I’ve observed with great interest the debate that has been going on regarding the movie “Noah” here recently. For those not in the know, this film portrays the famous Bible story in many ways never mentioned in the Bible, including making Noah a near homicidal maniac and God a spiteful tree hugger who avenges himself on people for harming the environment.
As a result, many Christians have been very vocal in their criticism of the movie. Adding fuel to that fire is the fact that the film’s director is a self-avowed atheist. Add all of that up and it’s just too much, leading many people to just flat out shun the film or outright boycott it.
I need to say before I say another word that I totally respect that stance. Biblical topics are sensitive things to take on, especially in the realm of modern Hollywood, and “getting it right” is a tough thing to pull off, even in the best of circumstances.
But, while I do “get it,” I would like to ask my Christian brothers and sisters to hear me out a moment before we take this film and relegate it to the proverbial trash can.
For far too long, the Christian community has been asking Hollywood for more faith-based entertainment. Now, lo and behold, we are getting it. Several Bible-inspired films are due this year, with plans for more already in the works — at least before all the controversy surrounding this film erupted.
Now, to be sure, an important distinction needs to be made. A “movie” is not a “documentary.” Documentaries present a purely factual look at a particular topic — movies do not. While they may be based on factual events or people, they do take artistic liberties while exploring their topic.
There is no question that Noah is, in fact, a Bible-based character. Without the Bible this movie is never made, so there is denying that this film, at its core, is Biblical in nature. Given that fact, I would ask this question: with 99.9 percent of the drivel coming out of Hollywood today that captures the attention of far too many people, is this really the film Christians need to be shunning and speaking out against?
Some have complained that it takes “too” many artistic liberties and strays so far off the story from the Bible that it is nearly unrecognizable. OK, fair enough, but maybe it would be wise to think outside the box on this.
I want everyone to think back to the movie “Titanic,” the epic film that absolutely entranced the entire planet back in 1997. Never once did the film’s director, James Cameron, ever purport that his work was documentary in nature. The entire script is, in fact, fiction based on historical accounts of that tragedy and, in the end, is little more than Cameron’s interpretation of the event. In fact, the film’s two main characters, Jack and Rose, and the now legendary “Heart of the Ocean” necklace — which was a centerpiece to the story — are entirely fictional.
But what happened? After leaving the theater, almost everyone who saw “Titanic” wanted to know more about the real story of what happened with that ship. As a result, there were more websites born with Titanic-themes that year than any other topic before or since.
Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be hoping that would be the effect from this film as well? Remember, if someone did want to learn more about Noah, there’s really only one place for them to go — the Bible.
As far as the interpretation of the story in the movie is concerned, we, as Christians, need to be honest with ourselves, even if the truth hurt. If we take eight Christians from eight different denominations, put them in separate rooms and give them a single Bible verse to interpret, we are quite likely to get eight different explanations of what the verse means depending on their personal perspective.
In other words, using consistency in interpreting the stories from the Bible as a means to condemn this film is a very hollow argument.
And, finally, I’ll offer this. I spoke with one of the elder statesmen of local churches about this last week and asked his opinion on the whole hullaballoo. He said he had heard some of the complaints and was most intrigued by complaints that an atheist had directed the film, and thus had very little chance of “getting the story right.”
“But, you know,” he said quizzically, “I can’t help but wonder if the people who are being most critical about all of that have ever stopped to consider why this man did in fact make the movie. Who are we to question if, in fact, God isn’t working through this man, and that it was God who planted a seed in his heart to share this story…or maybe even planted that seed so that by making this movie this man’s own heart can break loose from its chains to allow him to find its way to the cross?”
I don’t know about you, but I think his words nailed it.
Let’s just all pray that those who do go to see this movie will learn a lesson most of us already know all too well. Most of the time, a movie is nowhere nearly as good as The Book.