Discussion of Script:
Three scholars of the Hebrew Bible discuss "Noah" after reading Brian Gadawa's summary
This conversation happened on January 14-15, 2014 in a facebook thread, hosted by Noah's Flood. Slightly edited here for style & flow.
Christian screenwriter, Brian Godawa, summarized the "Noah" script back in October. His summary was thorough, although his assessment was pointedly critical, saying: "If you were expecting a Biblically faithful retelling of the story of the greatest mariner in history and a tale of redemption and obedience to God you’ll be sorely disappointed." Perhaps more tellingly, his essay was titled: "Darren Aronofsky's Noah: Environmentalist Wacko."
To off-set Godawa's angle, Noah's Flood posted the following prompt:
"Noah" promises to defy expectations about a Bible-movie, raise questions about natural disaster & climate change, prompt reflection on Noah as a biblical character......and Paramount studio's fear is that it will raise passionate ire from *both* faith-friendly and Aronofsky fans alike. Myself, I can't wait to see it.
Ingrid Esther Lilly: The more i think about it, the more I want to see this script come to life! Half of the film represents an interesting take on the primeval history of Genesis. The second half of the drama takes place on the boat, completely aggadic. A family drama to fill in what the Bible never addresses: what was it like on the boat? Lots of fascinating stuff here. I hope the final cut doesn't chop out the 'least biblical' section of the script (the human drama on the ark)...it is such an interesting take on Noah's Flood!
Erika Fitz: As for me, I have no problem with departing from "original intent". I notice that Godawa uses language about what the Bible says that "we are to..." [do] and proceeds to use masculine-only language without comment. I don't want to be bound to original intent because original intent was not exactly perfect. I'm more interested in how it can be imagined, and on the merits of each vision. It's a real shame if, as Godawa says, the movie skimps on the character development, because that loses merit points. But imagining Noah as someone who saw destruction as punishment for human destruction of the world? I think that's pretty brilliant, even if I'm well aware that it's not what the bilblical authors meant. (Although ancient peoples DID create environmental catastrophes for themselves by overgrazing, deforestation and the like. Even if it wasn't on the scale of global warming, I don't think it's impossible that some ancient people did feel that people were destructive to the order of things.)
Ingrid Esther Lilly: I love your point about imagined tellings, Erika. The ANE literature (and the Documentary Hypothesis) clearly shows that an art of story-telling was at work in the biblical version. I agree with you, bring on the vision, Aronofsky, join the stream of imaginative retellings of the flood story. ...And there is so much to say about your parenthetical remark. Awesome.
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes: Erika and Ingrid – I was struck by the ferocity with which Godawa decried the film's depiction of "Noah as environmentalist." Like Erika, I am more intrigued by this lens for Noah than worried by it! The Genesis account says the earth was "corrupt" and that's why the flood needed to come. In 1 Enoch, though, it seems that it's more like the earth is just ravaged and destroyed, even before the flood, because of the havoc wreaked by the offspring of the Watchers and humans. They devour plants, animals, even one another. They consume life, making much of it extinct. In its retelling, this film takes "environmental" concerns and places the blame firmly on human shoulders, at least according to Godawa's summary. So, maybe what Aronofsky did was take the Enochic concern that the earth was already ruined, and combine it with the Genesis account's conviction that humans were to blame! Seems like a creative way to have the story speak in our own context.
Ingrid Esther Lilly: I too am very happy to see someone play on the biblical announcements that humans had corrupted the earth. Look at these details: Genesis 6:5a (great was man's wickedness), 6:5b (every plan devised by his mind was evil all the time), 6:11a (the earth became corrupt), 6:11b (the earth was filled with violence), 6:12 (all flesh had corrupted its ways on earth), and 6:13b (the earth is filled with violence because of them)...there are so many references to human-made problems in the pre-flood world. At least in this case, (pace the 'environmental criticis') Aronofsky's imagination capitalizes on detail that is actually *in* the text. And here, I agree with you Jackie, about how strange it is to criticize the film for Noah's 'environmentalism.' One has to do bizarre gymnastics to avoid the environmental theme in Genesis, especially in chs. 1-9!
