Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Noah

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:Non-explicit sexual references and situation, implied nudity
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking and drunkenness
Violence/Scariness:Disturbing images, peril, chaos, characters injured and killed, dead bodies, violence, attacks, sexual assaults, girls sold into slavery
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:March 28, 2014
DVD Release Date:July 28, 2014

Noah_poster“Noah” is a serious, thoughtful, reverent movie that, like its title character, wrestles with the big issues of morality, survivor guilt, and strengthening a connection to the divine.  It is also a big, grand adventure with drama and special effects.  It should satisfy believers, seekers, and those who just want an exciting story, well told.

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”) shows us a Noah (Russell Crowe) who struggles to be a good man and do as God wants. Only ten generations from Adam and Eve, he is haunted by the stories of the Fall and Cain’s murder of his brother. When he was a boy, he witnessed the murder of his own father at the hand of the brutal leader of the descendants of Cain (Ray Winstone as Tubal-Cain). Now, he tries to protect his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and three sons from the marauders.

Noah lives lightly on the earth, gently chiding his son for picking a flower because that interfere with its work of spreading seeds. He and his family do not eat animals; they respect the innocence of all creatures, unlike Tubal-Cain who defines himself as someone who takes without regard for anything but his own urges and lust for power.

Noah is filled with an ominous sense that he is receiving omens and seeks the advice of his mystic of a grandfather, Methuselah (Sir Anthony Hopkins).   He begins to understand that he is commanded by The Creator to build an ark and collect the animals of the earth and to preserve them in the coming storm that will wipe out all of life on Earth.  He will be helped in this by The Watchers, fallen angels who were once pure light but are now punished for their mistakes by being imprisoned in enormous bodies of mud and rock.

As Auden reminds us, the grand, sweeping events of the world do not happen purely.  They occur in the midst of human lives that are messy and imperfect.  While Noah struggles to follow the will of The Creator, he has to deal with problems at home.  Ila (Emma Watson), a girl Noah and his family rescued after her entire community was slaughtered by Tubal-Cain, is loved by Noah’s son, Shem (“Romeo & Juliet’s” Douglas Booth), who loves her, too.  But due to her injuries, she cannot have children, and she does not want to keep him from being a father and creating a new generation.  Ham (Logan Lerman of “Percy Jackson”) is furious that there is no prospect of a wife and family for him.

And then there is Tubal-Cain, used to taking whatever he wants.  He will do anything to stay alive through the flood and become king of whatever the world will be afterward.   And he senses that Ham may be susceptible to joining him.

We rarely see Bible stories told with such artistry and power.  The acting is superb and the special effects are well done.  The big moments, the flood, the omens, the Watchers, the thousands of animals moving inexorably toward the ark, are all handled with meaning and import.  When Noah tells his family one of the few stories that they have in this still-new human world, the story of creation, we feel the nothingness that was before.  Story-telling itself becomes a way to shape the world and form an understanding of patterns, purpose, and meaning.

Men wind a snakeskin around their arms in the earliest of rituals and prayers and we see the flicker of what would become a daily observance for Orthodox Jews over the millennia through the present, the phylactery leather strips that men use in their morning prayers.  We are reminded that this is a time before Jesus and before Abraham, when there was no organized religion and no established set of beliefs and practices.  There is not even the word “God.”  It is just “Creator.”

The innocence and the impulse to reach out toward the heavens are very moving.  So is the way that Noah grapples with what today we might call survivor guilt or PTSD.  And he struggles to find his better angels.  Tubal-Cain is not just a man who wants to fight him; he is that part of Noah himself that is all lower urges toward flesh and power, the impulse to trap and smash and to break laws even in a world where laws have not been established.

While some viewers and some who have not even seen the film have objected to this portrayal (or, in the case of strictly Muslim groups, any portrayal of a religious figure), most should see this film as an eternal story well told in a manner that is itself a form of worship in prompting us to think more profoundly about our own choices and connections.

Parents should know that this film includes epic/Biblical violence including murder, battles, flood, some disturbing images, parent killed in front of child, character trampled to death, discussion of infanticide, some disturbing images, non-explicit sexual situation, and childbirth.

Family discussion: Why did the two groups of humans develop so differently? What should Noah have done about Na’el? Why did he separate from the family after the flood?

