and Noah seem to communicate well.

A further odd deviation from the Biblical text is a stowaway sneaks on board the ark. Of course, he is up to no good, and tries to turn one of Noah’s sons against him. This subplot seems to have been created by Aronofsky to create some tension, as if the destruction of the world wasn’t enough!

“Noah” is well acted by Russell Crowe in the title role, Jennifer Connelly as Naameh, Noah’s wife, and Emma Watson as Ila, Shem’s wife. Anthony Hopkins does a cameo as Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather, who lives on a mountain and acts as a spiritual guru to Noah and his family. But good actors can’t make up for this movie, which seems as adrift as the ark in the flood.

Tom Condon, OP