Verily, “Noah” Draws Denier’s Wrath

April 6, 2014


The movie Noah has come under fire for a multitude of reasons, including charges that it leans heavily on environmentalist themes. Director Darren Aronofsky responded in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, arguing that there is a clear and present theme of environmentalism in the Book of Genesis that is merely reflected in the film.

Amanpour observed how people have reacted to the movie by branding Noah an “environmentalist wacko.” Aronofsky said the Bible has messages about tending the earth and taking care of all living creatures that he thought needed to be in the movie.

“Noah is out saving the animals. He’s not out saving innocent babies. He’s saving the animals. He’s saving creation. In Genesis2:15, the first thing that God tells Adam to do is to tend and to keep the garden. It’s right there in Genesis. So it was very clear to us that there was an environmental message, and to pull that message out of it, we think, would have been more of an editing job than just presenting what was there.”
Aronofsky also spoke of the dangers of climate change in the modern era, bringing up the U.N.’s recent report and telling Amanpour, “We are living the second chance that was given to Noah.”

Gotta say one has to have doubts about all those folks who insist on the literal truth of the Bible, but also insist that that Jesus was a nordic midwestern white guy, as in just about every image, cinematic or otherwise, that you’ll find.(see below)

Come to think of it, Aronofsky’s Noah is a very white guy – Australian Russell Crowe, and his daughter is played by very shiksa Emma Watson. One assumes the movie would never have gotten financed if they’d cast actual middle easterners in the roles.
What does this say about us? You tell me.




Firstly, when Aronofsky says that his film is less “Biblical,” that doesn’t mean that his film is “subversive” or any less religious — it’s just religious in ways that are unfamiliar to most biblical literalists, but common practice for most Jews and non-literal Christians. When asked how he compiled the script, Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel, who is also Jewish,explained that they pulled heavily from Jewish Rabbinic midrash. For the uninitiated,midrash, literally “to search out,” is an ancient Jewish tradition in which Rabbis essentially add stories to the Biblical/Tanakhical narrative for educative effect. These stories aren’t meant to be given the same authority as scripture, but are instead designed to both resolve problems of interpretation as well as expose aspects of the holy narrative that would be otherwise difficult to grasp.

Unsurprisingly, a wealth of midrash exists around the Noah narrative, much of which can be seen in Aronofsky’s contemporary retelling. For example, the biblical account says little about how Noah actually built the ark or how other humans reacted to his project, buttomes of midrash explain in poetic detail how the prophet planted cedar trees to provide wood for construction and how he suffered persecution and mockery at the hands of other humans—two things that play a crucial part in Aronofsky’s Noah.

More importantly, even when Noah departs from both midrash and scripture, Aronofsky’s film is still itself a powerful form of contemporary midrash. In telling an extra-biblical tale of a tortured Noah, here admirably portrayed by a grizzled Russell Crowe, who is both hero (he ruthlessly protects his family from outsiders) and villain (he is still willing to kill his own if God wills it), Aronofsky raises valid religious questions about the Old Testament prophet that are rarely asked in Sunday school or Hebrew school. Through vivid and often harrowing portrayals of Noah single-mindedly following what he believes to be direct orders from on high, Aronofsky asks: what kind of faith does it take to close oneself off inside a massive floating vessel and listen, stoically, to an entire world die? Did Noah suffer from survivor’s guilt? If he didn’t, what does that say about faith, and what does all of this say about God? These questions are difficult but important, and it is only through the intentional deviation from the biblical narrative — a series of theological “what ifs?” played out in dramatic fashion onscreen — that we are confronted with them.

What’s more, in a time when evangelical Christian leaders such as Mark Driscoll and Bill Gothard are learning the hard way how righteous arrogance can get you into trouble (including deviating from source material), there are perhaps more than a few lessons to be gleaned from Aronofsky’s painfully human Noah. Indeed, midrash was encountered by a number of early and contemporary Christian theologians.

Granted, there are also valid critiques to be made of Aronofsky’s midrash. For example, his depiction of Noah as an unrelenting champion of vegetarianism/veganism, while based somewhat on scripture, is more than a little over-the-top. (Was it really necessary to show frenzied crowd of people ravenously pulling a live animal apart with their bare hands?) But if approached properly, Aronofsky’s Noah, like all good midrash, is both strikingly Jewish as well as a valuable tool for any person who takes the Noah narrative seriously—be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or even a secular American.



