Darren Aronofsky’s Film Noah
How it works
In 2014, Darren Aronofsky released the biblical film, Noah. Even before the official release, the response to this biblical blockbuster was mixed. While eagerly awaited by some, it was banned in a number of counties (like Bahrain, Indonesia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates) for its depiction of an Islamic prophet and for scenes that contradict Islam and the Bible (Burnette-Bletsch). This film also generated similar controversy throughout America in Christain groups due to the inaccurate representation of the biblical text. The main charge leveled at the film was that it is unbiblical or even anti-biblical, as Aronofsky himself famously describes the film as the “least biblical film ever made” (Burnette-Bletsch).
At the very beginning of the film, Christians in the audience can see that the film is not biblically accurate as it starts by saying that in the “beginning, there was nothing” (Burnette-Bletsch) , while in the Bible, Genesis 1:1 states “In the beginning, God created the heaves and the earth.” Due to the flawed nature of the film, it is in my belief that the movie baldly reflects the Genesis Noah in the Hebrew Bible. This can be seen in Aronofsky 6-armed rock giants, the ostensible absence of God, and the characters’ stories. Noah, the main character of both the film and story, is portrayed very differently in both settings. In the film, he sees himself and his family not as the “seedlings of a hopeful future for humanity” (like in Genesis), but instead as a “temporary caretakers of the animals.” This is due to Noah’s vision, in which “water engulfs and drowns many people while the animals rise up from the water towards an enormous ship” (Lee).
Because of this, it is seen throughout the film that Noah has the firm belief that once the ark empties out, him and his family will die off and disappear. Alas, his plans are ruined by Lla, who gives birth to twins thanks to Methuselah magically curing her barrenness (Heinegg). Instead of excitement or fatherly love, Noah is seen as a hateful and murderous human as he swears to kill the twins if they are girls. This hatefulness in Noah is also seen as he leaves Ham’s potential wife to be crushed by a stampede of humans as he tucks tail and runs back to the Ark. However, as a vast majority of Christians know, Noah was a kind and caring man in Genesis. He never complained about the work God gave him and was someone “who found grace in the eye of God” (Genesis 6.8) along with being a “righteous man, blameless in his generation” (Genesis 6.9).
Furthermore, in the Bible Noah finds wives for all three of his sons, as referred to in Genesis 7:13 “in the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark.” As Aronofsky depicted Noah as a selfish and hateful character throughout the film, many would believe that he should have been the antagonist. However, Aronofsky introduces Tubal-cain to fit this role. At the beginning of the film, the audience is shown an industrial civilization that was built by Cain’s descendants and associated with wickedness. The leader of this group is a man known as Tubal-cain, who is able to “wreak havoc to the environment” (Lee) due to his leadership and knowledge of weaponry. While Tubal-cain is introduced in Genesis as being a descendant of Cain, he never crosses paths with Noah or is even mentioned in Ark story, in the bible. Yet another character wrongly depicted was Noah’s son, Ham.
During Tubal-cain time abroad the ark, Ham is seen not only helping him board the ark and tending his wound but ultimately betraying his father to help Tubal-cain kill Noah. This was in retaliation of Noah’s failure to give Ham a wife and leave his lover (known as Na’el in the film) to be killed by the mob. However, this scene never occurred in the bible. Instead, after Noah created the ark, him and 7 other people (including wives for all his three sons) boarded and left the ark without any problems. Furthermore, at the end of the film, Noah is seen lying naked after getting drunk from a vineyard at which Ham simply stares instead of covering Noah up as his brother do. After this incident, Ham states that he is leaving his family and venturing outwards into the land. While Noah getting naked due to his drunk state did happen in the Bible, the follow-up scene from the movie once again doesn’t correctly portray the rest of the biblical story. In Genesis, after Ham sees Noah naked, he tells his brothers to which they cover their naked father. Once Noah awakes, and sees what Ham had “done to him”, Noah then “blesses Shem and Japheth, but curses Ham’s youngest son, Canaan” (Bergsma).
