Surprised Experience By Rev. Richard Bainbridge
I thought it was probably my duty as a Minister to go and see Noah so that I could have an informed opinion were someone to ask for one. I surprised myself by really enjoying the experience. The movie has had mixed reviews; I loved this from The Guardian although the reviewer from The Telegraph enjoyed it rather more.
Were you to find the film less than interesting you could amuse yourself by enumerating the many points at which the screenplay departs from the narrative in the Book of Genesis. There are way more differences than similarities. Suffice to say that both Genesis and the movie feature an Ark, a flood, Noah, his wife and 3 sons and thereafter they bear very little resemblance to one another.
So if director Darren Aronofsky was playing somewhat fast and loose with the Biblical narrative what were his other sources? It would seem that he has been very much influenced by the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah, whose most famous adherent is Madonna. Perhaps the giveaway nod to Kabbalah is the constant references in the film to the mining of ‘Zohar’. The Zohar is one of the sacred texts of Kabbalah. Dr Brian Mattson has written a very long blog making the case for not only a Kabbalic influence but also a Gnostic one – please don’t feel that you have to read all his blog unless you are having difficulty sleeping! Mattson’s Gnostic thesis is disputed here.
For me all of that was fascinating stuff because what we are viewing on the screen in a movie is never random but has been deliberately placed there by the director to make a point. But to the average movie goer this all sounds a little esoteric. So without giving any spoilers as I left the cinema I was thinking; What’s all this about the snakeskin? Why is the movie played out in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic landscape? Who is the Creator? Why when so much of the Genesis narrative was abused was it necessary to include the bit about Noah getting drunk?
But perhaps the greatest question of all is, what do we make of the story of Noah and the flood? Did God really wipe out all of humanity apart from Noah and his family as well as the vast majority of the animal kingdom? Put another way, did the flood really happen and was it God who brought it about?
So a few reflections on what all this means. The story of Noah and the flood comes hard on the heels of the story of creation. In effect it is the uncreating of creation, the chaos returning. The reason for the flood is extreme human wickedness (Genesis 6:5-13) and even though Yahweh’s reaction seems harsh there is also an element of justice. But the condemnation is followed rapidly by mercy, that is, mercy for Noah, his family and pairs of living creatures. In that mercy there is hope for the continuance of the creation project. And there are certainly consequences both for individuals and for us all as a whole when we live only for ourselves, for today and what we can get out of life. It may well be possible that wickedness could yet destroy this planet.
Please, by all means, go and see the film. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. But when you get back home take a look at the real narrative, the Biblical narrative, in Genesis chapters 6 – 9.