Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014) is based on the worldwide flood account in the Book of Genesis. A major controversy in the film is that “God” or “The LORD” is not spoken by any character, substituted instead as “the Creator.” Drawing on other ancient texts including the Book of Enoch, Aronofsky (an atheist) says his film is “the least biblical biblical film ever made.”1 Although Noah contradicts the Biblical account of the Great Flood, it does try to answer an important spiritual question: If you believe in God, how can you know what His will is?
Noah (Russell Crowe) believes he knows the will of the Creator, but later realizes that he was wrong. An error of presumption occurs spiritually when a person believes God has given them a revelation, which proves to be true, but they add to the revelation things that are not true. Noah has vivid dreams of all life on Earth being destroyed in a worldwide flood. However, he makes two errors of presumption: He believes the Creator wants to destroy all of the descendants of Cain and that humanity must end with his own family.
Many descendants of Cain, ruled by King Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), are guilty of evil. In the opening scene, Tubal-cain murders Noah’s father and seizes his land. After killing a man who did him no harm, he says, “Damned if I don’t take what I want.” Years later, Noah and his family discover a mining settlement that has been massacred by Tubal-cain. The King and his men are evil—murdering and enslaving innocent people. If the death penalty is a just punishment for murder, then they deserve to die in the flood.
Although the descendants of Cain may be collectively more evil than good, there are innocent women and children among them. All human beings are guilty of sin, but Na’el (Madison Davenport) is not guilty of evil. She is an innocent victim. When her foot is caught in a trap, Noah leaves her behind, and she is trampled to death. Ham (Logan Lerman), devastated at losing his future wife, tells his father, “She was innocent. She was good.” Noah leaves Na’el behind because he believes the Creator wants to destroy all the descendants of Cain, including those who have not committed evil. This is a significant difference from the Genesis account: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”2 In Genesis, there were no innocent people apart from Noah and his family.
Unlike the Genesis story, in which God speaks directly to Noah, Aronofky’s Noah determines the will of the Creator from his dreams, seeing in vivid detail the future destruction caused by the Great Flood. Of the many differences between Genesis and the film, the way that the Creator communicates with Noah—through dreams instead of directly with words—is the most significant. Noah cannot hear the Creator’s voice, so he draws his own conclusions from his dreams. When the flood is unleashed, and people outside the ark are crying for help, Noah’s wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), becomes the voice of reason and conscience, suggesting that they use ropes to rescue them. Noah, however, holds firm to his belief. He tells Naameh, “It had to be what He wanted. A world without man.” Noah makes his first error of presumption: He believes it is the Creator’s will to only save the animals.
Noah makes a second error of presumption when he visits the camp of Tubal-cain to find wives for Ham and Japheth. When he sees the wickedness of the camp—helpless women being dragged away as slaves—he believes it is the will of the Creator that humanity ends with his own family. He tells Naameh, “The wickedness is not just in them. It is in all of us.” Although she reminds him, “There is good in us,” Noah sees more evil in humans than good. This belief is put to the test when Ila (Emma Watson) discovers she is pregnant. In the climax of the film, he is about to kill the newborn twins with his knife, but at the last moment he stays his hand. He later explains, “I looked down at those two little girls, and all I had in my heart was love.” Filled with love, Noah could not kill his granddaughters, even though he believed it was the Creator’s will.
Noah learns an important biblical principle in determining the will of God. Through visions and dreams, the Creator shows him that a flood will come upon the Earth, but beyond that, He is silent, leaving it to Noah to determine who to save. Although Noah fails to save anyone, in the end he achieves a synthesis between divine revelation and moral reasoning by listening to his conscience. He learns that the Creator’s will can be known when we follow the principle of love: A heart that is filled with love can do no harm to an innocent person.
- Christopher Hooton, “Noah the environmentalist,” The Independent, March 25, 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/noah-is-the-least-biblical-biblical-film-ever-made-says-director-9214686.html
- Genesis 6:5 (English Standard Version).