The US premiere of Darren Arnofsky’s Noah is upon us.
I have been thinking a lot about why people enjoy watching the depiction of religious figures on film. In some ways, cinema is just another medium engaging in the act of religious critique. Perhaps people watch these films to see the characters as more personable. Maybe some viewers have a white savior complex or merely wish to visually experience the human divine. The possibilities are endless and subjective.
In the past few weeks, I have seen both negative and positive responses to Noah. Some Christians are excited for a high-budget, religious film while others are more hesitant. I can already foresee the critique on skin color. (It happened with The Hunger Games. It will happen again here, as it should.) Nonetheless, I understand the skeptics’ point-of-view. People do tend to be more critical when looking something that has been classified as a religious interpretation, and many have been very quick to write off religious films as a type of marketable Hollywood fetish piece.
My biggest apprehension when it comes to religious films is an underlying fear for the actors and actresses. By becoming the face of a contentious film, they are opening themselves up to a new type of ostracism and social commentary.
Even while setting my personal opinions about Noah’s story aside, I admittedly found Russell Crowe’s thoughts on the benevolence of Noah controversial. His ideas seem to cast Noah’s character in a more “negative” light. For me, however, Crowe is making Noah more humane by recognizing imperfection. Crowe addresses “the preconceived notions” of the story and describes Noah’s task as “the worst job you could get.”
Emma Watson, who plays Ila the adopted daughter of Noah, describes the film as being similar to an “epic Shakespearean drama.” I am sincerely interested in what feminine voice and quality Watson will provide a traditionally male-dominated tale. Even Watson notes that Noah is a “dark story.” She carefully calls the film “all his [Aronofsky’s] imaginings” which points to the screenplay’s direct reliance on Aronofsky’s graphic novel, Noah. Thereby giving one reason to say that while Aronofsky’s film is influenced by the Biblical story, it is not an interpretation of the Biblical story at all, but rather a script conditioned and guided by Aronofsky’s graphic novel.
Many laughed at the film’s “untold story” claim, but Aronofsky says the film is about breaking expectations. He sought to delve deeper into the darker world that God wished to eradicate through the great flood hence the apocalyptic nature of the film. Aronofsky understood the delicate process of expanding Noah’s story, and he attempted to accomplish this expansion by surfacing the themes of righteousness and parenthood. Aronofsky immediately notes that the act of destroying creation is an inherently dramatic theme. While Aronofsky claims the film is “for believers and non-believers,” he does seem to have the “21st century [Christian] believer” in mind primarily. He described the film as not another one of “your grandmother’s Bible movie[s].”
Some critics have noted that the film carries a more environmental message than a theological one. Honestly, that just makes me want to see Noah more. I am interested in the landscape which was filmed in Iceland and the portrayal of the animals. I want to see how Aronofsky has balanced the theological with the environmental challenges present in Noah’s tale. As a side note, here’s to hoping the animators of the film actually get paid. (Looking at you, Life of Pi.)
I would like to see Noah at some point in theatres once the fuss is over and the crowds have dispersed. I can’t promise that I will write a formal review of the film so much as a meditation. If nothing else, at least there will be popcorn.