Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes One thing I noticed in both trailers was the emphasis on the title character, Noah -- on his emotions, his inner drama. After watching the trailers, I went back and re-read Genesis 6-9, and unless I'm mistaken, I don't think Noah speaks at all while building the ark or while on the ark ... in fact, he does not speak until he is found naked and drunk by his sons! Then he curses and blesses his sons accordingly. Except for this, the only speaker in the biblical account is God. I find this fascinating. In the popular imagination (or at least in my imagination!) the flood story is quite caught up in the actions of its human characters. How many Sunday School lessons have I heard about having the courage to act radically if God tells you too, like Noah did?! But Genesis 6-9 pivots on God's grief for a corrupted and violent creation and God's subsequent radical and violent decision to push the "delete" button and start over (with the exception of an ark-full of the faithful). This is not a criticism of the film – indeed, how weird and possibly uninteresting it would it be to make a film about the flood from God's perspective! But I find it notable how much the trailers got inside Noah's head – something that doesn't happen in the Hebrew Bible.
Ingrid Esther Lilly I agree Jackie, that the focus on Noah's character is striking. I think it's telling that older films of the biblical deluge are always called Noah's Ark or Noah's Flood. This one is just called: "Noah!" On the level of popular culture, I see this as an emblem of our entertainment culture - a fascination with (hyper-)masculine heroism. Does this film pass the Bechdeltest? Or should we see it as one in a series of super-hero films, like Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Captain America, the Avengers, Wolverine...X-Men, Man of Steel...Hyper-powerful, super-human, amped-up masculinity on crack!.
Ingrid Esther Lilly I have to flesh out this thought about gender a little further, before I get back to your excellent post!: ...Having thought about masculinity and religion for some time now, I am very interested in discourses about the ideal religious man. It's not the exact same man as popular culture constructs as the hegemonic ideal. The hegemonic ideal in most of these super-hero films is the working class, white, strong individual man who holds unknown powers within him to conquer some illogical or impossible force or corruption. The ideal religious man usually embodies a virtue, often it is faith. It is also often a secret power that he develops as he pursues the course of his life. He is usually softer, but no less buff or triumphant over the forces of evil, perhaps even *more* triumphant over the forces of evil. I can think of several people who would have lots to say on this: Susan Haddox and Tracy Lemos come to mind!
Ingrid Esther Lilly Jackie - on the issue of Noah as a Sunday School model... Ronald Veenker wrote a great essay for the site on the fact that the Bible does not reference Noah the preacher, but many of the post-biblical stories do; in some cases, Noah delivers a lengthy sermon because he loves and wants to save the unrighteous generation! It is amazing how much Noah stands in the 'aggadic' imagination as a model for a righteous prophet who warns his generation of the coming destruction. The only problem is: Noah never delivers such a sermon.
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes Ingrid - I love what you are are thinking about Noah as a Superhero. In fact, I think the American trailer might emphasize that even more than the British one. Did you notice that the American trailer starts with Noah, a man alone in his tent? The first 15 seconds of the trailer are ALL Noah! The UK trailer, on the other hand, starts with an evocative stream of water, then fire from heaven, then an image of the whole earth, then more fire from heaven, then Akkad, then Noah's family, and only then, at 0:13, do we see Noah. I think the more mythic, cosmic, mysterious opening would speak to a UK audience .... whereas Americans are perhaps invested in the individual heroic man!
Erika Fitz I am more intrigued by this movie after seeing the trailer. I think the superhero--but superhero-as-religious-hero--theme is exactly right. I am always drawn to how the biblical stories function as deep-structure-myths. What are they tapping into? When it was told? Or as it is retold?
Ronald Veenker Ingrid, you said above: "The hegemonic ideal in most of these super-hero films is the working class, white, strong individual man who holds unknown powers within him to conquer some illogical or impossible force or corruption." This reminds me of the biblical "super-hero" tradition of the "36 Righteous." Well, let me say that the legend only became known as the "36" righteous in the middle ages. Abraham bargains with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis. "... how many of the righteous [zaddiqim] would it require ...." This tradition is alive in other parts of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles. What brings it to my mind is Ezekiel 14:14: "even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God." The legend which still lives in modern literature and storytelling suggests that there are upon the earth at all times 36 righteous men whose personal merit redeems the earth and stays God's hand from destroying his world. They come back to earth to help the Jewish people when they are in trouble (e.g., Daniel), Elijah who comes back at Passover every year, or in the NT Moses and Elijah meet with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. So, these are ancient strong individuals who have unknown powers with them to deter evil.
