Have any of you seen the movie Noah? What is your verdict?
After the jump, excerpts from a revealing interview by the ace religion reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky about what he was trying to convey in the movie, including its themes of original sin, justice, and mercy.
From Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Q&A: ‘Noah’ director Darren Aronofsky on justice vs. mercy | Religion News Service:
Q: Is that tension or struggle between good and evil something that plays out in your own life?
A: The idea of original sin is a really interesting story to help us all think about what goes on inside of us, that we all kind of have a sense of the right thing to do, and we all understand what the wrong thing to do is. And we understand that there’s a decision in front of us.
We started to realize these big ideas about justice and mercy in the film. It started with Noah being called righteous in his generation, and we tried to figure out what that meant. What we’ve discovered is that people who are a lot smarter than us and who study theology talk about righteousness as having a balance of justice and mercy. As a parent, you understand that if you’re too just, you can destroy your child with strictness, and if you’re too merciful you can destroy them with leniency. Finding that balance makes you a great parent.
For us, since Noah is called righteous, we asked, “OK, what is his balance of justice and mercy?” So at the beginning of the film, he clearly wants justice, very much like God. By the end, when the rainbow happens, he has learned mercy, forgiveness and grace.
Q: You take some creative liberties; do you anticipate any pushback?
A: Where are there liberties? Find me a contradiction in there that can’t be explained. Of course there’s liberties, I mean, we’re making a movie here. If you read the four chapters that the Noah story takes place in, Noah doesn’t even speak. How are you going to cast Russell Crowe and not have him talk? Noah’s wife and his sons’ three wives aren’t even named in the Bible.
If you read the story of Noah, it’s very straightforward. The character of Noah just builds the ark and collects the animals. But the struggles, the effort of building an ark, of being responsible for all those animals, being responsible for your family, it’s not explored at all. So how exciting to actually say, “Oh wow, here’s this great story, how do we put human emotion into it?”
Q: So it sounds like you’re not anticipating much criticism.
A: A lot of people are going to be like “What? Noah, drunk and naked? How dare you?!” It’s in the Bible. People are going to say, “Giants walking the earth? Fallen angels? How dare you?!” But it’s in there. . . .
Q: With the good-and-evil tension, it seems like you’re content with just leaving that tension. Whereas other people might look for some conclusion.
A: Yeah, but that’s not real. I think that’s the greatness of these stories, is that in that first story in Genesis, they talk about how temptation led to sin, and original sin, and how that defines who we are. To me, that struggle is a really great metaphor to understand our lives, how we live every day. All religion deals with that.
Q: If I were to guess which scene would make some people uncomfortable (without revealing spoilers), it seems like there’s a part where Noah appears to be in almost direct disobedience to God.
A: All of it’s a test. We were trying to dramatize the decision God must have made when he decided to destroy all of humanity. At the beginning of the Noah story, everything is wicked and God wants to start over. The pain of that, the struggle of that, must have been immense. To basically go from creating this beautiful thing to watching it fall apart, and then doing this horrible thing where you have to try and start again.
So we tried to take that huge cosmic idea and put it into a human’s hands. That’s what Noah’s story is. If you think about that moment, when God looks at the wickedness, it grieved him to his heart. We wanted to get that grief, that struggle, and stick it into Noah, so we can understand as people what it must have felt like. What would hurt more than to do — in vague terms — what Noah is about to do? Which for us was an exact metaphor for what the decision was, what the Creator went through. But he chose love! He chose mercy, which for us is the exact same story as the story in the Bible, just put into human terms.