29 Responses to “Verily, “Noah” Draws Denier’s Wrath”

  1. omnologos Says:

    apart from a Brian Godawa (who he) who else has criticized Noah on the environmental side? (asking)

    • Noah co-stars Jennifer Connelly, whose mother is Jewish, and Logan Lerman, who is 100% Jewish.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          LINK. PLEASE?????

          Aside from the fact that the ancestry of the actors is a VERY small point, does Obfooz find it hard to believe that an Irishman would marry a Jewish woman? They’re from “New Yawk Sitty, USA”, Obfooz, and there were a lot of Jewish-Irish-Italian-Polish-etc marriages there in any and all combinations.

          And you want proof that Lerman is a Jew? LOL Did you think he was a German? Hint-hint, Obfooz—-there’s only one “n” in Lerman, therefore it’s a Jewish name—-if it was Lermann, it would be German (and might have had an “h” in there, as in Lehrmann).

          Why do you dwell so on inanities?

          (And there is NO “environmental message” in Noah? Or is your “hearing” bad?)

          • omnologos Says:

            Your stupidity shows. I asked who else had criticized Noah from an environmental pointo of view, and L Shon mentioned Jennifer Connolly. I googled about that but could not find anywhere with the main lead actress criticizing the movie. So I asked for a link.

            I do hope you’re the only human too stupid to understand that.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            MY stupidity is showing? A comment was made—-“Noah co-stars Jennifer Connelly, whose mother is Jewish, and Logan Lerman, who is 100% Jewish”

            YOU, in your Obfusion, said “link please” to THAT comment, and not to the one you are now claiming. If we have to wade through your crap, you should try to make it a bit easier by getting it in the correct place.

          • omnologos Says:

            What antedeluvian system are you using, that is unable to show you comment threads?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I give up—-either Omno is attempting a joke or he is too freaking stupid and/or suffering so badly from terminal confirmation bias that he would ask such a question.

            He can’t be telling us that he doesn’t understand the very simple “indent” and “reply” system that wordpress employs.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I don’t actually know why L Shon mentioned Jennifer Connolly and Lerman, although it’s interesting to hear of the Jewish connection—–but it was NOT in answer to your question about critics of the movie. You need to google on the computer rather than with your wooden blocks in your playpen, because Connelly did in fact DEFEND the movie, not attack it, and that was well known by the literate. Your asking for that link is the only demonstrably stupid thing on this part of the thread (aside from your other comments, of course).

            I do in fact KNOW you’re the only human visiting Crock that is too stupid to understand that, and I am enjoying your reprise of your award winning role of “the demented rooster strutting in the barnyard pecking at imaginary bugs and crowing about his imaginary victories”. No one does it better than you.

          • omnologos Says:

            So if X posts a comment and Y posts a reply to that comment, we ought to assume that the reply has nothing to do with the original comment??

            Especially when X’s comment is a question…

          • dumboldguy Says:

            As I said, Omno is hopeless, and my lunch break from mowing the lawn is over and the rains are coming. If anyone else is watching Omno perform here, and has the patience, would they please try to explain it to him.

  2. Fair go, we’re not responsible for Russell Crow. He’s a New Zealander.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Not sure what Omno is saying here (with his usual incoherence), but Godowa is involved in the film industry on a number of ways, including as a blogger/critic.

    More importantly, he is also a bible-thumping CHRISTIAN, and that’s what he criticizes in Noah—how the movie in his mind “subverts” the “truth” as told in the bible. Has anyone “on the environmental side” criticized the movie at all? (asking).

    PS While we’re “asking”, I will again ask Omno why he can’t seem to repress his urge to be the first to say something stupid on so many threads? Does he really want us to think of him as the stupid child with nothing to say and no apparent self-control who always pushes to the head of the line? Or is his narcissism so overpowering that ANY kind of attention is irresistible to him?

    • omnologos Says:

      please dumbol explain how can be “stupid” to _ask_ IF anybody _else_ has criticized “Noah” for its environmental aspects.

      I did a quick Google search and came up only with Godawa (the author of the expression “environmentalist wacko” if I am not mistaken).

      If anybody knows of anybody else, just say so.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        That was my point, Omno. Apparently, NO ONE at all has criticized the movie because of its “environmental aspects”. You asked a stupid question when you asked “who ELSE”, because Godawa criticized it ONLY on religious grounds in the first place—there is no “WHO ELSE” on the environmental side because there is not even an original critic there for an “else” to follow. Godawful is merely a religious whacko doing some name-calling with the “environmental whacko” bit, and it has NOTHING to do with anything other than his need to disparage.

