In light of Darren Aronofsky’s film, ‘Noah’, I’ve found myself debating the merits of cinematic storytelling quite a bit more than usual. I feel that as a filmmaker myself, it’s my duty to not only defend the arts, but to help other people see it’s merits. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve been a student of film for well over a decade and will continue to be for the rest of my life. It’s my passion.
Recently, the famed creationist Ken Ham decided he would go ahead and dole out some spoilers while simultaneously blasting the film for not being biblically accurate (You can read his asinine comments and spoilers here).
Before I get into the meat of this, let me explain a few things about myself. I grew up going to church, and participated in it freely my whole life. I didn’t get burned by it, I didn’t learn hatred or contempt for other religions or beliefs, I learned to love people no matter what. That’s not to say that my Church never had problems, because it’s an institution run by human beings. Mistakes are always going to be made. My point, however, is that I’m not some bitter, back-sliddin, ex-christian with a vendetta against anyone who mentions the Bible.
Like most people, I’ve grown and evolved over time. My outlook and view of the Bible and the stories and events recorded in it, has changed. I know for a fact that I piss off a lot of Christians simply because I’ve decided to look at it more objectively and openly, rather than black and white. I believe in God. I follow, to the best of my abilities, the teachings of Jesus (which is really simple: Love God, love people). I don’t think the earth is only 6,000 years old, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to justify that and I fully believe that science is a way of understanding the intricacies of our universe and ourselves.
All that being said, I believe the most important thing a human has is their story. You may not think yours is worth telling, you may even believe it’s insipid, dirty, worthless or broken. That’s bullshit. Your story is the most important thing about you. It’s shaped you. It’s who you are. It’s why you are worthy. It’s why you are loved. Every day, you add to that story, and every day that story gets more interesting. Adventures are had. Romance, sickness, death, laughter, anger, betrayal, salvation, joy. These emotions and situations shape us. They also shape how we tell a story, and how we receive someone else’s story.
Artists tell a story through their medium. It might be something silently brilliant like Calvin and Hobbes, or it may be something historical and heartbreaking like Schindler’s List. It may resonate with millions or just the artist themselves. Filmmakers tell stories through a lens and often take creative liberties with historical accounts to either make it more entertaining, or help it connect with more people.
And now to my point:
Christians love to hate Hollywood.
They love to highlight the flaws of actors and their lifestyles, or the glamorization of sex and violence. They love to say how it’s warping the minds of their children and is adding to the downfall of America, instead of taking responsibility to teach their children actual right and wrong as well as love and understanding.
They love to punish anything that they don’t think lines up with the black and white values that their Bible shows. Homosexuality? “It says in Leviticus…” blah blah blah. Jesus said to love people. So shut the hell up already. Lovingly.
As I previously stated, the story of Noah is being brought to screen by one of the most creative storytellers in the industry, Darren Aronofsky. A lot of Christians have absolutely lost their shit because they fear this particular story will be told in such a way that makes them uncomfortable.
But perhaps Christians should give Hollywood more credit. They have collectively produced more stories that resonate the essence of God, good versus evil and the power of sacrifice for the sake of others then any other people group in history.
You may not agree with every moral from every film that’s been made, but that does not constitute anyone to condemn an entire industry and people group — that all of us gladly support — when they produce anything that goes against the modern, American interpretation of Biblical events.
For an indie film artist such as Aronofsky to take on a project like Noah is a major accomplishment. It’s an intense struggle, especially since he’s had to deal with people like Ken Ham — who refuse to see anyone else’s point of view — and people who may actually be afraid to produce a biblical film because of this kind of pushback.
Aronofsky presented the first cut of this film at Echo Conference last year. He wanted creative, open minded Christians to see it before it could be crucified by everyone else. It takes balls to present an interpretation of something that a third of the country would love to condemn. His vision of the events that transpired may be different than what shows up in America’s version of the Bible, but we have to remember that the Bible, while inspired by God, has been retold, interpreted and rewritten by mankind for thousands of years. His interpretation is just one of many.
