Art and Knowing · Art As Conversation · Power Of Symbols · Uncategorized

“Noah:” The Film and the Horror of Creative Liberty

"The Raising Of The Cross" Rembrandt
“The Raising Of The Cross” Rembrandt

Many Christians are horrified that Darren Aronofsky’s film “Noah” isn’t “according to the Bible.”

Was that the director’s goal? What does “according to the Bible” mean, exactly? If we insist artists tell a literal story, we would never have the The Last Supper, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or the mosaics in some of our great cathedrals. You could add any number of paintings, symphonies, poems or other works of art.

Rembrandt took “creative liberty” when he painted himself in “The Raising Of the Cross.”  Of course that isn’t a literal rendering of the sacred event.

But if Rembrandt is there, maybe I am too.

We don’t know if the Pietà shows what happened between Mary and Jesus after he died. Does it matter? The sculpture brings me to tears. I’m a mother of a son. Even if you aren’t, doesn’t its creative and symbolic power grab you and speak emotional and spiritual truth?

The "Pieta"
Michelangelo’s “Pieta”

You can argue that “Noah” doesn’t come close to Biblical notions of the man Noah. Worse, the film portrays a God quite different from the God of the Bible and that’s where you draw your line. Fair enough. (Even the examples I used, “The Raising Of the Cross” and “Pietà” have some connection to Biblical narratives.) But does the film deal with universal truths? Does it ask questions about sin, redemption, or the consequences of our choices? Does it show how a specific portrayal of God shapes art and how we view it?

Of course, I’m not putting “Noah” on the same level as the masterpieces I’ve mentioned. You might think I’m defending it. My goal is to use the film, whether you see it or not, as an opportunity to discuss our assumptions about the relationship between “art” and “truth,” and how artistic expression speaks to our faith—or not.

Agree? Disagree?

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9 thoughts on ““Noah:” The Film and the Horror of Creative Liberty

  1. Hi Ellen, I’m glad you mentioned that book. I have it and like it much. L’Engle has done some of the best writing on this subject.

  2. Hi Debbie, I appreciate your insightful comments. I agree, I was excited that a nonChristian took the Bible seriously enough to make a movie about one of its characters. It’s a good thing to be challenged to go back to the Word.

  3. I saw the movie Noah yesterday. It inspired me to go home and read my Bible again! I liked the film because it takes the Bible seriously and raises questions about man’s struggle with evil. As a Christian, I was not offended by the divergences from the story of Noah as it is recorded in Genesis. Are movies made from books always required to be “just like the book?” Our God is creative. Hopefully, this movie will draw non-believers into seeking God for themselves.

  4. Wow! Nancy, you cut right to the heart of it. I also wonder about the relationship between “facts” and “truth,” especially when our faith is based on both. Thanks!

  5. I can’t answer the question about “Noah” because I haven’t seen it yet. But I agree that facts alone don’t tell the truth, especially about those important things we can’t hold in our hands and see with our eyes. They can’t be measured. I think that the more we know about the facts of a story, the harder it is to see the story’s value when it strays too far from what we know as the events that happened. But there, moving beneath the facts we know is the truth. Cathy is able to be open-minded about “Noah” and, therefore, she doesn’t measure it by it’s facts–instead she sees the heart of it. A storyteller is not a journalist. But what is a creative writer’s responsibility to the facts of a story? It seems I can only ask more questions.

  6. Hi Cathy, I like your thought about “getting to the heart of the story.” I think that’s what God would like us to do. Thanks for comment.

  7. I just saw the movie and I am a Christian, but I did not go in with any preconceived ideas. I took the movie at face value – it is a movie. I think if you can over look most of the dramatic scenes with the rock guys (watchers) you can get to the heart of the story. The Creator was unhappy with the world. He created this world to be in harmony and Adam and Eve to be in harmony with God. People in our state want to be little God’s – just like Cain who wanted to take and use the world to his own whims

    In the end – God gave us a second chance and even Noah being human thought it would be the end to mankind, but God did answer his thoughts with twin granddaughters. It doesn’t matter if Noah was a fictional or real character. It is the story of mankind vs. God and vs. Evil too.

    So last word – I liked the movie and the meaning it left me with – it was about a new beginning and love.

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