Noah, as with any Biblically based feature film, is facing its own storm waves before it opens in the US on Friday, March 28th. Joining other films such as The Passion of the Christ, The Nativity Story and even The Prince of Egypt, Noah is finding itself in the midst of controversy. How do you rank a movie between Epic to way off charts in terms of ancient and mysterious tales such as the great flood?
To begin with, stories of the Great Flood have been found all over the Mediterranean region through various cultures. This gives the Biblical story of the flood the additional validity which many people seek. The story of Noah is sensitive one since it deals with man’s wickedness even so early in his time on earth. Out of the whole world, God chooses Noah and his family as the survivors of a giant flood in plans to eradicate man from the world’s surface. Noah, who is a husbandman, is then instructed to build a giant ark in which to house two of each species of animals. (This has actually yielded a large variety of parodies in which unicorns, dragons and even dinosaurs somehow “miss” the ark to justify why they no longer exist).
The ark is complete, the rain begins and continues for 40 days and 40 nights, wiping all signs of life from the world. Once the rain stops and the clouds clear Noah sends out a dove which returns since it finds no dry place to land. The a few days later it returns with an olive branch and on the third try it does not return at all, signifying that it has found a permanent place to settle. The water drains and the ark is set on top of a mountain, the family leaves the ark and begins planting and resettling the world. God then promises that he will never again destroy the earth by flood and gives the rainbow as a sign for His promise.
While this story sounds simple enough to convey, many people have issues with the upcoming cinematic adventure. While it has also merited good reviews, Noah faces no small amount of storm waves from various religious groups. Some people deem the movie to capture only the negative sides of humanity while others still claim that it has become too focused on the action-drama rather than faith. The movie has been banned in various Muslim countries as well as Indonesia. However, Christian groups such as NHCLC (National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference) has been very supportive of the film as well as Raymond Flinn, former Vatican ambassador.
In truth, all movies which aim to capture Biblical stories are always subject to scrutiny. This is mostly because society has been looking at movies and TV for their source of historic knowledge over going back into the original text. A skewed movie may result in people with a skewed vision of historical events. The movie The Passion of the Christ is not based solely upon the Biblical account but it also borrows from poetry, narratives and even pieces of art which were inspired by the death of Jesus Christ. Though it makes for an awe-inspiring and memorable movie, the original account is a touch less colorful. Likewise in the DreamWorks animated film The Prince of Egypt. Moses did not have an older brother within the Egyptian royalty and his own mother nursed him in the palace. Sometimes changing facts around may make for a better story but can writers afford to take such liberty when discussing historically grounded narratives?
So, while Noah may be rising with storm waves it is ultimately up to each person to decide whether it will arrive safely or crash against the treacherous cliffs of criticism. But maybe if it is lucky, it will live to see the rainbow through the rainclouds.
Commentary by Atar Kishon