Ingrid Esther Lilly Ronald - the 36 righteous tradition is so cool. A great connection! Since you mention the Ezekiel 14 reference to Noah, it is striking to combine your two points - that Noah doesn't deliver a sermon in Genesis and that Ezekiel's Noah would only deliver his own life. Noah's life and work are not enough to save the rest of humanity, not in Ezekiel nor in Genesis. I wonder if there is an angle for thinking about why he was associated with saving the animals, aside from the obvious etiological need to explain why they all still live on the post-flood earth. ...and why do both Ezekiel and Genesis seem to share a theology of the impotence of the righteous man?
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes Fantastic thoughts, Ingrid and Ronald! I wonder if this impotence could have something to do with Noah's subsequent drunkenness in Genesis (survivor's guilt? or was he celebrating?!). I also wonder if Aronofsky picked up on this sense of impotence, and that's one reason why Noah is such a tormented man on board the ark, with murderous inclinations!
Ronald Veenker Wow, interesting take on the two passages, Ingrid. I was taking almost an opposite approach to Ezek 14, i.e., when a land acts faithlessly and sins against God, even the three TOP righteous heroes of the HB, those who have redeemed so many, could only save themselves. Noah did redeem his extended family and got them on the ark. Daniel saved the nation during the Babylonian Captivity. But whom did Job redeem? Let me think more about your idea before I address this theme further.
Ezekiel 14:14 - Daniel, Job & Noah
Stained glass windows in Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury, Kent, England
Eight Scholars of the Hebrew Bible on Noah
American & British Trailers
Fire Balls and Nuclear Bombs
Bible Films and Literalism
Tracy Lemos I think it is definitely pivital that all the main characters in the film be of Anglo-Saxon blood -- because as we all know the Britons were chosen by Jehovah just like their language was chosen as the tongue of sacred scriptures.
Tracy Lemos Is my sarcasm thick enough? No? Okay, let me clarify: the face of Hermione should not be in any Bible movie; it is ridiculous for people to be speaking in British accents; and when is the world going to change enough for Northern Europeans not to be seen as the default?
Ingrid Esther Lilly Ha! I got it the first time...AND the second, Tracy. I haven't seen it yet, but I plan to watch and comment on "Green Pastures" a 1928 black-folk telling of the first chapters of Genesis (creation to flood). It's a film where God is called "De Lawd" and heaven is an eternal fish-fry. I cannot say much about it yet - but it's a rare find: a non-Anglo representation of Noah's Flood. I can't wait to see it and write about it.
Ingrid Esther Lilly Tracy - I just came across a book from 1601 called "An Historical Treatise of the Travels of Noah into Europe: Containing the First Inhabitation and Peopling Thereof" ....so Hermione can *keep* her British accent! (sarcasm). We knew of these medieval matters, but reading the actual book has been quite another thing altogether!
American & British Trailers
Ingrid Esther Lilly I imagine when a director/film studio make a trailer, every detail is highly and exquisitely vetted. In this case, perhaps even more so. Paramount and Darren Aronofsky have not yet decided on the final cut; the film is not yet done! Sensing the pulse of the American audience, faith-friendly and typical movie-goer alike, has been difficult for the studio to discern. I bet this puts Noah in the same category as the new Star Wars (failures!), Star Treks (successes), Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter - movies that already have committed audiences who will judge the film harshly according to their expectations. I guess I just think that American audiences have really polarized expectations about what they would want out of a biblical film. So back to the trailers: How do you make a trailer that appeals to these audiences for a film that still awaits its final creative cut? The trailer needs to attend to the details that will definitely be in the final version, but also evoke the artistic vision of whatever version ends up being produced. The details of the trailers take on even more significance in both of these lights.
Ingrid Esther Lilly I am fascinated by the decision to release such different trailers to American and International (UK) audiences, but not at all surprised. The US trailer hits all of the biblical story elements, even under-known ones: the fountains of the deep, a quick montage of the Edenic snake & "apple" and a biblically proportionate ark. The US trailer's animal scenes (along with the musical score) are powerful, inspiring both Creationist and animal-rights activists alike to embrace the narrative. It tugs on bi-partisan heart-strings.
Ingrid Esther Lilly So, to point out a few elements in the UK trailer that were not in the US one: (1) Methuselah states directly that man corrupted this world, "and filled it with violence so we must be destroyed." (2) Noah says that the vessel will hold the 'innocent' (not the 'righteous, as Genesis calls Noah). (3) Noah affirms that the "snakes are coming too, all that crawls, all that slithers."
