- The effusion of Flood/Deluge/Destruction by water stories worldwide should lead us to agree there was an actual great Flood event.
- Our view of the Biblical narrative has been skewed by Enlightement/Modernist thinking
- We need to return to understanding the Bible/Scriptures in terms of Story – where the core theme is expounded over and over again with each ‘teller’s augmentations contributing something of themselves as well as God and potentially improves on the initial telling.
- The truth expounded in Story is deeper and “truer” than fact because is speaks more directly to our hearts and souls. So let’s not be so protective of the “facts” of a story or event and instead let’s focus on what the story is about ; what is it teaching us about our world, about us and about God and what (if anything) do we then need to do about that….
- because if the telling of a story does not result in Praxis/action, the storyteller has failed. (another reason why a story is the most effective way to teach/bring about change – because it has engaged us on all levels of heart and soul as well as our mind, we are more likely to be motivated to move ourselves to grow)
So what is it about the latest retelling that brings something new to the table? Is it a truly biblical retelling? I would say, on the whole, that yes it is. Because the augemntations, the additions and new ideas brought to the telling by Aronofsky and the screenwriters are ones that although they stray from the Genesis account still elucidate ideas that are at the core of our faith and at the core of the biblical message.
It’s not a perfect retelling. There is of course room for improvement, but again, that’s what story is about, appreciating the good and weeding out the bad for your own turn at telling the story, and then seeing the next person take the baton from you and taking the beauty and wisdom of the story further. So no, I didn’t like the emphasis on “being a man” and the women being a tad ‘wet’ (pun not intended) and a little too dependant on their men to rescue them. I wasn’t keen on the whole “eating veg = good, eating meat = bad” sub-text, it’s lazy storytelling, untrue and well, I just don’t like veg! 😉 My only other complaint (apart from Russell singing, after Les Mis I vowed never again did I want to hear that) is the the way poor Ham gets treated. The top and bottom is that he gets a pretty short shrift. We already have Tubal-Cain as a very good antagonist and his presence very successfully presents an alternative view of God and mankind, there was no need to introduce further conflict into the story via “Ham the rebellious one”. Historically Ham has always drawn the short straw – and as for his descendants….well there’s the whole “curse of Ham” thing which is really the curse of Canaan and has been used as one of the defences for the enslavement of the African races and segregation. If you want to know more about that dark episode of Christian History just google ” curse of Ham” and have your mind boggled and eyes opened – and perhaps join me in repentance on behalf of our forbears….
So those are my negatives of the film – what about the positives? Well I must say the positives, for me, far outweigh the little niggles I had.
The story as a whole hangs together well and is structured carefully and in a way that balances realistic motivations with the fantastical/miraculous elements. The careful scene setting in the first half of the film successfully conveys exactly how bad the situation is in reagards to Mankind’s depraved behaviour. We see over and over again more than anything the selfishness evidenced through random and baseless violence. And this is not only violence against each other but the utter disrespect shown to the earth itself – God set us as Stewards to care for this planet, instead every resource is simply taken without thought or sense of responsibility. All this is to help us accept as fully as we can the necessity of the destruction of Man and the need to start again. And it’s the starting again that’s important – the fact the God loves us enough to not give up on us as a species – His constant offering to us of a way out, of “salvation”.
What about “The watchers” the Fallen angels who help build the ark? They seem to be an amalgam of the Nephilim briefly mentioned in Genesis 6, the gholam Legend Of Jewish Lore and the Dwarves/Giants of Northern Mythology. They’re never supposed to be the same “fallen angels” that followed Lucifer into rebellion – they’re an entirely separate entity. What they do represent (from my view) are a few biblical/spiritual principles. I loved how it was the earth itself that corrupted the beings of light into ugly lumps of stone – the earth itself having been corrupted by the actions of man – thus showing us in visual form the symbiotic relationship between mankind’s actions and the earth and the spiritual realm. As for them helping Noah build the ark, it certainly makes sense, and it shows us that God is prepared to use any tool – even corrupted ones – to further His plans, for here, without the help and protection of the Watchers, the ark and God’s salvation plan would never have come to fruition. And what about the denoument of the Watcher’s part in the greater story – their redemption and return to heaven? Personally I found it heartwarming and completely in synch with God’s heart for all creation – there is hope for even the most desperate and corrupted of creatures; or perhaps their corruption was only ever outward – throughout they still display a devotion to God despite their feeling that he abandoned them or was punishing them – and the fact that it is through the sacrifice of their lives in defence of others that finally opens the key to their return to heaven…. well if you’re not sure that that is a theme/idea running through the entire biblical narrative – I suggest you have misunderstood much of the word you have been reading.
As for Tubal-Cain, he’s a purposeful entry, transposed from a passing reference earlier in the Genesis narrative to provide a dramatic foil/antagonist to Noah and family. He’s more than just a bad man, he’s a remarkably well rounded character who seems to understand more of his own nature and God’s nature than a one dimensional bad guy might. The views he expounds on God and on man’s place in the universe are opposed to the ones that Noah (and for the record I) hold, but I actually like that when he’s talking it’s not in a “twirling my moustache, tie you to the railtracks” kind of way – it’s presented as a valid view to be considered. And the “subjugation” view is one that’s hard for those used to power to easily dismiss – and one that many professing to be Christ’s followers would also espouse.
His view that God simply created this world then hopped off on a holiday is another that many people would hold; it’s the one where we must look after ourselves for no-one else will do it, but God intervenes at so many moments in history – this being one – that this is simply a view that cannot hold up to scrutiny. Tubal Cain sees the Creator as an incompetent boob who has no interest in His creation – and so he (tubal Cain) must be the one to take control, to protect the people, to be the king. But we see his form of kingship is one based on violence and fear, suppression and control. That’s why for me the most perilous moments of the film are those that show a possibility that he will survive and infect the new world with his utterly terrible ways. Those moments where he escapes on the boat are an essential part of the story however, for it shows us that in every new start, because of the total depravity of man, we take with us a small part of our old and corrupted selves – he is simply a metaphor for sin itself. And as mankind we can never shake that on our own, and through all of God’s interventions in history, the small vestige of our old selves remains – even through Jesus miraculous rescue mission, for those who follow Him are manifestly aware of the constant battle within between our new Christlike selves and our old sinful selves. This battle will end the day our creator takes us home. Then we can finally say farewell to Tubal Cain and throw him off our Salvation Boat.
As for Noah himself – I have no problem with the way he gets God’s message – dreams and visions that are somewhat ambiguous are pretty much God’s general stock in trade. And that he gets part of the message garbled… well the history of God’s people shows that we’re all guilty of that – and sometimes what we think God is saying is the opposite of where His heart is, rather like our Noah who thinks it’s God’s will to murder babies…. He’s not the only follower of God to make that mistake, and unlike Noah, some of those men and women have actually gone through with it. The fact that he’s a flawed, angry, sometimes selfish man just adds to the Magnanimous and awesome Grace of God. This guy is a complete Mess – and God still loves him, still saves him, still uses him to bring His Kingdom that bit closer.
And so of course, the end of the story greets us with the denoument of a rescue, the great salvation; new life and a new start. And of course the promise of a Rainbow. Of course this is not an exact replication of the genesis narrative, we shouldn’t want it to be, and if we are to learn and grow from each re-telling, it mustn’t be. But it does transmit the truths of God’s heart, it does show us the continuing and ubiquitous message that God Loves us no matter what – and he will continue his salvation story to the end.