Friday, April 4, 2014

Noah Movie Analysis & Discussion Part II - New Life

This is part two in my three-part series on the Noah movie. This is also probably going to be my favorite post of the three because it involves what I thought was the most powerful and moving theme in the film… new life.

Aronofsky, whether intentional or not, made his characters into symbols. Noah represented obedience and stewardship, his wife Naameh represents mercy and nurturing, and so on and so on. Since this is a story about new life and rebirth, of course a character would naturally represent that too, that was Ila played by the lovely Emma Watson.

Ila is the girl who would become Shem’s wife. Of course she isn’t mentioned by name in the Bible, Aronofsky created her, but she represents so much of the importance of the story and it works beautifully in the film.

Noah and his family come upon Ila when she is a little girl. She has been badly wounded and is the last survivor of her group who were killed by Cain’s descendants while out scavenging. They decide to help her and sort of adopt her into their family. They heal her wound, but as it was a deep abdomen wound, Naameh points out that she will never be able to have children.

This is the first beautiful moment with Ila showing us one aspect of the Creator that He has passed down to us: adoption. We are adopted into his kingdom the same way Ila was brought into their family. They saved her life and gave her a new one just like the Lord does, it’s a beautiful picture.

Years go by and Ila grows up. As time draws nearer to the flood, she begins to feel set apart. She loves Shem and wants to remain his wife, yet she feels inadequate and unworthy of the role because she is barren.

She comes to Noah in a scene asking him in tears to find a new wife for Shem, one that can give him what she thinks he deserves, a family. Noah then reaches out to her in love and tells her that when the first found her he thought she would be a burden, but as time went on he saw that she was a gift, a beautiful gift.

But later Noah starts to go down a dark and merciless way of thinking. Because of how wicked the world is, he decides not to find wives for his two youngest sons and also decides that when they die, humanity ends. No more children no more generations. He becomes so sickened and grieved by the world that he thinks the Creator has asked him to end mankind completely.

Now this is where people began to freak out. Noah couldn’t possibly want that, right? I mean this isn’t in the Bible… what’s going on here?

People are forgetting that the Bible shows only what is most important information, it doesn’t always give the details on the inner struggles of the people. How can any of us claim to know what Noah felt or what  he was going through spiritually? He could very well have been struggling with this issue. Aronofsky  just chose to tap into what Noah MIGHT have been thinking or dealing with. He was just a man after all.

I don’t know why my fellow Christians are so upset about this. They have this picture in their head of Noah the saint in a long white beard gently sending out doves. But Noah, like anyone, wasn’t a saint! He wasn’t without sin, he wasn’t without bad choices, struggles, or wrong thinking. I am dumbfounded as to why people can’t wrap their head around that. He was capable of anything. Aronofsky’s Noah is devoted completely to his mindset. He truly believes the Creator wants all of mankind to be wiped out forever. This adds to his cynicism and takes away his hope. It is not so far-fetched to say that Noah may have actually been this way.

But Naameh resists his thinking. She doesn’t believe that this would happen so ruthlessly. She wants to see her sons marry and have children. She wants legacy to continue. She fully represents and fights for mercy.

Naameh goes to Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather and the only other person they love and trust) and begs him for help in dissuading Noah from his mindset and to turn his heart to hope and mercy. Methuselah knows he can’t do that, but he also is tricky and finds another way to break Noah’s heart open. Methuselah represents the Creator in many ways. He is mysterious and you can’t understand his ways, but he loves the family he created and guides them in that love toward their destiny.

Methuselah goes out to pick some berries to satisfy his "craving" (he was funny too) and just so happens to stumble upon Ila in the forest. As she approaches him, he says that he never got the chance to give her his blessing as part of their family. He reaches his hand out to her scarred abdomen and she is healed. She doesn’t fully understand what has happened to her, but she knows it was something important. She runs away to find Shem so that they can *celebrate* this healing.

Methuselah was working as the Creator would. He brought life out of barrenness. The universe was made from nothing and man was made from dust. The Lord in His power and glory brings life out of places where life is impossible.

The flood comes and they dwell on the ark. Close to the end of the 40 days of rain, Ila starts to feel sick. Naameh realizes she isn’t sick, she’s pregnant. Joy fills the family.

However, when they tell Noah he is horrified. Blinded by his misunderstanding of the Creator’s plan he tells them, if the child is a boy he will live, but if the child is a girl who could potentially become a mother and create more people. She will have to die at birth.

