Darren Aronofsky’s Noah has become the talk of the Internet and religious folk. As a film, I found it flawed and a little odd in its pacing, but on a deeper level, there is plenty to mine. Most analyses that focus on the deeper elements come from the evangelical right, up in arms about the “lack of biblical” elements, and some even saying it is blasphemous and “gnostic.” Readers of Jay’s Analysis know I have no hesitation in slapping the gnostic label on Hollywood’s latest, yet here I am not so eager. It’s not that the film has no gnostic elements – there are some. It’s that the film is utilizing kabbalistic and Jewish oral tradition, which I think is the source for much of the confusion.
Aronofsky did make Pi, which is also based around kabbalistic ideas, particularly numerology and its relation to God. I am very interested in numerology and how it relates to God, yet on a personal level I just didn’t connect with Pi. It’s not a bad film, I just found it depressing. The relevance here is that Pi shows Aronofsky is very much a man of Jewish mysticism and esoterism, despite his claim to be an atheist. So, more than containing a lot of “gnosticism,” Noah contains a lot of kabbalism, as well as ideas from the Bible, the Book of Enoch, and Jewish midrash. I don’t pretend to be an expert in these areas, but I have far more familiarity than most.
Overall, I liked the film. There is nothing wrong with looking beyond there mere text to the oral tradition and the wider context that surrounds the classical biblical narratives. Evangelicals that were thrown into a frenzy are generally unaware that the “environmental” message was, in fact, accurate. In the biblical narrative, Noah and his sons had not yet begun eating flesh. Longevity was much greater due to being still relatively close chronologically to the Edenic state. Granted, the film took liberties with giving Noah a period of doubting where he thinks he may not have done correctly, since it appeared for a time that God wanted all humanity dead. Noah was a man, not a superhero. I think it is appropriate, like all the saints of Genesis, he is portrayed as a flawed man. Like the rest of the prophets, Noah was not perfect.