Saturday, April 5, 2014

Noah by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, and Niko Henrichon

Noah is in imaginative retelling of the well known Bible story. This has been a labor of love by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. The story takes place in a bleak landscape, this ante-dilluvian world is no paradise. The ground no longer produces food and the inhabitants are vicious. Led by their king Tubal-Cain the society is depraved and violent. In the midst of this unpleasant world we find a righteous man: Noah. After he receives a vision from God (in the book God is called The Creator) Noah and his family leave their home and go off to find a safe place. Along the way they rescue a young girl who joins their family. Of course everyone is familiar with the main parts of the story. Noah builds an ark and his family, along with the animals, are saved when God destroys the world.

As I said, this is an imaginative retelling. This book was adapted by the authors from the screenplay. There are a lot of interesting points about this book. First of all it is not a simple rehash of the Bible story. There are many additions. At least I don’t remember rock giants in the Bible. This should not worry the reader. While the authors have taken a great deal of liberties with the actual narrative they did maintain the important themes of the story.

The primary theme is sin and redemption. The first row of panels show the fruit being eaten. The second row shows the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. The world of Noah is bleak. Man has misused the planet and its resources. This misuse has caused drought. In all of this there is only one righteous man. Noah is not a flawless man. Early on we see that he has a temper. Noah has visions that involve the destruction of the world. He goes to the capital city to warn the people. He is ignored and physically thrown out. After his message to change and repent is ignored Noah comes to believe that God wants to destroy the human race completely. Now God does not say this anywhere, this is Noah’s assumption.

This is the central theme of the story. Sin has ravaged the planet and judgement must come. This is not some simple environmentalist story as some have said. People are not bad because of the environment, rather selfishness and greed have led to the destruction of resourced for personal gain. Noah’s assumption that God wants to destroy mankind is wrong. God doesn’t want to eradicate man. Rather he wants to restart creation. In fact Noah is the only one who could be taken as an extreme environmentalist and he is shown to be without compassion and almost in danger of losing his own humanity. This extremism is shown when he tries to kill his own granddaughters because he is afraid that they can keep the human race going. His own actions lead him to be isolated from his family as he goes off to live in shame. This is one of the great moments of redemption in the story. It is his daughter-in-law who brings him back to the family. Even though he tried to kill her children she still shows him love and returns him to the family.

In the end Noah may not be a faithful retelling of the Genesis story, but it is a wonderful examination of the themes of sin, judgement, repentance, and mercy. Most of all it is a story that should make people think and talk about the subject. This is what any great story should do. Pick this up and read it. Then think about it. Then discuss it. 

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