In case you’ve spent the past couple months deliberately hiding from movie news and Christian blogs, let me fill you on on something:
Last weekend, a movie based on the Biblical account of Noah hit theaters.
It was made by an atheist.
And there were several occasions where the movie differed from the story in Genesis.
The latest film from Darren Aronofsky has managed to inspire the collective ire and admiration of Christian bloggers, movie reviewers, speakers, and podcasters all over the internet. As I type the rough draft of this blog, Noah has been in theaters a grand total of two days, and I’m already sick of hearing about it.
That’s why I’m not going to be writing about Noah right now. That and the fact that I haven’t seen it yet (It’s funny how many people have managed to form an opinion about a movie they haven’t even seen). Instead of writing about the movie itself, I’ll be writing about the response to it. Specifically, the negative response.
I know. I’m responding to a response. It’s sickeningly meta.
Granted, I haven’t read every single negative review of Noah written by a Christian, but most of the ones that I have seen can’t seem to get past the fact that things happen differently from how they happen in the Bible! These complaints swing from the obvious – like Noah getting help with the ark’s construction from the Nephilim (or rock monsters if you feel like making Aronofsky look really out there) – to the slightly more subtle – like God speaking to Noah through visions instead of through audible words.
These reviews bothered me, but I wasn’t sure why at first. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out discrepancies between the film and its source material, especially when the source material is the revealed word of God. I went on reading negative reviews and becoming increasingly angry and increasingly perplexed by my own anger…until I found a review that wasn’t completely opposed to the whole movie.
It was refreshing to find a review from someone who, unlike all these negative reviewers, didn’t sound like he went into the movie wanting to hate it. He still pointed out that there were some major deviations from the text, but he also acknowledged that, in spite of these deviations, the movie still communicated many of the same themes communicated in the account found in Genesis.
That was when the light went on for me.
So many of these negative reviews just couldn’t get past Noah‘s inability to stick to the facts of the story. You almost get the sense that these reviewers wouldn’t even consider looking into the deeper themes of the movie unless it was a word-for-word adaptation of the true story in Genesis. They got so stuck on these surface-level plot devices that they couldn’t move any deeper into the heart of the film.
They got so lost in the facts that they forget to look for truth.
And facts and truth are two different things. All facts may be true (though some may be misleading), but not all truth is found in facts.
One of the best literary examples of this concept is C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You know the story – a group of siblings find a magical world on the other side of a lamppost. It’s been winter there for a long time, but there are rumors that a lion – the lion – is on the move, preparing to set things right. This lion finally shows up, only to allow himself to be killed by a witch who had set herself up as queen. But death can’t hold this lion, and as he returns from the grave, new life comes to this magical world.
Is any of that factual? Of course not.
But how much of it is true?
Obviously, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is written as an allegory, so these truths are going to be a lot more obvious and didactic. Still, I don’t think it would be completely out of the question to be on the lookout for some of these “fact-free truths” in Noah.
There are plenty of good reasons not to see Noah – Aronofsky’s fondness for putting the darker parts of humanity on display in deeply unsettling ways comes to mind – but I’m not sure the story’s lack of Biblical accuracy is one of them. Because there’s this really cool thing that everything that isn’t the Bible has in common.
You get to pick and choose what to accept.