The Noah Movie: Storytelling

NoahLet’s begin where the Book does…

5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Genesis 6:5-7 KJV

Let’s allow the movie to begin where it desires to as well (these are the first words at the top of the movie’s website)…

The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

 Since its March 28th release (and before, really) I have had the advantage (and in some cases, disadvantage) of reading many passionate reviews… all before I had seen the movie. I was reminded that some of us actually read reviews to decide whether or not we will go to the theater to see a movie. So reviews have their place. As usual, I come to this evaluation process from a bit of a different angle. For the last 20+ yrs. I have been a professional storyteller. You may look at my resume and wonder why a pastor would call himself that, but that’s exactly what we who deliver sermons are doing… we are telling and retelling the stories found in the Scriptures.

If you were/are looking to the Noah movie to retell the story word-for-word as the Scripture does, I am nearly certain that you will walk away as many have… disappointed. However, most of us who attend Christian churches would be equally disappointed if we showed up to a worship service and the sermon for the day was solely the reading of Scripture. We want to know some perspective. How does that text apply to my life? What am I supposed to do or be because of what the Scripture teaches? I think this movie does both masterfully. Here a few of the high points that stood out to me:

  • total ownership of why God was destroying the earth… the wickedness of man… sin
  • acknowledging God as Creator
  • even enumerating the very acts of creation day by day
  • showing Noah as the righteous yet fallen human that he was
  • even the weird stuff (you already have your list) does not diminish the power of the story

So even if you don’t end up liking the movie, let’s be the ones that are known for what we are for instead of what we are against. May this retelling of the story of Noah cause audiences to consider the greatness and grace of our God.

9 thoughts on “The Noah Movie: Storytelling

  1. I think throwing aside the “weirdness” of Noah, you get something that WILL make someone somewhere pick up a Bible who knows nothing about God. It (the movie) will make someone else ask “that one religous chick they know” about the basis for this movie. If these things happen only once or twice or a dozen times guess what: The LORD is using this movie. If nothing else it is a great conversation starter and did have some truly great biblical aspects which aren’t going to be portrayed in “The Hangover Part 4”. Thanks for seeing the positive Rob.

  2. So in other words, as a pastor, you believe you have license to lie and embellish for the sake of keeping your audience in the pews. You should meditate on that a while and then let your congregation know why it is NOT ok by God for THEM to lie but it is ok by God, and as a man of God, for you to do so. Now THAT would cause me to stick around at church to hear you explain that.

      1. Well then make a better comparison of you reading Scripture followed by helping people apply it to their own lives, and the artistic license taken to interpret what MUST have happened to Noah. The story of Noah IS the Scripture, so interpreting what may or may not have happened is not the same as helping people apply Scripture to their own lives. Also, reading Scripture is the story-telling part. Helping people apply it isn’t story-telling. Maybe now you can see why I arrived at my earlier conclusion.

      2. I do see your point. And agree that specific application of Scripture is different than artistic license. We may (or may not) be wrangling some over definitions. I see sermons as a whole to be stories. Scripture is definitely the foundation and centerpiece of the story.

        That said, I don’t think pieces of art (movies, etc.) are compelled to adhere to the letter of the law of the story. Part of the creative process is reading between the lines and “seeing” what is not there in black and white. As long as we don’t call that dogma or Scripture, I’m ok knowing that it is someone’s idea because of what they interpreted.

  3. “you believe you have license to lie and embellish for the sake of keeping your audience in the pews”

    He didn’t say anything close to that.

  4. I appreciate this measured mini-analysis. I had a similar reaction to the movie. With a book of scripture so riddled with poetry and symbolism and parable, I think others’ artistic interpretations bring new light and raise new and thought-provoking questions to the story. I loved for instance [SPOILER ALERT!], the dramatic tension of Tubal-Cain sneaking his way onto the boat and telling Ham half-truths about man’s dominion over the earth in order to get him to stray from his father’s plans. It seems like Satan seems to work his way into some of the most holy of circumstances.

    It was really interesting to me that the main third-act tension was whether Noah’s going to kill his grandchildren. I also know a lot of people freaked out about the suggestion of infanticide. It made me uncomfortable. But it was supposed to, and was effective filmmaking in that sense. Theologically speaking, it was an interesting Abrahamic test for Noah. We all already know how the story of the Flood ends. But how would we react to something like it in media res. It’s easy to look at Noah’s choices after the fact, but it would be a different story to have faith when the outcome is unknown. The fact is, sometimes God does ask us to do things that make us uncomfortable. Sacrificing Isaac is one. I like to think that that story visualized (and us not already knowing how it ends with an angel to stop him) would make lots of people uncomfortable.

    I also agree with you about the mortality and fallibility of prophets. I liked seeing Noah as a man who wrestled with questions and demons and could still be a mouthpiece for God. God chooses the meek many times, and the imperfect. (Just think about Jonah and his constant running away!)

    My husband is a filmmaker and we are both members of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints and we weren’t offended at anything. We had a great discussion about prophets and faith (and storytelling, of course) after we watched it.

    In other words, thanks for your post! It’s nice to run across thoughtful criticism instead of the reactionary ranting from those who think the movie attacks faith, when I really think it sincerely promotes it.

  5. The idea that Noah would consider killing his grandchildren bugs me! Oh, and the rock people; I don’t understand what those were for either.
    I’ve been a christian my whole life, and the story of Noah was always one of… peace, believe it or not. God does not let righteous people die, and if you are righteous, God can use you for his wonderful purposes. Does the movie invite peace? Its a different story then. (yuuuup, I’m Mormon too) Part of the reason that Christ healed so many people, was that we would remember that Christ is there for us, ready to heal. Noah’s story is there to remind us that we should be obediently on God’s side because he is all powerful. Noah’s story is a great one so that it could have accomplished great works, and so that it could live through millions of years.

    That said, I’m not getting a good vibe from this movie. The story of Noah, originally, is already pretty top notch story telling. You can say 2 words: “Ark, Noah.” or “animals, flood” and people already know in an instant what you mean. I feel like this movie was went about all wrong. The direction of this movie reminds me of the little boy in Sunday school who doesn’t REALLY believe that those crazy bible stories could happen, but is still disappointed when he doesn’t see any angels or heavenly beings when he peeks during the prayer. The story of Noah, without confirmation of the sweet spirit, would probably be considered boring because we’ve heard it so often! So whats a director going to do? Make it super epic and exciting. Try a way of applying scriptures. Mix in other stories. Try and twist how you see things- but god is a never changing being, so it doesn’t work.

    And maybe he peeked a lot of interest- but he should have realized that Christians weren’t going to root for him very hard. Once you really, truly, honestly have that witness of the spirit… which is quiet, but so incredibly heart warming and good for the soul, it seems a crude way of rebelling against it by demanding a lustful appetite of drama and excitement through violence. I don’t see a need for embellishing a true story. I respect the positive outlook here; but I do think this movie could have been done better. And I do know if people look into church expecting rock people and preachers to question the importance of humans, they are going to be disappointed and will leave!! It’s nothing to build your faith on. I’m not mad or angry at it; but I’m not very impressed, and don’t encourage any other weird murderous versions of my precious bible. Plus, if this director ever gets to meet Noah in heaven someday, he will probably blush down to his roots to see such a failing in his design compared to the actual glory of a legendary servant of God.

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