This is a terrifying and gut-wrenching time in the movie. And I think this is when many people turned off their listening ears and simply got angry. Noah wouldn’t do that! This is all wrong! But as I mentioned before, do any of us know what Noah was really thinking? Were we there? He could very well have believed that this was his calling and his faith was so strong nothing would shake it.

This causes natural unrest and conflict within the family. The rains stop but as it says in the Bible there was then 150 days of waiting for the water to recede. During this time Ila’s pregnancy develops further and tension mounts waiting for this child to be born and what will happen when they are. Ila’s water breaks during an intense scene, the moment of truth comes.

Now I want to stop and say this movie was a shining moment for Emma Watson. I have always liked her but she tends to stick to roles revolving around teeny-boppers and nothing truly all that challenging in my opinion. Ila, was definitely a challenging role and Watson showed her quality. Her performance was so vulnerable and authentic.

When she delivers not just one child comes, but two. Twins! And they are both girls. Their joy is cut short when they realize what is going to happen now. They go into defense mode. What I really loved here was tha Naameh tried to show Noah that the Lord provided for them, something he was forgetting. By giving them two daughters they were provided a way to bring new life to man again. It was so obvious, but Noah, like so many of us, was blinded by his misunderstanding and couldn't see the truth. 

But there is no running from anything on this Ark. Noah and Ila meet face to face on the roof where she holds her crying babies and Noah pursues with a knife in his hand. In tears Ila says she knows she cannot stop him but begs that he let her calm them down so that they don’t have to die crying. She then begins to sing the same lullaby Noah sung to her early in the film. This really choked me up because I wondered what the point of that song was. I knew if it was in there it had to have a point, and when I saw it come back at this moment it was breathtaking.

Noah makes his move and tells Ila she shouldn’t have to see this, but Ila protests that she will hold them until it is done. Noah raises his knife, and the struggle is all over his face (a mind-blowing performance from Russel Crowe, by the way). He raises… raises... and then….

A kiss.

Noah stoops down and kisses the foreheads of his granddaughters. It is over.



They now have reached land and then comes the memorable scene from the Bible of Noah getting drunk and being found naked by his sons. Noah was sad, but I don’t think it was because he couldn’t kill the children and therefore end mankind – which is what some people are saying – it was because he was *gasp* depressed. Yeah, Noah was a human, WOW what a concept! After going through everything they just did and then struggling inside and out for the last 200 days, I’d be depressed too! Noah was just a man, in his sadness he did what most men do, he turned to drink, but shortly after realized it wasn’t the way. The Bible never really states WHY Noah got drunk, so Aronofsky was making an educated guess. It’s really not that complicated.

After he recovers, Ila asks Noah why he spared her daughters. It was love. That his heart was full of love for them.

I knew this was coming and that Aronofsky wouldn't have missed the most important part of the story. Mercy out of love. I think it’s sad so many people are missing the point. The whole world deserves death, but God shows mercy through His love. Ila points out to Noah that that is why he was chosen. The Creator gave him the choice and knew he would choose life, he would choose love, and start again.

The final scene of this film is just glorious. The family stands together on a mountainside and Noah dedicates his grandchildren saying to them what God said to Adam and Eve in the garden, to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth. Noah finally understands the Creator’s plan for this new earth and a rainbow stretches across the sky. I seriously had goosebumps for the last five minutes of the film. Everything was brought home to a place of future and a hope. 

Thanks for reading and sticking with me for the longest of the three posts, but it’s also the most important. Part three will come soon all about Tubal-Cain and "the rest of the world."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Noah Movie Analysis & Discussion Part I - Our Strength

Wow, Darren Aronofsky's film Noah seems to be the hot button topic of the day. The controversy and the heated debate from every angle can definitely deter you from wanting to see the film, but I hope you won't let it. Noah is absolutely a film worth watching, but I must warn you if you do... this is NOT a film that can be taken at surface level. If you are looking for a verse-by-verse or a historically accurate presentation, look elsewhere. This film is 100% symbolism.

Aesthetically it’s also like nothing I’ve ever seen. Filmed in breathtaking Iceland, the high contrast, hostile yet beautiful environment was perfect for setting the tone of this story. The music was exhilarating composed by the master Clint Mansell. I am currently listening to it as I type.

