Noah – film review

Warning this review contains spoilers of the sort that go beyond a basic knowledge of the bible story.

Russell Crowe as NoahSo let me start with a preface: I think this is the most Biblical film I have seen in a very long time, perhaps ever. It is a two hour long meditation on the nature of God and the nature of humanity.

All good myths require imagination and the power to suspend disbelief, and the Noah story is no different to that. In its original Biblical form its a retelling of some kind of universal near eastern story of a time when a great flood came. You find different versions of the same story in other texts too.

But the Hebrews used this story to not just deal with some half forgotten history, but to add to the conversation around two questions – who is God? And is humanity worth saving from itself?

That is what this new version of the old story does too.

Using plenty of imagination, as befits the telling of a myth director Darren Aronofsky conjures up an antediluvian world of almost surreal proportions. He gives the drama a dreamlike quality, in the same way that a memory highlights certain colours and textures, and fades other detail into obscurity.

He deals cleverly and subtly with the notion of how God speaks to Noah, using a combination of dream and psychotropic experiences to reveal the creator’s plans. This will surely disappoint those who prefer the Sunday school idea of such communication. However, despite its grotesque proportions, it is all the more real for that.

Another piece of re imagining comes in the casting of the Nephilim as rock bound creatures, difficult for those of us who prefer to imagine them as models of muscle bound masculinity. However, the really wonderful thing about his re imagining of these ‘Watchers’ (a term taken directly from the extra/non/orthodox canonical) text of Enoch is the way he uses them to tell their own story of love and redemption.

The great problem for those of us who read the story through an understanding of a God who is love, is the prevalence of the myth of redemptive violence. I thought that this would be a problem in the film too, that we would still have to deal with a vengeful God who wants to visit death and destruction on evil humans.

But actually the story overcomes this, and this is the great ‘arc’ of this myth, it’s Noah’s great realisation that his mission is not to see humans wiped out for their sin, and thereby to recreate the garden in its virginal purity. Instead his mission is fulfilled when he realises that the love he has in his heart is what God wants.

Aronofsky uses some license to get there, the device of the babies is his key interjection into the story, should Noah kill the children to fulfill his mission from God? When he finds he cant do so, he feels that he has failed, he becomes deeply depressed, he fears the the love he has in his heart for his grandchildren makes him weak, and of no use to God.

His epiphany comes as he realises eventually that love is his mission, his broken, loving and weak heart is what God wants. It is then that the new covenant comes into place.

Another clever addition to the story is the incorporation of Tubal Cain into the tale, he is recast not as Naameh’s brother as in the original text, but as the king, or ‘chief of the baddies’.

What he wants is to seize equality with God by force, he wants to take it – this is the fall story still in place. That man can be equal with God by eating the fruit. Tubal Cain is the antithesis to the eventual ideal type Noah.

Tubal Cain wants to recreate paradise too, but another sort of paradise, he wants to see the power of humanity dominant over nature – and this is the other great arc, the environmental theme of stewardship over dominance. Aronofsky seems to play on this heavily, and he’s right to do so, it’s a contemporary addition to the story, but one which has all the more relevance for that.

The way this works out is in Noah’s killing of Tubal Cain, another part of his supposed ‘duty’.

One final addition to the story is that of Methuselah, played as a wise ancient Shaman who has a fascination with finding berries before he dies. For all his powers, he cannot find the berry he wants, until his last moment, when God in a gift of small amounts but epic proportions reveals a berry to him, just before he meets his death.

So yes, this is a meditation on the nature of God, revealing eventually a God who is loving, who doesn’t command death and destruction, but who is misunderstood and disobeyed (obey comes from the Latin and has a close association with the word listen) by all but a few. It’s a God who grants small kindnesses, who sees into the hearts of humanity, and loves them.

And it’s a meditation on the nature of humanity, for from earth (humus) they came. It recognises humans as capable of great wickedness and of great love.

Acting wise I was impressed by everyone, except perhaps Emma Watson, who I found unconvincing. I didn’t desperately like the fight scenes, but I don’t like them usually anyway – they were however a necessary dramatic device.

It was both massively divergent from the original text, and simultaneously totally faithful to the spirit of it, and that is what makes it very very Biblical. Those who want more Biblical literalism will hate it no doubt. I thought it was excellent.

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Trouble down under – what went wrong with Rudd?

Interesting to hear in the news about the appointment of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, but I must admit that I had been woefully unaware of the immense slump of popularity suffered by the hitherto golden boy of Aussie politics, Kevin Rudd.

Rudd swept to power on a wave of popularity, and seemed to be doing all the right things, particularly with his historic apology to the Aboriginal peoples.

