My wife and I went to see the film Noah on Saturday. I’m sure we were both a bit sceptical about it, having seen some of the reviews beforehand. Most of the reviews seemed to focus on whether or not the film was faithful to the Bible story, and whether of not this faithfulness (or lack of it) mattered.
Since both of us tend to view the Bible story of Noah as a rather charming fairy tale (which does not add to or subtract from our religious beliefs), we weren’t particularly concerned about the faithfulness issue.
Certainly, the cinematography in the film is spectacular: thousands of animals, thousands of sinful people, an absolutely gigantic ark, a colossal storming of the ark, a horrendous flood, etc. And the acting seemed credible enough.
Neither of us particularly liked the Watchers: giants assembled from what looked like huge pieces of cold lava, who were apparently sent by the Creator to see what the human race was up to. For me, the Watchers seemed to clash with the rest of the characters and scenery in the film, all of which seemed quite natural. In fact, I thought: why include them at all? The Creator could certainly see for himself what the human race was up to: mostly no good.
The other point that didn’t work for me was that Noah believed his mission from the Creator was to save only the animals: that he and his family would die, too. I suppose, ingrained in my mind, is the notion that the point of the fairy tale is that God destroyed the wicked people, but He started again with Noah’s family. In the film, only the oldest of Noah’s sons, Shem, has a wife. Ham tries to take a wife, but Noah prevents it, and Japheth is too young. The film character of Noah believes that he must kill the child of Shem’s pregnant wife in order that mankind will eventually die out (as he believes the Creator wishes). Certainly, this adds some excitement to the plot. The other bit of excitement is that the king of the evil-doers manages to get onto the ark and avoid the flood. This leads to some arguments, soul-searching and fighting.
I found myself thinking about the evolution of the art of film-making as compared to the art of writing novels. Noah, it seems to me, is representative of modern films in two respects: the use of technology in cinematography to produce visual effects that were beyond the comprehension of film makers thirty years ago; and, the exposure of raw and profound human emotion. By way of comparison, I’m watching Sea Devils, a mediocre-at-best, 1953 film starring Rock Hudson and Yvonne De Carlo, set in the Napoleonic era. There are no special effects and, by today’s standards, the acting is pretty wooden. Even the feelings of betrayal of a lover are expressed with only a few words and a pout. In a film today, feelings of betrayal would be compounded with other issues and expressed with violence and shouting.
As to the art of writing (and publishing) novels, the technological changes have been in the evolution of the e-book and in print-on-demand publishing. Neither of these technologies existed thirty years ago. And, it seems to me, writers are mining more complex human emotions, and are presenting them more graphically than ever before.