Sunday, April 6, 2014

Noah (2014): My Thoughts on the Film

He said to Noe: The end of all flesh is come before me, the earth is filled with iniquity through them, and I will destroy them with the earth. ~Genesis 6:13
By faith Noe, having received an answer concerning those things which as yet were not seen, moved with fear, framed the ark for the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world; and was instituted heir of the justice which is by faith. ~Hebrews 11:7
That Noah, with his family is saved by water and wood, as the family of Christ is saved by baptism, as representing the suffering of the cross.
~from St. Augustine, Contra Faustum, Book XII
Yesterday I took my daughter to see Noah. I have been reading about Darren Aronofsky's controversial film for weeks, both good and bad reviews. Nothing, however, prepared me for what a fantastic movie it is, surely one of the best Bible epics ever. I saw nothing gnostic or kabbalistic or even politically correct about it at all. What's more, it is an intensely pro-life film, filled with Catholic symbolism reminiscent of the writings of the Fathers of the Church. It is a work of art inspired by Sacred Scripture; as art it inspires in return, and inevitably points the way back to the Bible. The acting is superb; Russell Crowe gives a powerful performance as does Jennifer Connelly as Noah's wife, Naameh. Anthony Hopkins makes a wonderful Gandalf-like Methuselah. The other roles are nuanced and talented portrayals as well.

My daughter was excited to see Methuselah depicted in a film; she is intrigued by the idea of someone living to be almost a thousand years old. Once the movie started she was riveted; now we are having great conversations about Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the Fall, the antediluvian giants and, of course, the Ark. I am surprised I have not heard the film recommended for older children and teenagers because there is so much there to intrigue them and feed their interest in Scripture. Our daughter is familiar with the Old Testament and we have always taken her to art galleries so she was able to appreciate a film which is rich in symbolic imagery. That might not be the case for other youngsters, however, or even for some adults. After Noah we went pray the Stations of the Cross and then to Confession. I must say the film was a helpful meditation for each exercise, for it brought to the eyes of the soul the Four Last Things, with a special emphasis on the Judgment of God.

Noah is a film of Apocalypse. It is about our own time. Even the costumes hint at our era. The world of Noah has grown so evil that he and his family are forced to live an isolated existence in order to preserve their lives. Noah and his family obey the command of God to build the Ark in the darkness of faith. When the deluge comes the Ark is buffeted by the waves and howling winds, amid the cries of the lost. Seeing Noah and his family aboard the Ark reminds me of how Christian families today, clinging to the Church amid the storms of this world, must nevertheless face the darkness within themselves, conflicts and even the devil who lurks in the shadows. To have the wicked Tubalcain as a stowaway on the Ark was a stroke of genius. It reminded me of some of the Greek icons, particularly the Nativity icon, which show the devil hovering in the margins.

The film is supportive of the traditional family, emphasizing the role of the father as protector and head of the family. However, when Noah misunderstands God's command, and thinks he is meant to kill his grandchildren, his wife strongly intervenes. Noah's wife is shown as the mediatrix interceding for her children, a prototype of Our Lady. She intercedes in an earlier scene as well, climbing the mountain to pay a call on Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, who lives as a holy hermit and spiritual guide. Miracles follow her intervention. In Noah's family, marriage has a place of honor and the men in the family want "wives" so they can have families. This scenario is shown in stark contrast to the Cainites who use and abuse women, kidnapping them  and selling them for food. In the doomed world outside of Noah's circle, family life has obviously ceased to exist, leaving chaos and death in its wake.

 Methuselah has the gift of healing, as does the mysterious snakeskin, a relic belonging to the line of Seth. It is reminiscent of the serpent which, much later in the Bible, Moses places on his staff to heal those bitten by the poisonous snakes. (Numbers 21:9) As usually is the case in Scripture, physical healing corresponds with spiritual healing and redemption. Ultimately, the flood waters which destroy will also cleanse and renew the face of the earth.

Noah's temporary decision to kill the infant granddaughters corresponds with the pro-abortion mentality of our time. He has convinced himself it is a good thing for the babies to die. Because humanity is wicked Noah believes even his family must become extinct after they have fulfilled their task of saving the animals. It is an almost utilitarian view which, in the film, Noah is convinced is from the Creator. However, Noah is countered by his wife, and by Seth and Ila, the parents of the babies. Even as later in Genesis an angel prevents Abraham from killing his son Isaac (Genesis 22: 11-15), so Noah is finally stopped by the overwhelming love he feels for the small girls. Thus the future of humanity is saved by love.

One of the most poignant scenes is toward the end when, as the flood waters recede, Noah seeks his wife as she cultivates the earth. He reaches down and clasps her hand in the dirt, harking back to the first man, Adam, who was taken from the earth, and the first woman, Eve. The new parents of humanity lay their hands over the earth as if in blessing, and later the rainbows illumine the sky as the sign of hope. Whether the filmmakers intended it or not, everything points to Noah as the son of Adam and to the wonder and hope which will come in the new Adam, the Christ.

Here is a magnificent article about how Noah's Ark prefigures the Church. Share


julygirl said...

Insightful review. So much symbolism and archetypes.

Gette said...

Thanks so much for this, EMV. After reading your review, I definitely want to see it! Hopefully during our Easter visit to my sister's, we can all go to the theater as a big group.

And a bit early, but: may you and your dear ones have a wonderful Holy Week and Easter!


elena maria vidal said...

The young people will really enjoy it. Happy Easter to all of you, too!