Not literally, of course. Well, I assume not. But this week a trailer and synopsis were released for Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, which stars Bale, and the synopsis at least seems to hark back to an apocryphal text called the Acts of Thomas.
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.
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 flicking its tongue at the camera. And it is 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.
All this talk of Gnosticism in the movies is reminding me, last Monday marked the 15th anniversary of The Matrix.
It would be impossible to overstate what a huge deal that movie was at the time. It was not the first Gnostic parable to grace the big screen by any stretch — several films that touched on similar themes had come out just the previous year — and the whole thing fizzled out when the filmmakers cranked out two bloated, underwhelming sequels just four years later. But for a while there, the movie had everyone talking about Christ-figures and philosophy and the nature of reality, etc.
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.
The story begins with a girl hiding in a wardrobe. It continues with a series of adventures in which the girl passes through gateways into other worlds, meeting witches, figures from ancient mythology, and talking animals along the way. Ultimately, it takes her into the afterlife and to an apocalyptic battle between supernatural powers.
Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, has some striking parallels to C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Between protective beasts, snowy landscapes, and references to a prophecy only the girl may be able to fulfill, the ads for The Golden Compass — the first installment of Pullman’s series coming to the big screen on December 7 — look made to attract fans of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. New Line Cinema has also gone out of its way to link the new film to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which the studio also adapted.