If you like this, try: “The Fountain” and “Pi” by the same director and Biblical-era classics like “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments”



  • Honey Badger

    I wasn’t planning on seeing this movie until it came out on video. Now I might go. Thanks for a good review.

  • nminow

    Thanks! I think this one really benefits from the big screen.

  • grok87

    “We rarely see Bible stories told with such artistry and power….most should see this film as an eternal story well told in a manner that is itself a form of worship in prompting us to think more profoundly about our own choices and connections.“

    I just saw this movie and did not like it. I am not a fundamentalist and my problem is not that Crowe took liberties with the narrative of the Noah story from Genesis. I think it would have been fine to take liberties that helped better express the idea the meaning of the Noah story. If anything i thought the approach taken was so counter to the spirit of Genesis/Noah that it was hard to watch.

    The movie seemed overwhelmed by political correctness. We never see Noah or his family worship or pray. In Genesis Noah is told by God that he and his family are righteous and that God is establishing a covenant with them- but in the movie Noah is a homicidal maniac (those who think I am exaggerating have not seen the movie yet) who thinks he and his family are evil. And Noah and his family are vegetarians- really?- they think eating meat is evil?

    • Matty J.

      I’m more or less agnostic and I really liked the movie.

      Keeping in mind my unfamiliarity with the details of Noah’s story, I thought the film successfully portrayed Noah as a pretty simple man, doing his best to be good and follow the desires of the creator.

      I didn’t get the feeling Noah thought his family was evil, but he sure had a touch of the psycho in the third act. I felt he thought he was following the creator’s will and that the master plan after the flood did not include human beings. In the end his humanity won out, and it was a beautiful moment.

      I took Methuselah’s obsession with berries to be a small light of humor in a fairly dark story. I’m not sure the narrative could have sustained much more comedy.

      • grok87

        “I didn’t get the feeling Noah thought his family was evil…”
        well there was that long scene right, where he’s talking to his wife and says Shem is bad because of X and Ham is bad because of Y, etc.

        i must say i will be curious to know what other liberal believers in the judeo-christian tradition think of this movie. after having thought about it some more, i have a working hypothesis. the director has said that he is culturally jewish but not religious. to me that means he is atheist or agnostic. now i personally do not have any vendetta against atheists or agnostics. i’m with pope francis that we should try to find common ground and work together to help the poor etc.

        but i think the director has made an anti-religious movie- ie the movie tells us a lot about he regards believers. i think his view is that we are all extremists and zealots. in the movie we never see noah or his family pray and worship in any sort of normal way. for example in the noah bible narrative, when noah and his family land on dry ground, they give thanks, worship and make sacrifice. where is that scene in the movie?

        • Nell Minow

          Yes, Noah struggles with the notion that man may be a failed experiment. He recognizes the impulses toward evil acts in himself and his family. But he also knows that they are not like the descendents of Cain.

          No “normal” way of prayer existed in Noah’s very primitive time. He was long before Abraham’s insight into the nature of one God. And yet he and his father had begun the idea of a ritual and early form of prayer in the ceremony with the snakeskin that is a clear precursor to the ritual still performed by Orthodox Jews every day. And his constant efforts to connect to God and serve His purpose are in my mind the essence of worship.

          • grok87

            “The Bible shows a series of flawed heroes with some sense that there is learning and progress in humanity.”
            Agree

            I did like the “ceremony with the snakeskin.”

      • Scottie

        Raised by a southern Methodist mother and an agnostic father (who let Mother take us kids to church) I’ve been agnostic, at times. Doubted my spiritual experience(s). Just a response of imagination? (By the way, Mother accepted Daddy’s right to question, and to her great joy, he was saved years before he passed away,)

        I believe we are created in God’s image. We have a soul or spirit and so can love. We can even “create the world” as individuals, in the way we think and tell ourselves it is – so it becomes. Thus an experience becomes “good” or “bad” as we process it.

        Do you have a need within for something more than the limits of the physical world? Like Noah, do you seek connection with the Infinite, the Creator? There are beautiful answers in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 12:3 helped me affirm belief in God’s plan for salvation. I just said, “Jesus is Lord” and the Holy Spirit assured me He is. God loves you and He wants to reach you, too. You do have a choice.