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes: I am quite intrigued with Godawa's thoughts on how the Watchers are presented in the movie. I didn't catch a glimpse of them in either trailer, I don't think – did anyone else? He says, first of all, that they are presented as "18-feet tall, six-armed grumpy angelic complainers" and later on he says that they seem more like giants than like Watchers. I wonder if the film itself calls them Watchers, or if this is Godawa's interpretation of the film's intent. It would make sense to me if the film were indeed presenting the offspring of the Watchers and humans – which are described as "warriors and men of reknown" in Genesis 6, and as monstrous giants in 1 Enoch – rather than the Watchers (fallen angels) themselves.
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes: Another point about the Watchers/Giants: I am intrigued that they are banished to a certain part of the Earth in this film! In 1 Enoch, the disobedient Watchers are banished to a desolate place in the heavens, but unless I'm mistaken there is no mention of their separation from humankind on earth.
Ingrid Esther Lilly: I didn't see the rock-giant Watchers in the trailers either. That's a good question about whether the *film* calls them watchers - because Godawa knows the extra-biblical literature well. Too true about the monstrous giant offspring...that sounds more akin to the characters in the summary. I'm amazed that they play such an important role in helping Noah! It's one thing for them to populate the land through which Noah must travel to find Methuselah's cave (sounds a bit like Gilgamesh's journeys to the end of the earth to speak with Utnapishtim and gain insight into human mortality)...but it's another thing entirely to have these giants help Noah build the ark, protect his boat from enemy armies. I don't remember, in 1 Enoch, is there any basis for the offspring of Watchers and humans to be helpful to humanity?
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes: Godawa cites 1 En 67:2 as an ancient source that the Watchers helped build the ark. Here's 67:1-3: "And in those days, the word of God came to me and said to me, 'Noah, your lot has come up to me, a lot without blame, a lot of love and uprightness. And now the angels are making a wooden (vessel), and when the angels have completed that task, I will put my hand upon it and protect it. and from it will come the seed of life, and a change will take place, so that the earth will not remain desolate.'" - Nickelsburg and Vanderkam, Hermenia commentary on 1 Enoch 2, p. 273.
Ingrid Esther Lilly: Cool! Did not remember that.
Ingrid Esther Lilly: This is too good. I found a video uploaded to Disclose.tv: Truth Revealed, in which "Holy42" claims that Darren Aronofsky stole ideas from his screen play, "The Nephilim." What is truly remarkable is that he doesn't seem to realize that he (Holy42) also stole these ideas, even these exact lines...from the Lamech Apocalypse (1QapGen) and 1 Enoch (Book of the Watchers). Or rather, he is aware of a prophesy of Enoch, but he believes he and his friends have received it, understood it, and that Aronofsky plagiarized directly from his original and unique effort to convey these truths in his original script.
Ingrid Esther Lilly: A quick point about the author of this summary, Brian Godawa. He wrote a book called Noah Primeval. In addition to looking completely fascinating, Godawa's book focuses exclusively on the drama that leads up to the flood. The idea that Noah struggles with sin only plays out in Godawa's pre-flood drama. Any short-comings on Noah's part (and there are many short-comings) are part of the development of his righteous faith, stumbling blocks along the road to his ultimatly triumphant righteousnes. In that state, he can board the ark a perfected human with the grace of divine assistance behind him. In other words, Gadawa reads the ark as the vessel of grace and salvation. There can be no sin aboard the ark, in his theological version. I am quite fascinated by Aronofsky's desicion to place the drama of sin in the ark. But despite my fascination, will Godawa be right? ...Will audeinces approve of this clear addition to the biblical tale (failing to recognize that most popular versions of the Noah story are already interpretations with their own additions owing mostly to theolgy and religious heritage).