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes I was also struck by the fountains of the deep springing forth! Amazing cinematography. Genesis 7 also mentions the "windows of the heavens" being opened. I wonder if the movie will show the waters from above gushing down too, or if the emphasis will remain on the fountains, the waters from below.
Kelly Murphy The fountains of the deep springing forth are amazing! If nothing else, that clip alone renders this movie pedagogically useful.
Ingrid Esther Lilly Jackie - above, you made a point about the earth-from space image in the UK trailer...Does the image appear in both? Wait a sec...let me check!
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes I think it does - but it comes later on in the US version, I think?
Ingrid Esther Lilly Wow - in the US version, the image of the earth-from-space comes much later (0:50) and follows an image of a small budding flower and the line, "then I saw new life." In the UK trailer, it occurs in the first five seconds, and follows a divine thunder bolt, which unequivocally evokes the theme of global destruction!
Ingrid Esther Lilly I want to talk about snakes. I love that the UK trailer includes them! Genesis emphasizes, in both the creation (Gen 1:24-25) and the flood stories (Gen 7:8-9) the special category of animals called: "everything that creeps" (also everything that swarms or crawls...on land, in sea or sky). When the snake is so clearly associated with the Genesis 3 story of the fall, and has been so incriminated in the history of Christian art/story-telling, it is sort of fun and maybe a little bit sinister for the film to emphasize the snake's continued position of value among the animals kinds. But it also may be foreshadowing. With reference to the summary of the script below, evil comes aboard the ark, not in the form of the snake, but in an illicit stowaway and even in Noah's himself! The film seems to both affirm the goodness of the snake, and use its symbolism to open up an entirely original drama that takes place aboard the ark.
Evan Bassett yeah! I'm *team snakes*
Fire Balls and Nuclear Bombs
Ingrid Esther Lilly Did anyone see the amazing video time-lapse of every nuclear bomb that humans have detonated on the earth's surface? It reminds me of the fire-balls from heaven in the trailer. And actually, I know Aronofsky's Noah will highlight the human causes of the environmental cataclysm...I wonder if he will try to evoke human-caused nuclear holocaust in a story set in primeval history?
Bible Films and Literalism
Amy Merrill Willis As a person who lives in Jerry Falwell land, this film looks absolutely dreadful to me (except that I like Russell Crowe and Emma Watson). The trailer makes me wonder if this is just going to be a slightly bigger, showier version of that awful "The Bible" miniseries. Darren Aronofsky is a gifted storyteller, but I don't get what he's doing with this that makes it valuable.
Ingrid Esther Lilly Amy - Can you say more? I didn't see the Bible miniseries.
Jackie A. Wyse-Rhodes Yes, in some way the trailers do make the story seem unremarkable (in terms of just giving us what we might expect from a film on Noah). But when read in light of the spoilers in the article below, I think the film might be more interesting than it appears in the trailers, esp. with regard to the role of the Watchers and the half of the film that happens aboard the ark, as Ingrid mentioned.
Amy Merrill Willis The trailer makes this movie look like another sand and sandal Bible pic (or perhaps "mud and muckaluck"?). In this part of the world, such movies and mini-series are eagerly consumed by the very conservative religious crowd as visual confirmation of their own "literalist" reading strategies, even as these movies re-enforce righteous violence. Of course, such strategies are never really literal, but that's another story. The trailer has a grizzled Anthony Hopkins talk about the wrath of God; it gives us a cheesy shot of Cain killing Abel, it gives us an apple! and a serpent that my guess will be linked to Satan? Even if Aronofsky isn't going that direction, I just looks like an attempt to retell the Bible as a period piece. I find those kinds of re-tellings to be problematic in terms of their hermeneutical capacities.
Amy Merrill Willis I confess I didn't read the Hollywood Reporter piece, so it may be that Aronofsky ends up taking it in a different direction than what the trailer indicates.
Amy Merrill Willis But I would highly recommend the interpretive/updating work that is evident in the first few episodes of the 2009 NBC series "Kings." Retells the David and Saul stories in such a way that interpretive and exegetical care is apparent to the likes of you and me. Pilot episode, "Goliath" was directed by Frances Lawrence. An interesting twist on David--he becomes a man of peace, doesn't kill Goliath but creates peace instead! As for Noah, I think "Evan Almighty" is actually not a bad re-use of the Noah's ark story, interpretively speaking. Strong ecological ethic at work.
This conversation happened on January 14-15, 2014 in a facebook thread, hosted by Noah's Flood.