The reviews I’ve seen so far are exceptionally negative on the film “Noah”. They seem to be upset that the film doesn’t stick to the Biblical Narrative. In their mind, the thing that would qualify the film as worthwhile is only if it portrays the literal account.
As a practicing, and indeed dedicated Christian, I reject such reviews out of hand. If you want the Biblical Account, read the Bible. Don’t go to the movie.
I reject the notion that there has to be anything literally Biblical in the movie.
Lest the believers light the torches and advance on my dwelling place, please note that I memorize scripture daily; I teach Bible classes; I attend Bible classes weekly, and monthly. I have invited Jesus into my heart, where he dwells and has dwelled since 1970. I believe in the literal truth of jesus, of the prophets, and the Revelation.
But I also have three degrees in theatre; I’ve taught film study for over forty years; designed, directed and acted as a professional, a student, and in community theatre. I appear as a film critic several times per year to review movies.
Whether I have any knowledge, or skill, or experience, is of course moot but I hardly yield to anyone who claims more knowledge or experience or skill than I.
On to Noah. What people don’t understand is that Noah, the film, gave a
rendering of the famous story embedded within a literal presentation. That is what theatre, and movies, do. They cannot be literal. Consider: Noah worked on the Ark for several hundred years. You could do nothing in a film that would give the literal feeling of that. So you use the figurative–changing his hair and beard; sowing the trees all around being cut down by using what is called Synechdoche, which means that part stands for the whole: cut down one as representative of all the others.
Now, as to the acting: Russell Crowe is one of the greatest actors in the World, not just in terms of ability but in terms of versatility. He attempts a rainbow of roles and is better in some than others. No one else has played Jack Aubrey; he played a mutt of a boxer named Jim Braddock; he starred in Les Miserables. And on and on. To say he was wrong for Noah is ridiculous. We don’t know enough about the great patriarch to know much more about his life and character. Therefore, Crowe was charged to create a character.
If you as a scholar disagree with Crowe, you are free to do so. Yet you can’t just say he’s wrong about Noah. To critique his performance and character impersonation far different than saying he’s wrong about Noah and who he was. To say anything else is to misunderstand in the grossest sense what an actor does.
An actor takes a story and a character and lets the performance come from inside of him, using the essential framework suggested by the script. Thus, when someone portrays Hamlet, his character will say the same lines as Olivier or Branagh–yet his Hamlet will be vastly different from those of all other actors who portray the Dane. That does not mean he is doing it wrong. He is letting the character come from the place it should: the heart.
It is the same with the other characters. Consider, for example, a character sustained by the youthful but exquisite Emma Watson: this character is not Biblical. During the voyage, she gives birth to twins. Noah, believing that all the people on the Ark are doomed, is determined to kill the children. Yet he cannot bring himself to do so.
Why? scream the critics. This is extra-Biblical!!! It must not stand!!!
Wait a minute. This is important. We have, not a half hour before, seen Noah abandoning a woman caught and helpless in a bear trap. Noah saw the floods destroy the rest of the people on the doomed earth. He’s got the remnant of the earth’s animals in the hold of his ship. Yet this scene shows his true nature. No more death. No more destruction. The new earth begins here.
Is this a great film? No. Yet it is a film. It is not scripture. It doesn’t seek to be. It presents a look at the symbolic truth of Noah, and what his life means to us.