Monday, March 31, 2014

Noah: Who are the Watchers and Why the Panic? Brad Jersak

The first weekend showings of Noah (the movie) starring Russell Crowe and Emma Watson were accompanied by some surprises and an utter lack thereof. I'll start with the latter to get it out of the way.

No surprise: Evangelical panic

I don't think anyone should be surprised at the usual course of Evangelical reactions decrying the movie for its 'biblical inaccuracies.' (Though I confess to wondering if the Westboro Baptists picketed anywhere). Of course, citing inaccuracies implies that the measure of faithfulness to Scripture is somehow photocopying Genesis 6-9 into the screenplay in a sort of word for word depiction. It's this paint by numbers mentality that keeps many an Evangelical trapped within the lines of their own assumptions -- as if taking the text literally was remotely akin to taking it seriously. Not so!

For those who are more serious about biblical investigation, I would highly recommend reading the interview by Paul Raushenbush with the movie's writers. It's available here:

Noah: A Midrash by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel (Interview)

In it, one finds that the Jewish writers are very familiar with the subtleties of the Scriptural story, but also well aware of and adept at using the well-attested form of Jewish interpretation known as 'Midrash.' The interviewer says,
In the end, Noah is best understood as midrash on the Genesis story in the Hebrew Bible. Midrash is a valuable part of the Jewish tradition and is a kind of storytelling that explores the ethics and values in the biblical text.
Ari Handel explains how they applied this to their movie version of the Flood epic:
We tried to read everything and talk to everything we could for guidance. Ultimately in the midrash tradition the text has purposeful lacuna; it has questions that are posed in the very words, so the closer we read it, the more questions arose from it.

At the heart of it is the big question -- why is Noah spared? Why do we have wickedness punished at the beginning of the story and almost the very same words are used to say that wickedness will not be punished in the future? What does that change and how to understand it?