I’ve been thinking about how to wrap up this series, and while a lot more could be said on the film, I’m going to have to limit myself. The problem with going off notes I took a few months ago is that I’m not going to be able to get into detailed aspects of the plot. While I left the movie feeling more positive than negative,, I don’t plan on seeing it again soon. Still, I’m keen to get these out of my head because I think these aspects make the film worth talking about. They do concern the main characters of the film, but it was pleasing to see the film get somewhere close to diagnosing the problems with humanity. So for one more post, I’m going to explore a few more big points before tying up some loose ends in my head in the final post.
Man’s inhumanity to God
What’s immediately obvious (or should be) is that neither of these two guys are all that perfect. That’s not surprising – every movie needs a hero with a flaw and a villain – but this Noah is not the one you might have seen in your bright-coloured story books with bath-tub boats. Far from it.
Noah is a bold protector of animals and nature. He appreciates the way God has made the elements of our planet to work together well. He teaches his children too. (A super thing to do as a parent by the way.) He doesn’t eat meat which for the majority of the movie delineates the ‘good’ guys from the ‘bad’ guys. Noah is actually right to do God’s will by loving the environment and not eating meat. He’s dependent on God. He wants to understand God better. But while he desires environmental justice, he’ll harm humans to protect an animal! He doesn’t relate all that well to people in need. In summary, Noah has a high view of creation and a low view of humanity.
And then there’s Tubal Cain – a king of all those who do not follow God, an attitude denoted by meat-eating. These are the bad/evil people. In contrast to Noah, he espouses a high view of humanity and a low view of creation. He sets himself up as a kind of God of his own life and all that he can see is his. For Tubal-Cain, expression of his will is the ultimate. So, while Tubal-Cain rightly says he was made in the image of God (which is true) meaning he must rule, he takes it to the extreme and neglects the mandate to care for Earth. Instead, he says he’ll be the supreme ruler of his own life and so be like God, effectively dethroning God. In a sense, he’s fulfilling the serpent’s promise recorded in Genesis 3 that “you will be as gods”. But by neglecting his duty of care to everyone around him Tubal Cain shows that he really rejects God, rather than reflects God.
If you’re not part of the solution…
At one point, Noah travels to a nearby settlement to find wives for his sons. The barbarism of man’s inhumanity to man is bizarre and grotesque. As Noah watches, he sees a disgusting man eating meat in the crowd, and as the camera dollies in, through the crowd, Noah realizes the man is him. Noah sees that he too is capable of the evil that God is judging. He rightly concludes that he too deserves death for his rebellion. The scene climaxes in a terrifying scene of judgement.
It’s a fundamental belief of Christianity that I am part of what’s wrong with the world. The evil out there is also in me. And yes, dare I say it, even righteous (biblical) Noah too. So give Movie Noah some credit for recognizing his flaw!
But Noah concludes that, even if he the righteous man chosen by God to fulfill this mission is also full of sin, God must therefore want to destroy all humanity, which is by the way, a big departure from the Biblical text which says Noah’s mission was to preserve a remnant for a new creation. Anyway, soon after this, Noah turns psychopath bent on destroying humanity, in the most surprising and perhaps controversial aspect of the film.
It’s not really about the environment
Many of the analyses of Noah I read before I saw the film (and before the film even came out) took issue with what they saw as an extreme environmentalist message: because Noah thinks God wants him to end humanity. This is where I think they’re mistaken.
Because…Movie Noah already loves the environment!
In fact, he couldn’t love the environment any more than destroying humans for the sake of it! If Movie Noah’s plan had succeeded, and the animals all lived happily ever after and happy music played as the last human died – that would have constituted an extreme environmentalist message. But that’s not what happened. Sorry. We only have the movie we got.
If environmental care is to be the message of the film, the moral of the story, Noah’s lesson, then there is going to be no character development. Most of the film would seem somewhat redundant. And much of the environmental awareness so prominent in the film’s early stages takes a back seat in the Ark… probably hiding from Noah.
The point is I think what we’re seeing is someone committed to the creation and allegiance to God but he ultimately lacks mercy. Remember his (perhaps Pharisaical) declaration that “there is no room for them on this boat”? Some hero, right? But he’s doing God’s will isn’t he? Clearly he’s living in this tension between a good God, an humanity gone wild while dealing with his own sinfulness as well as being the primary agent of God’s judgement in the world. How do we reconcile these things together? It’s a common point of tension and these issues may point to something else. I’ll return to in the last post.
Back to the story.
In the end of the movie, after the flood, Noah is living separately from his wife. He makes wine, gets drunk, and is found naked by his sons. Not the best way to start the new creation, but as the creation sequence indicated humans have a history of depravity. However, Noah repents and returns to his wife and family. Ila, Noah’s adopted daughter, assures him he relented from killing his grand-daughters because he has love in his heart (rather than being a failure). Finally, she says, to images of animals, “we need to learn to be kind”.
Not a bad message. But…
The thing with Noah, is that we don’t need to just learn to be kind, though we absolutely need to treat all creation, humans and animals, with kindness and respect. In contrast to Noah most of his family did actually seem to be kind. TC certainly didn’t seem able to be kind and Noah realized he himself is evil, deserving of wrath and judgement like TC. We haven’t done at all well at being kind; our whole history is one of violence, as suggested in the film. Since the fall we seem unable to do what is right to choose the “light” over “darkness”.
Kindness and the kind God
Christians agree that we need to learn to be kind. It’s just that we humans just aren’t very good at it and we seem to need help. Our lack of kindness comes from our self-worship and rejection of the truly good God. More than learning to be kind, we need to be transformed in a way that affirms the humanity of a Tubal Cain but destroys the pride that leads to barbarism and exploitation, and instead leads us to consider others better than ourselves. The pride that says “I will rule my own life. The pride that de-God’s God, if that were really possible. Likewise with Noah, he needs to see that demonstration that humanity is worth saving. In a sense both Noah and Tubal-Cain have the same need.
The good news of the Gospel is that there is a God who is kind and whose kindness – shown to us in the person and work of Jesus – actually leads us to the change we want and need to see in ourselves and in the world. Only because God has been kind first in spite of all our unkindness, selfishness and destructive tendencies, that we have any hope for change. God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and to show grace and mercy to others. God’s kindness expressed in the self-sacrificial love of Jesus for forgiveness serves as a model for our kindness.
- Read the prefatory post here: Clearing the decks for Noah (2014)
- Read part 1 of the series here: Noah #1 – A good God and Aronofsky’s apple.
- Read part 2 of the series here: Noah #2 – Great expectations and a better revelation
- Read part 3 of the series here: Noah #3 – Kindness and the kind God