        Try “God ISN’T Dead” – many of us believe in Him!

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, grok87 — much appreciated. I appreciate your point of view, but I saw it differently. Noah is not Christian. He is not Jewish. He is ten generations from Adam and long before Abraham, who was the first person in the Bible to understand the concept of one God. Noah had no prayer vocabulary and only the first suggestion of any kind of tradition or ritual. I liked the portrayal of Noah as a very primitive man who had an extremely limited and imperfect understanding but a spirit that was reaching out for a connection to the divine. Tubal-Cain was his counterpart, representing Noah’s own darker side. Noah did not eat animals because he was not fully aware of his own humanity as distinct from other living things. It had nothing to do with our modern notion of political correctness. Noah’s struggle to understand what God wanted him to do was moving. He was the opposite of a homicidal maniac. He was torn apart by the suffering around him and could not bring himself to kill even when he thought it was what God wanted him to do. So for me, it was very true to the meaning of the story.

    • grok87

      thanks Nell. I do understand your point of view.

      I know this movie is going to be polarizing. Obviously many on the fundamentalist, literalist side of Christianity are going to have huge problems with it. I consider myself a liberal Christian- i.e. I don’t think the Noah story/ the Ark is literally 100% true. Yet I still had huge problems with the movie- i didn’t like the movies theology, the way Noah was depicted- didn’t think it was true to the “spirit” of Genesis.

      I did like some of the movies non-biblical ideas. I liked the idea of the stone giants/watchers/angels. I liked the idea that Noah and his family were the only descendants of Seth and that Tubal-Cain and his people were the descendants of (the murderer) Cain and hence evil and accursed.

      But I didn’t like the portrayal of Noah. Genesis says that The Lord finds Noah and his family righteous. Yet the movie makes Noah out to be a homicidal maniac. I guess I just think the director had a problem with portraying someone as simply good. I know that probably every character has to have some flaw to be interesting. But I would have preferred it if Noah had been portrayed as some sort of holy fool ala the Brothers Karamazov.

      apologies for the length of this post.

      cheers,
      grok

      • Nell Minow

        grok87 — your comments are most welcome, any time, any length. The Watchers are in the Bible, though it does not say that they assisted Noah in constructing the ark. And I think Noah was righteous, as we see in his devotion to his family and his dedication to following God’s directions as he understands them. He’s far from a homicidal maniac. He is tortured by survivor guilt and the death of at least one innocent. He cannot bring himself to kill even when he thinks he should. Noah is not portrayed in the Bible as unequivocally good. Look at his behavior after the flood. The Bible shows a series of flawed heroes with some sense that there is learning and progress in humanity. I think that makes him more credible and more interesting than a holy fool.

  • JB

    If you are the parent’s eye on media, culture, and values…God help us all. You are greatly lacking in discernment.

  • Nell Minow

    Thank you, Matty J. I agree with you about Methuselah and the berries, and about Noah and his sincere conviction and dedication to God and to his family.

  • Nell Minow

    JB, I appreciate your taking the time to write, and I do wish for God’s blessing on all of us. If there is anything else you would like to share about your views on this film or where you find me lacking in discernment, you are more than welcome.

  • RandyMasters

    Hi Nell. I saw Noah today, and then read your review after that. Your review is deliciously well written as always, and I learned from you – again, as always. For example, it bugged me that they used The Creator rather than God, but your explanation for that makes total sense.

    As a movie, it entertained me enough to be worth my ticket / soda price. It has flashes of brilliance and inspiration. It’s well acted, absolutely. Great cinematography. It does have some stretches of absurdity that made me wince. Overall, a net plus.

    As theology, it seems problematic. The ads say that it takes “artistic license” for a reason, and that reason is not just for length. While I appreciate a biblical story, of course, I think it not only downplays Noah’s righteousness for a reason, but gets the big thing wrong for a reason. The big thing is: who judges mankind for wickedness – God or Noah?

    That’s my take. A pleasure to read your work.

    • Nell Minow

      Thank you, Randy. Much appreciated. Different faith traditions see this story differently, but the movie does engage very vigorously with the question you posed in Noah’s struggle to understand what God wants him to do. And it is clear that he makes himself God’s servant even in ending humanity forever, showing that it is God who judges. Thanks again — it means a lot to me that you read my reviews.

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