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….
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."