        I know English is your second language, but you really must try harder—-THINKING is not dependent on whatever language you use to talk to yourself. If you’re smart enough, you can figure things out in any “language”. If not, you ask irrelevant and stupid questions. What’s your real problem.

  4. archaeandragon Says:

    Why would anyone criticize it outside of industry critics on the production quality of the film? The substance is irrelevant. It’s a /movie/, NOT a friggin’ documentary.

    IF it were billed as a documentary, THEN criticism about the substance would be germane.

    So the real question here should be: “WHO CARES?”

    • omnologos Says:

      Dragon: Who cares…Think Progress does. Peter does.

      Dumbest: “on the environmental side” means”on the environmental side of the movie” obviously to all but you.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I give up. Archae has made an excellent attempt to get Omno in touch with reality. We are unable to get through Omno’s thick shell of confirmation bias and confusion. I for one will waste no mire time trying on this thread.

    • ubrew12 Says:

      Of course substance matters. I thought it was very well thought out. Like many, I don’t give the Flood story much thought, but as Aronofsky pointed out recently, why DID he rescue a bunch of animals instead of every blameless human BABY on the planet? People are surprised that he’s depicted as an ‘Environmentalist’? Dude, this guy makes Earth Liberation Front look like amateurs. Someone who would do that is clearly capable of ending the human race, since all indications are that this is God’s wish.

      As an industry critic (hey, who isn’t?) I would say this film needed an editor, as all modern films do. A 2 hr + film doesn’t invite us into the house of our knowledge, it clubs us over the head with the filmmakers. Kahlil Gibran would be disappointed. Other than that, good movie.

  5. redskylite Says:

    I am pleased to read that Russell Crowe made a strong point:

    The actor said: “It is an undeniable thing that we have changed the planet.

    “There is a lot of damage involved, and if you don’t want to admit to that damage, if you don’t want to see climate change as a real thing, then I think that’s being a little irresponsible.”

    The film has been heavily criticised by Glenn Beck, but he does not exactly have a history of learned enlightenment on climate change, just another obstinate and dangerous individual

  6. […] And if you were looking for actual history, there is very little to choose between them. Yes, I saw Noah yesterday, and the last time I went to the movies I saw Thor 2 in 3D: Thor 2: piffle in a sexy package. But on the other hand…. From many viewpoints Noah is also piffle in a particularly bleak package – except for the end. The environmental message – I think that is what it was – was not marked by great subtlety. (Update: See Verily, “Noah” Draws Denier’s Wrath.) […]

  7. I can understand the critics of the environmental message. After all the majority of those think God is throwing the dice or putting man through these “trials” of faith or something stupid like that. Its very important for some people to not take any responsibility over any actions.

    Talk about being good stewards of the earth… I somehow feel even the religion has been hijacked by right wing nut-jobs who don’t give a shit about the consequences of anything we might do to the planet in pursuit of wealth.

    • omnologos Says:

      The NYT points readers to an article that appears sympathetic to the movie and in which Glenn Beck looks like just another person trying to ‘cash in’ the popularity of the movie by contriving an absurd polemic.

      No sign of the ‘environment’ message having played much role there. Maybe it was just Godawa – whom I had never heard before from.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Religion has NOT “been HIJACKED by right wing nut-jobs”. All religions from the very first were CREATED by “right wing nut jobs” who used them to control others and put themselves in positions of authority and wealth.

      Your observation that the “religious” are folks “who don’t give a shit about the consequences of anything we might do to the planet in pursuit of wealth” is a corollary to that. The biblical mandate that GOD wants us to “have dominion” and “subdue the earth” is just total (and clever) BS that the greedy rich have always used as an excuse for them to plunder the earth and abuse other humans. Of course they will not ‘take responsibility”—it’s against their “religion”.

  8. Mahn England Says:

    Russell is not Australian but a Kiwi (New Zealander) actually but we Aussies claim him as one of ours:as we Aussies unfairly do with successful Kiwis whenever we can.

    Noah not a movie that I have the slightest interest in seeing regardless of what ever subtexts might be at play. I haven’t seen An Inconvenient Truth either.

    The story of Noah is a moral one however any connection with climate change will probably be lost on those who take the Old Testament literally.

  9. […] 2014/04/06: PSinclair: Verily, “Noah” Draws Denier’s Wrath […]

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