I’m not a fan of epic biblical movies. I’m also not a fan of movies about ships. Don’t tell me Titanic was really a love story. Does the ship sink? End of conversation. And don’t even get me started about The Poseidon Adventure.
When it comes to Noah, I much prefer Bill Cosby’s version. If you’ve never (unbelievably) heard it, go listen – now! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bputeFGXEjA) So when I first saw previews for Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel’s Noah, I turned up my nose and mimicked the Cos, “Right!” I put Noah in the same category as the new Son of God movie and the old classics like The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told.
I even have problems with the cutesy kids’ Noah’s Ark paraphernalia. I’ll never forget the Sunday when our children’s minister filled a tub with water to demonstrate the story and was flummoxed when the kids got very upset when they learned that all the animals not on the ark ( and presumably the people too) were drowned. Yeah, it is a pretty intense story when you think about it, and we usually relegate it to children’s merchandise. I’m not a complete scrooge about this, but it does make one think about all the implications of the story.
So I had no plans to see Noah. That is until I read that some Christians were boycotting the movie because, first of all it doesn’t conform to the literal biblical story, and second because it pushes the “liberal agenda” about climate change.
Well now. Now you’ve got my attention.
Then I read an interview with Aronofsky and Handel, in which they described the film as a midrash on the Noah story from Genesis. Midrash is a tradition which we Christians are finally beginning to recover from our Jewish roots. A way of storytelling that explores the practical, ethical and theological questions of a biblical text, midrash leaves room for imagination in grappling with questions such as how we perceive God: is the God of Noah merciful and loving, or vengeful and demanding justice?
As Ari Handel explained beautifully: “Ultimately in the midrash tradition the text has purposeful lacuna; it has questions that are posed in the very words, so the closer we read it, the more questions arose from it.”
Or as we like to say at First United: it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers.
So I think I’ll go see Noah after all. Darren Aronofsky advises us to let go of all our expectations and go see an entertaining movie – and then have a conversation about it afterwards.