It’s very easy as a follower of Christ to be leery about any movie that brings the Bible to the big screen. Mistakes have been made in the past, and they will continue to be made in the future. I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t look at biblically based films through condemning, religious eyes, but just feel frustrated because the stories are so precious to them, and want them to be portrayed accurately. We have all felt that way when a favorite book of ours is not properly adapted. The fact of the matter is, it’s not “just a movie”, it’s a story. It’s a story that has themes that resonate with all mankind, and that is always an important story to tell.
If one person watches this and thinks “Huh, I wonder where they got the idea for this story?” Then isn’t it all worth it? Isn’t it ridiculous for Christians, who are not supposed to judge, to openly judge something they’ve never seen or don’t agree with, as 100% damaging to the legacy of Christ? Shouldn’t it be up to God to decide that?
The Matrix and Cloud Atlas, which are both highly entertaining, thrilling and humanistic films, are absolutely littered with the Gospel. And they were written and directed by a transexual and her brother. Does that mean they lose their merit? Should they now be judged in a different way because someone (oh my!) is different than what you think is right or wrong? I could name a thousand films that don’t appear to agree with the teachings of the Bible, and even openly disagree with it, but somehow at the core, is still the pure Gospel. It’s built into mankind. We are storytellers and we use many, many different ways to tells those stories. No one way is right or wrong.
As much as most Christians would love to see the Kendrick Brothers (Courageous, Fireproof, Facing The Giants) make a film about Noah, the fact is, the majority of non-Christians would not see it, nullifying it to a film that only caters to the American Christian church. Which is what seems to be expected of Noah. Respectfully, I don’t want someone who’s skeptical about Biblical events or Christianity in general to watch a film by the Kendricks. They often show a very unrealistic perspective about faith and living a Christ centered life. I’ve still never, in my all my days, kneeled before a cross in the forest at sunrise and prayed. I’ve done it on the toilet. I’ve prayed in the middle of bar. I’ve cried, ugly, snot-soaked tears in the most off-putting environments, swearing and screaming incoherently. I know they’re trying to shoot for a more cinematic approach, which is where their right to creative license comes into play, but it’s just as unrealistic as any other issue that some may take with any other film.
Noah is not about lip-service to a certain group of people. It’s a complex story about a complex event that is being told for all people. Alan Moore once said that “Artists use lies to tell the truth. Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.” That’s important. That’s a parable. That’s apart of the Gospel. Film is a parable machine, not a principle factory. Films exist to inspire a discovery of what is true… and they resonate with damn good lies.
I am saddened by how this artistic endeavor is being treated by the Christian majority. As a group, Christians often act as if they’re under constant attack, yet they have more footholds in politics, entertainment and society than anyone else. We must allow people to be influenced by our love rather than our judgement.
So if I come back from the theater and say “Noah doesn’t really follow how the Bible tells the story, but that story opened up something deep within me and it was fucking awesome.” Are you going to judge me? Are you going to be more upset that I said a derivative of the work fuck, or are you going to be upset that it’s not “100% Biblically accurate”?
Does it matter? Shouldn’t it matter that the artist was able to tell their story the way they wanted to? Shouldn’t it matter that the story, no matter how it’s told, is important? Let’s face it. God should have wiped out mankind a long time ago because we’re all assholes. We fight and bicker and hate and ignore others that are suffering. He should have just let all of us drown in that flood. But He didn’t. By His grace alone we’re still here, for the purpose of contributing to the greater story that’s still being written. So let’s all open our minds a smidgen and start looking for the core of all stories that echo within each of us.
This video, found on Slashfilm, sums up a little more of what I’m trying to say. The last three minutes are nothing but quotes set to music, but whether you believe in the Biblical events of Noah or not, it’s worth checking out. Don’t discount a story just because it’s not the way you would tell it.