In the months leading up to the release of Darren Aronofsky’s new biblical epic “Noah,” there was a lot of discussion as to whether the film would meet the approval of devoutly Christian moviegoers, who have emerged as a significant box office force. My response to that was, it’s the Book of Genesis, in the Old Testament! Why doesn’t anyone care what the Jews think?
With that in mind, I went to go see “Noah” over the weekend along with my rabbi, Peter Rigler of Temple Sholom, a reform Jewish congregation in Broomall, Pa. After the movie I asked Rabbi Rigler some questions about the film, his impressions, its biblical faithfulness, and what he thinks of Hollywood’s foray into religious pictures.
As you’ll see in my review, I didn’t care much for the film- and while he “appreciated that they tried to share the emotions of Noah and his family,” neither did Rabbi Rigler.
“The movie almost felt like science fiction and just got strange for me,” Rigler said. “I didn’t feel like it added to the story for me on a personal or theological level.”
Is the film faithful to the Book of Genesis itself? Not really, although it didn’t really claim to be either. The producers of “Noah” attached a disclaimer to marketing materials- though not the film itself- stating that it wasn’t meant to completely represent biblical canon. “While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide,” the disclaimer read.
“I felt like it wasn’t a great interpretation,” Rigler said. “We often use story and Midrash to round out characters and ideas and in order to make them more accessible. In this case I didn’t appreciate the invented narrative….Although i give them credit for using characters like Tubal Cain who are in the text and left out in some ways.”
Then again, the filmmakers didn’t exactly have a ton to work with.
“I understand it is a short four or so chapters of text that need to be made into a movie but I feel like the insanity took over,” Rigler said. In the text the three sons bring their wives on board and they start the new covenant together. I did see elements form the text like the angels, the way the ark was constructed, the violence on earth and the ending scenes.”
“I would rather just read the book,” the rabbi concluded.
Rigler added that it his favorite biblical film is “The Ten Commandments.” Speaking of Moses, we plan to do this all again in November for “Exodus: Gods and Kings” Ridley Scott’s upcoming movie about the second of the Five Books of Moses, this time starring Christian Bale, stepping into Charlton Heston’s old beard as Moses.