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02 April 2014

The Noah conversation

The Noah conversation

by Lucy Cooper

Noah, starring Russell Crowe is inspired by the epic story of courage, sacrifice and hope. Also starring Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins and written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, Noah opens in UK cinemas this Friday, 4 April.

Most of us know the story of Noah, have the cute animals, toy ark or even friendly looking picture book Bible stories with everything looking safe and rosy. This is not remotely what you get in this latest blockbuster release.

"When was the last time that you saw a major Hollywood director face up to the judgement and grace of God in a $130 million budget movie?" said Krish Kandiah, executive director of churches in mission at the Evangelical Alliance.

In a world that doesn't usually want to talk about judgement, this epic and powerful presentation certainly provides viewers an opportunity to explore themes such as death, life, ultimate decisions, judgement, creation, forgiveness and restoration.

Alliance member organisation Damaris have produced Noah resources and believe that the film is a great opportunity to discuss and grapple with the themes. Nick Pollard, Damaris director, said: "It is wonderful art inspired by the Bible. It's about the concept and not so much about the facts. Aronofsky conceptualises and contextualises and takes us into what Noah might be wrestling with in his mind – the questions of judgement, mercy and grace – and there is an opportunity to talk about these in our popular culture."

Krish agreed: "When an Oscar-nominated filmmaker decides to make a movie about a key biblical narrative you can either criticise him or start a conversation. I'm always of the mindset that a conversation is a great place to start."

Luke Walton, creative director of Alliance member Bible Society and director of The Pitch film project, after the preview said: "You can hear the epic questions echoing down eternity. This film asks: What is justice? Who decides who should live? What is right or wrong? This is a dark and complicated story."

We have heard many arguing that Noah is the least biblical biblical film ever. Krish commented: "Having seen it I can understand a little where they are coming from. Yes there are things in the film that are not in the Bible. Aronofsky has taken artistic license; just as every film adaptation of every piece of literature does. He introduced new elements and rearranged parts of the story for dramatic effect."  

"There were bits that made me and my son rethink how we had understood the story before and which bits of the interpretation we would like to politely disagree with. If you can get past the Nephilim being portrayed as a cross between Bionicles and Transformers. If you can look beyond the weirdness about using a snake skin as a spiritual relic or the magical tones. I found some fascinating theological questions. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? How did Noah cope surviving a genocide? How do we reconcile a gracious and loving God with a God of judgement?"

Luke concluded: "When films started, filmmakers went first to the Bible stories. Now we have lost that mainstream understanding of these stories so much that we wonder why anyone would want to go there. Why is that? The stories are dealing with the same themes we revisit in all of our art and plays."

So, this film could be another opportunity to engage an increasingly biblically illiterate culture with some of the themes and stories in the Bible? The film is certificate 12a and does have disturbing scenes, so it's definitely not a film for younger viewers.

I was left thinking about this quote said to Noah: "You have seen the wickedness of men but you have also seen their goodness."

Russell Crowe met with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby this week while he was in London promoting the film. Read Krish Kandiah's 5 reasons to cheer on Noah blog post. Damaris provides free community resources which enable groups to make the most of the film. This includes recipes, activities, quizzes, leader's guides, scene setters, questions and clips www.damaris.org/noah