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The Key To Watching Aronofsky's Noah

Noah movie.jpg

My family saw Noah on Friday. Didn't plan on it, but decided last minute to take it in. I just wanted to get out of the house after a week of illness. It was a good decision. 

A lot has already been said and a lot more will be said about Darren Aronofsky's new film. I recommend you check out Greg Thornbury's take, which is my favorite so far. I won't rehash most of what Thornbury has already said so well. Ben Witherington's post is worth reading too

I'm going to keep this simple.

As a whole, I'm pretty disappointed with the way Christians are viewing the film. The whole of the conversation is in the wrong place. We are talking about Aronofsky's fidelity to the biblical story and all of its pieces. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's not wrong to bring up that he takes liberties, makes some changes, etc. But it's wrong to stay there and make that the issue. Making a film is not teaching a Sunday School class. We aren't merely critiquing his sermon. Yes, films have meanings and make points. But we should be talking more about what Aronofsky's saying and less about what we should want him to say. If you want to go make your own Noah film, feel free. This one isn't yours and we should ask ourselves as we view it what he's trying to say to us. You don't look at a painting and say, I wish she would have used more yellow, or narrower strokes. You say, what is she saying?

Now, if you saw the movie and don't like it, ok. Whatever. I'm not saying it's the best movie ever. I'm not saying it changed my life. I have no dog in this fight other than my experience with the movie, which was a very good one. I want more folks to watch it, discuss it, talk about art and truth and film. We need to do a better job understanding and talking about art.

So here's my simple point. Don't miss it.

There's a key to watching this film. I found it very naturally. But the ridicule it's receiving tells me not everyone is. So I'm going to just put it out there and change the way you see everything in Noah. The key to watching, enjoying, understanding, and loving Noah is the Rock People.

Mind blown, I know.

If you don't know who the Rock People are, stop reading. All reading and no watching makes Johnny a dull film critic. And Christendom seems to be blooming film critics with every drop of rain who have a lot to say about the film they didn't see. 

Aronofsky has found something Tolkienian (Treebeardian) to help his story. I don't know what he intended to do with the Rock People other than to bring some role to the Nephilim. But primarily through the Rock People (as well as other touches of the magical and fantastical) Aronofsky shows that he is blending the true story with a stylized film. He isn't merely telling of a time before the flood when the world was different. He's telling of no time in particular. He is also telling of all times and all places for all people. He's creating a fiction aggressively borrowed from a biblical text and it has enough meat to make us think about real truth and enough magic to make us not sit and steam with our arms crossed. 

What the Rock People do is say to the viewer, You thought this might be merely an historical film, but it's a lot more about thinking about life in general so I'm going to throw something unbelievable and otherworldly at you so you can suspend your disbelief enjoy to enjoy Aronofsky's version without recoiling over differences with the biblical version. 

By the way, the Rock People are actually interesting ideas for characters. They aren't Jar Jar. Don't miss the forest for the, uh, rocks.

Aronofsky has done us a solid. He not only has made an interesting and provocative movie, he's opened up this opportunity to talk about the movie, his vision and message and art and our vision and message and art, with our neighbors. As long as we cluck our tongues because he can't figure out Noah's sons had wives on the boat we will miss the depravity so dark, the wrath and justice of the flood, and the wonder at what it must have felt like to actually be any of their shoes. 


One additional comment. The first half of the film, up to Noah telling the creation story on the ark, is the best half. I could go again and just stop at that point. The story he tells and the way it's shown on screen is a delight. I was on the edge of my seat. I like the second half too, but not nearly as much.

I recommend you go and see Noah. I loved it. Never has our family had so much enjoyable discussion after watching a film.