The biggest difference is Ham’s age. Ham is the youngest son of Noah in Genesis 9:24 while Japheth depicted as the youngest son in the movie is the middle child in the bible. As Noah travels to see his father Methuselah, him and his family stubble upon Aronofsky’s rock creatures. These stone giants, inspired by both the Watchers (as mentioned in the Book of Enoch) and the Nephilim (described in Genesis 6:4 as part human, part divine creature), are fabricated by Aronofsky as beings made of light. These creatures, created by God, were made to protect humanity from sin, and when they failed, God punished them by encapsulating them in stone. The lineage of the Nephilim is a highly debated topic for biblical groups. While some believe that they are descendants of Seth, others believe they are the offspring of fallen angels and human. However debated this may be, it’s clear that Aronofsky’s creatures resemble neither interpretation from the Bible, and are simply there to create an epic film with a tinge of horror. Furthermore, there is no mention of these rock creatures helping Noah build the ark in Genesis 6. In the biblical story, Noah is seen in an amazing light. He is someone “who found grace in the eye of God” (6.8) due to him being a “righteous man, blameless in his generation” (6.9) and thanks to this, “Noah walked with God” (6.9).
God constantly talked to Noah, telling him about his plans and what Noah needed to do for the coming flood, and Noah followed each of God’s instructions. However, in Aronofsky’s film, the presence of God is hidden. God is neither seen nor heard in the movie, even as Noah struggles to understand what he needs to do after witnessing a dream. Noah is even made to drink a drug given to him by Methuselah to re-see God’s message. Instead of talking to Noah directly, and having a close relationship with him, God instead talks to Noah in dreams and signs which are seen very rarely throughout the film. A drop of rain falls onto the soil, at which a flower instantly blooms from it; obscure visions of being trapped underwater as people try to desperately reach for air. In each of the scenes due to Gods ambiguous means of revelation Noah had to interpret the visions himself, and a crisis of interpretation is created in Noah, other characters, and the film audience (Burnette-Bletsch).
God goes so far as to not even protect Noah in the film, as Noah is constantly surrounded by evil and put into dangerous situations. Noah wasn’t even safe onboard his ark, where Tubal-cain had sneaked in and planned to kill him. Furthermore, near the end of the film, Aronofsky’s Noah never gets to hear God announce his covenant with humanity in Genesis 9. This covenant with humanity announced that: “neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waves of a flood; neither shall there be any more a flood to destroy the earth…this is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature…and the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between me and all flesh that is upon earth” (Genesis 11-12,16). This covenant is the most important part of Noah’s story, as it not only shows Gods kindness but shows God offering a promise to humanity. Aronofsky simply displayed this covenant with a rainbow.
It is clear that Aronofsky’s film was simply for blockbuster entertainment as it poorly reflects the biblical journey of Noah. While the film does portray some deeper questions to be explored, Noah’s quest in the film should not be taken biblical due to the inaccuracy of it in characters, creatures, and even the voice of God.
- Aronofsky, Darren and Ari Handel (2014). Noah (screenplay)., http://www.springfieldspringfiel co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=noah.
- Bergsma, John Sietze, and Scott Walker Hahn. “Noah’s Nakedness and the Curse on Canaan (Genesis 9:20-27).” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 124, no. 1, 2005, pp. 25–40. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30040989
- Burnette-Bletsch, Rhonda and Jon Morgan. “Noah as Antihero Darren Aronofsky’s Cinematic Deluge, 2017”, Introduction pp. 6–11.
- Heinegg, Peter. “Aronofsky’s Noah: The Water and the Fire Next Time.” Cross Currents, vol. 64, no. 2, June 2014, pp. 287–294. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/cros.12078.
- Lee, Lydia. (2016). The Flood Narratives in Gen 6-9 and Darren Aronofsky’s Film “Noah”. Old Testament Essays, 29(2), 297-317. https://dx.doi.org/10.17159/23123621/2016/v29n2a7
- The Bible. “BibleGateway.” Genesis. Bible Gateway Blog, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2018.
- Wilensky-Lanford, Brook. “Flood of Idiocy.” New Republic, vol. 245, no. 7, Apr. 2014, p. 7. EBSCOhost, lib.pepperdine.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=ulh&AN=95429411&site=ehost-live&scope=site.