I first “met” Peter Chattaway on an old school listserv for Daniel Amos, one of my favorite bands. He is a very accomplished film critic from the Great White North and is well worth following to read his take on movies, theology, and culture. (Be sure to check out his tear down of Star Trek: Not the Wrath of Khan, but really, It Is.) He has a number of articles about Noah, apparently a new movie starring some famous people, but this one caught my attention. “Was Noah a righteous man? How righteous was he? How righteous should our portrayals of him be?“
I find this topic interesting because I have often argued that Christians (of all stripes, but especially conservative ones) tend to read the Old Testament far too simplistically. There is a simple, unwritten list: good guys and bad guys. Noah is, of course, a good guy. But of course if you actually read the Bible you realize his story and especially his character is far more complex. (And isn’t that the point? People are complex, usually neither wholly good nor bad, but some combination of every hue in between the poles.) It seems that Aronofsky gets that and is making a movie of a rather complicated character. Now I may actually have to watch it.
Beyond that, Aronofsky is also drawing our attention to the fact that Noah basically witnessed the destruction of his world. Not just a city or two, like Sodom and Gomorrah, but the entire civilization within which he had been raised.
As Aronofsky recently told Total Film, “it’s truly the first apocalypse story.”
So Aronofsky is trying to get us to think about that, too.
And because he is taking the story as seriously as he is, and populating it with characters who have some semblance of realistic psychology, he is also trying to get us to think about the effect of this apocalypse on the small group of people who survived it.
As Crowe has put it, Noah is the guy who stood and watched as everyone died. And as Aronofsky put it when he first expressed interest in making this film seven years ago, Noah had “some real survivor’s guilt” — an interpretation that Aronofsky bases partly on the fact that the Bible itself tells us Noah built a vineyard shortly after he survived the Flood and got so drunk on his own wine that he passed out naked.