The silence, justice, mercy and love of God in Noah

Questions of personal taste aside, most of the problems that people have had with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah don’t stand up to all that much scrutiny. Does the film reflect a Gnostic theology? Not at all. Is the snakeskin worn by Adam and his descendants necessarily evil in the Jewish tradition? Not at all. Were the righteous people who lived before the Flood vegetarian? Actually, yes. And so on, and so on.

The one complaint that arguably does have some merit is the one that says God does not speak in this film. God talks a lot in the biblical version of this story, but in the film he is silent, communicating through visions and signs that are open to more than one interpretation, and leaving some pretty crucial decisions to Noah himself.

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On asking questions, not assuming answers, about Noah

Brian Godawa has now updated his post on the Noah serpent — twice! — in response to posts of mine in which I debunked the claim that Noah is Gnostic and tried to untangle just what the snakeskin represents, both in Judaism and within the film specifically.

Brian’s a good guy, and he’s done a lot of research into the Noah story, and I have found his posts on that subject very informative. But when it comes to his analysis of Darren Aronofsky’s film, it seems to me that he has certain blind spots, or that he insists too strongly on filtering his experience of the film through a certain worldview without fully engaging with the film on its own terms.

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Be as wise as serpents, but stay away from snakeskins!

“Temptation led to sin.”

That’s the second sentence in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. It’s printed on the screen for all to see. It is accompanied by an image of a serpent shedding its light skin and emerging as a darker, more foreboding creature. It is also followed by images of violence and destruction.

To those who are even half-familiar with the story of the Fall, you might think that this would all seem pretty straightforward. But no. Instead, a bizarre idea has surfaced in recent days, to the effect that Aronofsky’s film espouses a kind of Gnosticism.

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No, Noah is not Gnostic. (Say that ten times fast!)

Thanks to a lengthy blog post by Brian Mattson, a theologian with the the Center for Cultural Leadership in California, the latest meme to work its way into public discussion of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is that the film is somehow Gnostic, and that it presents a worldview in which God is really Satan and vice versa.

Is there anything to Mattson’s claims? Not really, and here’s why.

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The Jewish roots of — and responses to — Noah

If there’s one thing that has annoyed me about some of the debate around Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, it has been the persistent assumption — on both sides — that the film was made either for Christians or against Christians. Some people dismiss the film because they think the studio wanted to pander to the Christian market, while others think the film was made to subvert the beliefs of Christians. Rarely does anyone take a step back and say, “Hey, these filmmakers are Jewish, and the story of Noah comes from the Jewish scriptures. I wonder what Jewish audience members make of this film?”

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