At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Friday, August 29, 2014

Noah Through Three Different Sets of Eyes: Part 2

The biblical epic Noah has enjoyed a considerable amount of financial success and a moderate quantity of critical acclaim. In my previous post, I discussed my experience watching Noah through the eyes of a biblical traditionalist who takes the Scripture as God's trustworthy revelation. Yes, I was somewhat troubled by a number of things portrayed in Noah, but it wasn't a total washout (yes, I'm aware of the irony of that pun).

Now we turn to watching the movie through the lens of...

(2) A cinematic realist: One thing I'm compelled to say is that if you are profoundly disappointed by what you see in a movie on a Scriptural narrative, and the movie doesn't get it exactly right...well, what did you expect to happen? 

There are two reasons for this (among others). For one, no one should expect Hollywood to be a bastion of sympathy for strict biblicism. If you are rigid on these expectations, I have to question you reasons why. It's just not practical.

The other reasons is that Scripture is very, very selective in what it tells. The amount of detail in textbooks on American history is stunning, and that covers barely more than four hundred centuries (if you go back to the founding of Jamestown). The Bible's coverage stretches thousands or (in my opinion if you go back to creation) millions of years, and yet the story--though vibrant and colorful--is remarkably brief in comparison. My point is that even in a Biblical narrative like that of Noah, it lasts only from Genesis 6 through 9. And if you are making a two-and-a-half hour film, you simply don't have enough on-screen action material in what the Scripture presents in order to fill the time allotment on the screen. As a director, you are practically forced to make judgments, not only on what you will subtract onto the cutting room floor, but what you will add.

So they added Tubal-Cain. Aronofsky, in a decision that is his right as a director, took artistic liberty in his portrayal of "the Watchers" as the Nephilim of Genesis 6 (for one of many discussion on the Nephilim's identity, see this site). Some people might say, "It's wrong to show Methusaleh alive at the flood", although if you do the math and take the genealogy accounts in Genesis 5 literally (though that can be a big "if", as father can mean ancestor, as well), then Methusaleh would have died in the year of the flood.

There are many other instances of added detail. Sure, the Bible doesn't say the Watchers looked like rock giants who walked around like they had major hemorrhoids. But the Bible is silent on a lot, and Hollywood abhors a detail vacuum (unless you're Ingmar Bergman, who seems content to let silence carry you for awhile), so what the heck do we expect?

In short, let those of us who are biblical traditionalists have the humility to distinguish between contradicting Scripture and adding details to a story. Obviously, the latter can damage things as well and be unhelpful, but we have to take such merits on a case-by-case basis. And all this leads us in a proper direction...making sure that we know the Biblical story.

That's where part 3 comes in.

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