My early criticisms of him and Pete Garrett with regard to their unwillingness to stand up to Whalers seemed to have been misplaced as Australia are now one of the leading voices in the anti-Whaling movement.

But scarcely had his feet touched the ground, and he is gone, booted out by a disgruntled parliamentary party.

The question is why…

It seems complicated and convuluted, and seems likely to come down to a whole range of back-tracking and apparent weak decision making, but one of the key points which will be raised is his U-turn on a flagship policy which would have seen Australia take the lead on a global level in the area of reducing carbon emissions.

But effectively it seems to me that he caved in to pressure, pressure from the public who wanted the policy but weren’t prepared to pay for it, and pressure from business which didnt like his interventionist approach. Pressure also came from without – as various other countries dithered and did nothing much about reducing their own emissions, how could Australia afford to spend so much money on something nobody else was willing to do? And as Rudd wavered, I now realise, his popularity slumped.

In the end I think this may go down in history as a major opportunity missed, another example of the failure of democratic decision making, and a triumph of capitalism over common sense.

A shame, Australia out of all of the developed nations should have been in a good position to take a lead on environmental politics. Hey ho.

Good bye Kevin Rudd, hello Julia Gillard.

should we look to the elite for climate solutions?

According to what I read at Treehugger, the rich are to blame for climate chaos.

“For example, the average American’s carbon footprint is 2000 times bigger than the average person living in Chad. The average British [sic] emits more carbon in a day than the average Kenyan emit in a year. It gets worse! Did you know that the top 20% wealthiest people contribute 80% of greenhouse gases? Or that the top 7% are responsible for half of all carbon emissions?”

This all adds fuel to my revolutionary fire, but a counter argument that has been gaining some ground goes like this – if the rich are responsible for so much of the problem, we should work with them to solve it. This is based on the rather dubious ‘offsetting’ programmes that seem to abound, but that to one side, does this general approach make sense? Is it pragmatic?

“Most people see this as a reason to loathe the affluent, but wouldn’t it make more sense to see them as an enormous opportunity to create fast and dramatic change for global warming? If the 20% well-to-do offset their CO2 emssions by 50%, that would mean an overall decrease of 40%.”

Everything within me rankles at this suggestion, but I wonder if I’m just to idealistic? Can the wealthy really just buy us out of this mess?

The Belgrave Trust – HT Treehugger.

eco fetish misses the point

Picked up this story from treehugger, about a man who is selling his own personal carbon offsetting system. He isnt driving for a year, and for a price you can offset your own carbon emmissions through his car free lifestyle.

This is a perfect example of exercises in missing the point.

In buying an offset all you are doing is assuaging your own guilt for your carbon sins, this is partly what I was talking about in my last post, where I suggested big brands were buying small ‘ethical’ brands, to make themselves look better. I remain to be convinced that any of these big brands, with the possible (only possible) exception of Mars are really making any effort to be more ethical, they have simply purchased their own metaphorical carbon offset, with the added bonus that it is a good marketing tool, and makes them money.

The idea should surely be that if you are a polluter you should be looked upon as such, you shouldnt just be able to pay a little guilt money to ease your conscience. What we need, I suggest are fewer fetishes such as this, and more people giving up cars or whatever is their particular vice.

I suppose, following on from my comment thread discussion with Joe from Freedom clothing, we might put fair trade clothing in this eco fetish category…

Scarborough

Wow – I wish I lived in Scarborough just so I could make use of this place!

It’s a community activism centre, set up by Climate action network people, who seem to have made a genuinely interesting and useful resource for all interested in activism of various sorts.

A big help in terms of inspiring creativity in activism, and getting people involved, without the legal difficulties of holding such a centre in a squat.

White evangelicals denying climate change?

shurely shome mishtake…

apparently its split nearly 50:50 – unbelievable.

This is the problem with trying to turn the Bible and Christianity into some kind of literalist fundamentalism rather than a means of understanding a transcendant truth or truths.  When you’re confronted with another set of contradictory facts, you are faced with a problem to which the answer must be adjust or deny… seems like a lot of people are still at ‘deny’.

20090417-pew-forum-global-warminght: treehugger who report: “

More White Evangelicals Say No Warming Happening Than Any Other Group
From this angle, slightly less than one-third of White evangelical Protestants (31%) say that global climate change is not happening. That’s roughly equal to those that believe it is happening, and due to human activity.

From a practical perspective, from one which is trying to motivate people that societal and technological change is needed to combat climate change you might as well throw in those people that believe warming is happening due to natural fluctuations with those that say it is not happening. So that brings the total for Evangelicals to 48%.

That compares to 39% for the population at large, where only 21% of people say that there is no evidence of warming.”