“Noah” – obscuring the the golden thread

Yesterday I completed a three week project of writing a bible study on Genesis 1-11, and the reward I gave myself for completing it was to see “Noah.” The interest was natural enough! I had been forewarned by general criticism that the movie was, in part, a response to climate change and our treatment of the planet. An exploration of an old, old story for light on our current dilemma. But this did not jump out at me.  (Spoiler alert – this review exposes most of the movie)

Although I found it a well-crafted movie with strong acting from the four leads, it leaves me grieving. It has ever been thus from the very beginning of my Christian journey in 1975. The grief is about such a sad depiction of the human/God relationship.

God is depicted as the inscrutable God of existential Jesuits in old Japan, or at least as I then read about them in a novel. He is the always out-of-sight far off authoritarian who never communicates personally with the missionary – just leaves him to agonize his way through a cross-cultural life’s challenges, including martyrdom.

Noah, the person, has that kind of “where are you God?” agonized relationship, and it never improves. His help from God is indirect – through his great, great, great grandfather, Methuselah, a kind of Star Wars, “Yoda” figure here. And then of course there are “the watchers,” a little like the Ents in Peter Jackson’s the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Only, these are angels who came to guard over Adam and Eve after their fall but now forced to live in makeshift rock bodies as a punishment of God for their disobedience.

For some it will seem ludicrous, but the watcher legend is there in old writings to unpack. The script enlists these creatures to help Noah and his family especially in the building and safeguarding of the ark.

Noah, the man, is also a depiction of religious fundamentalism – bending the tragedy of the judgment of God over a whole planet to mean that he and his family deserve to die too, but after obediently saving the animals. Thus, he determines they will die! So just as he built an ark to save the animals, he will see to the end of the human line, because, he reckons that he and his family can only bring more disaster upon the planet. Noah believes mightily that this is in fact God’s plan, affronted, as Noah is, by unnameable evils that we see slip by us very quickly in the city of Cain’s progeny, Tubal Cain.

Noah plans to kill girl children at birth and let the boys die, as they will eventually, without progeny. This is the plot line that creates the drama on the ark, and the climax of the movie. It also interprets Noah’s Biblically reported drunkenness as a coping mechanism after such a long period of stressful adventure/misadventure, involving his family, and the stowaway violent relative, Tubal Cain.

So, if you come from that place of experiencing the personal compassion of Christ in real times in real places, you might be observing that it’s a twisted plot line, very dramatic and attuned to Hollywood success, one that owes much of its story to Jewish midrash and the Targum.

Now, there is nothing wrong with going in that direction – the filmmaker being Jewish has every right to give an interpretation of that event far back in human history. The Hebrew Bible by contrast provides very terse and simple lines to note its place in the unfolding of human redemption. It is very hard to build a Hollywood script from that alone.

But, for “Noah” to unfold in this way, it misses, as it must, the golden thread that unifies Hebrew/Christian scripture – a thread that upends the sense of Creator as distant, ethereal and tyrannical God, but rather weaves us into his compassionate and personal redemption of mankind, his concern for people like Noah that prefer good to evil, but are indeed trapped by evil. And this redemption begins with the promise of a child king, born of a woman, at the fall.

Hebrew and Greek scriptures lead us unwaveringly to the child, Jesus of Nazareth, who grows up to be crucified then resurrected as the rightful Lord over heavens and earth (a Hebrew merism for “universe”). When understood in its physical actuality, His resurrection changes our view of where life is found.

This source represents God who communicates person to person through his Spirit, a Spirit that has been to hell and back, deeply immersed in the affairs and fortunes of mankind throughout history, and amazingly, you and me.

So there is a cultural cringe at work in this movie to take the story line off into what Christians will universally identify as a fatally flawed representation of Christ, the Creator.

And that is why I find it sad that for the next decade or two, this over-large blockbuster interpretation will inform western culture about Noah, without linking it any way to the promised redeemer of mankind that came through Noah’s son, Shem. Rather there is a tired Hollywood fall back – a lone hero’s choice between the love of his family, and the violence of Cain.

Near the end of the movie, the drunken Noah hates himself for preferring love, until he comes to his senses and experiences a pulse of rainbow rings, like cigar rings, from the sky above. Are they the distant God’s affirmation of his choice to be fruitful and multiply? We are left to decide.



~ by cgilbertlpmedia on April 24, 2014.

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