Have you ever had so many thoughts on a variety of topics that collide in your brain and you can see a thread that connects them all but you are not quite sure how to put it all together? Please be patient with me as I try to do a movie review on Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah, all the while balancing a heavy topic like the Euthyphro Dilemma of ethics.
So where to start? I can guarantee you have either heard great things or bad things about Aronofsky’s Noah. Muslims and Christians both protested the movie. Muslims, of course, believe it is blasphemy to make any type of image of a prophet. When I was researching why Christians in particular had problems with it, I found multiple claims that it wasn’t true to the Bible, and that there were “rock monsters” in it. And that Noah was violent and got drunk at the end. But that was really the main source of criticism. As I watched Noah, I couldn’t believe I was watching the same movie as the critical Christians had watched!
What I saw on screen was an amazing tale that was so beautifully shot….Noah is an exquisite piece of art that makes the viewer contemplate so many complex themes! The Creator (as God is called) is saddened and sickened at the evil that is perpetrated by mankind. There are mystical elements to the world before the flood, such as rocks that contain energy, healing herbs, and yes “rock monsters” which are actually called The Watchers. I think that fundamentalist Christians have a hard time opening up their imagination and allowing that mysticism to exist. Noah was a Jewish story 1500 years before it was repurposed for Christian theology, and Aronofsky draws deeply from the well of Jewish tradition in telling the story. The Watchers are characters taken from The Book of Enoch and The Book of Jubilee. They do play a crucial part in the movie, and I will try not to spoil too much. Their story is another story of The Creator’s redemption.
As I stated earlier, as I watched Noah, the criticisms from Christians didn’t even register in my mind. As I watched Noah, I was flabbergasted I hadn’t heard what a complex character Noah was (except here!)
SPOILERS AHEAD. PLEASE READ ONLY IF YOU DO NOT MIND SPOILERS. IT REALLY IS IMPOSSIBLE TO TALK ABOUT THESE IDEAS WITHOUT SPOILERS. LAST CHANCE. SORRY!
The ultimate destruction of the world lies heavily on Noah’s shoulders. It wears him down and changes his perspective on everything he believes. AS WELL IT SHOULD! He is aware of the evil in the world and keenly aware that he shares in that evil. Noah comes to believe that all humanity needs to die, including himself and his family. Yes, his wife and sons and adopted daughter. The Creator has chosen him to build the Ark for the animals, but the depravity of mankind needs to be wiped from the world.
Put yourself in Noah’s place. You are convinced that The Creator of the universe has chosen you to make sure humanity ends with your family. So convinced, in fact, that you GRIEVE INTENSELY when you find out that your son and his wife are pregnant and expecting NEW LIFE. You convince yourself that The Creator wants you to kill that baby to end the evil of mankind. Your wife and children curse your name and despise you because of the burden you bear.
This my friend, is the crux of The Euthyphro Dilemma. Is something good because God wills it (i.e. killing a child) or is that something good because of it’s inherent nature? And if it is good in and of itself, does that mean there is an absolute standard that is not defined by God? Standing outside the Noah story, we obviously know with every fiber of our being that killing a baby is wrong and morally reprehensible. Now imagine that you KNOW God has told you to kill your child (i.e. Abraham and Isaac) or your grandchild, as in this movie. Is this evil act now GOOD because God wills it? Can you disobey God’s direct order and NOT sin?
As Noah struggles with his love for his family, all the while trying to obey The Creator, he withers and dies inside. Russell Crowe does an outstanding job showing the anguish Noah must have felt; the tension and confusion that Noah experienced in this movie.
The babies (twin girls) are born and the time comes for Noah to kill them. Emma Watson is also outstanding and portrays a desperate mother protecting her children so convincingly! Noah raises the knife……and waivers….and slowly brings it down on the sleeping babe….only to lean down and kiss her on the forehead. He walks away shaken and looks up at the sky and tells The Creator he is sorry! he will not kill his granddaughters. he would rather disobey then have more blood on his hands.
At this point, I had tears spilling over my cheeks. Mercy wins over judgement. Love triumphs over violence.
The waters of the flood recede, and we are shown the young family of Shem and Ila and their girls building a new life with them. Noah’s wife, Naameh, is living with them as well. Noah, we see, is living by himself in a cave on the shore. He is getting drunk. He let his grandchildren live, but considers himself a failure before The Creator. He loathes himself. We see Noah passed out naked and that is when Shem covers his father and Ila has a beautiful conversation with Noah. He grapples with the Euthyphro Dilemma and tells Ila he is glad his granddaughters live. But he is filled with remorse at failing The Creator. Ila asks “How did you fail? You chose life and love over death and malevolence.”
One of the last shots of the movie is Noah coming to Naameh, kneeling down with her to help remove rocks from her freshly plowed garden. (I have to mention how good Jennifer Connelly is as Naameh. Her love and passion really comes through!) The hug and kiss and reconcile.
I left the movie in a deep mood of introspection. I could relate to Noah in so many ways. I have had my faith shaken to its innermost core to the point of it disappearing altogether. I have seen the bad side of people, but at the same time seen the love of so many. I have felt as though I could never please God and was a constant failure at anything God wanted me to do.
Aronofsky’s Noah presented the best and worst of humanity. We are capable of such evil while at the same time able to love deeply and do good. This movie didn’t tell the viewer what to believe or how to believe it. For that I am grateful. It left me to my own devices to grapple with the good and bad inside myself.