I loved how there was an excess of stars in the sky, aurora borealis, and otherworldly beauty and color as it would have been since Noah’s time was far nearer to the time of creation than we are. The sky looked like it was just days after God finished His great work. This was an absolute genius move by Aronofsky. I wouldn’t have thought to do that, but it makes perfect sense. It made you really feel like you were in the time of newness and our world was indeed about to be born again.

The costumes and people were more medieval than ancient, but I thought that was a really neat artistic choice. It nods to the Medieval Dark Ages look to represent another time of minimal intellectual and spiritual enlightenment later in history. Again I state, if you want something to be an accurate play-by-play this isn’t for you, but if you are open to reading between the lines you will get far more out of not only this film but every film you watch hereafter.

This post is first in a 3-part series of blogs I am doing on the film. I feel like so many people have completely missed the real point of this film (or missed the boat! Dun dun duuunnnn) and even though they may still not listen, I feel an urge to share an analysis of this film in the hopes that people will at least think about it. I feel like all the upset criticism is based on a completely surface-level, knee-jerk reaction. This is a film that cannot be received that way. 

A little personal insight.... I am a Christian Believer. I believe in the Word of God with all my heart. Though Noah is made primarily by people who may or may not believe and it is not at all a literal presentation, I can tell you it represents the truth of the Word of God at its core.

The first point I wish to discuss in this post is the symbol of strength and provision presented in the film. This is a very strong theme that occurs start-to-finish. This is also one of the top three missed-the-boat themes. 

I have read many reviews where people are upset by what they saw as a push for veganism and an environmentalist agenda. They do have a point... if you are looking at the film literally on the surface, it would indeed appear that way. However, if you look deeper you will see there is more to it that just that. 

In one of the earliest scenes Noah and his two eldest sons go to gather food. His son wants to pick a flower because it's pretty, but Noah tells him not to. Basically implying that the flowers are there to be enjoyed and they are only to take what they need. Basic provision.

Soon after they run into the descendants of Cain who are hunting a creature for meat. When the sons ask why those men eat meat, (implying that Noah and his family do not), Noah replies "Because they think it makes them strong. They forget our strength comes from the Creator." 

Now let’s stop right there. That line alone is blatant symbolism if I ever heard it. Noah wasn't making a point about them not eating meat because of the poor animals or because of some health thing, he simply says that these men have forgotten where their strength comes from. The Creator. 

Noah has raised his family well. They are a family that waits and trusts in God to provide for their needs. The descendants of Cain savagely consume and overthrow anything in their path to meet their carnal desires. They do not trust for provision or share with each other or others, they live off the strength of men alone, and of course that is not strength at all. 

In one very unforgettable scene, Noah goes to the village of Cain's people to try and find wives for his two youngest sons. Here we see them trading in their poor, frightened daughters as sex objects or slaves just for meat. They are treating their own kind like "a piece of meat" with little regard to life or value of those around them. There is no respect for creation or obedience of the Creator. It's brutal, it's carnal, it's sin. And the sin was just that, their disrespect and disobedience, not that they were eating meat. Now it could be true that maybe Aronofsky threw in a bit of the vegan philosophy too intentionally, but it wasn't the definitive point. 

Repeatedly throughout the film we revisit this theme of respect for creation. It is not some environment-worshipping idea, it's something every living person should adhere to: respect. To have reverence and awe in your stewardship over everything you are given. To not seek ownership and glory over things that ultimately do not belong to you and were given to you in Grace. This includes everything from the earth, other creatures, and your own family. 

I could see where people could conceive of a notion of animal glorifying or environmentalism also when Noah refers to animals as “the innocents.” But right away it’s explained why they are called that way when Noah’s son asks why they are innocent, little Ila responds, “Because they live as they did in the garden.” And in truth, they do live as they did in the garden. Animals don’t live under the same banner. Only us, creatures created in God’s image, could therefore have the power to rebel and sin. So in that way Noah was right, the animals are innocents. It’s not some save-the-earth campaign, it’s just the truth.

Additionally, if they need to protect the animals to repopulate they would kind of HAVE to be vegan while you were on the ark. 

Noah sees everything as a gift and has a respect and wonder for all life. He is intentional and has gentleness towards all things and a regret when he has to be harsh toward anyone or any thing. This is of course with the exception of the portion later in the film when Noah makes some bad decisions and starts to lose his head, but I will discuss that part two of my posts regarding Ila and the symbol of new life and Noah’s struggle to understand the Creator’s true will and plan for him.  

Until the next post your homework is to see the movie and listen to the amazing soundtrack. Here is the hauntingly beautiful song from the credits...