8 reasons for Catholics to see the upcoming Noah movie
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I was invited to attend a screening of the movie Noah on Thursday March 6. The movie starring Russell Crowe as Noah (and including Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone) is set to be released on March 28, 2014. While reviews are embargoed, I wanted to share a few specific thoughts in response to all the chatter out there from people who haven't seen the film.
There has been some concern expressed in the Christian community due to the fact that the movie is not a literal depiction of the scriptural account of Noah (chapters 5-9 from the Book of Genesis). There has also been concern expressed about the choices the director and screenwriters made adding details to the account that weren't in Genesis. For example, how did Noah build an ark that big? How did Noah react to the death and destruction of all things living in the world outside of the ark? Did Noah's contemporaries know the floods were going to come and what (if anything) did they do to fight for their lives? How did 7 pairs of each animal come to be in the ark and stay calm for months on board?
Paramount Pictures, who is distributing the film, responded to these concerns by clarifying on the movie's website and promotional materials, "The film is inspired by the story of Noah. 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 biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."
I think this is a helpful clarification in case anyone would have assumed that the account would be literal. For my part, I don't understand why anyone would have assumed that an epic movie could have been done literally only on the material in the Book of Genesis, as the Biblical account wasn't written with the detail or for the purpose of a two-hour screenplay.
Here's why I recommend this film to Catholics:
(1) It inspired me to read the Scriptures again, closely - Preparing to watch the move made me read the chapters in Genesis (5-9) that tell the story of Noah. I also was moved to reread the chapters after the movie. Frankly, it had been years since I read these chapters as they are not frequently part of the readings at Sunday Mass. One of the Catholics I watched the movie with remarked after immediately it that it makes her "want to go back and read the biblical account of Noah." Any movie that drives people to read the Scriptures once again is a very good thing.
(2) The movie gets the big aspects of Noah's role right. Noah receives a life-altering task from God and faithfully executes it. At a human level, the movie provides an interpretation of what this experience must have been like for Noah. Some Christians will appreciate the interpretation; others might not like the presentation of Noah as conflicted. It's simply an interpretation. Any rich telling of this story on the big screen required some artistic license on the question of how did Noah personally cope with this massive task.
(3) It's great that Hollywood is making big-budget biblically-inspired epic films. This film cost $125 million to produce. It has a stellar cast and fantastic visuals. It is great to go to the movies and see a gripping movie about a key story from the Scriptures.
(4) The film will spark great conversations. One of the first words I used to describe the movie was "intense." After the movie, the small group of us had a fascinating discussion about aspects of the movie. We wanted to know what others thought and felt. The movie provokes questions on important topics such as good and evil, life and death, aspects of Noah's life, and how God is present with us in the world. I am grateful that the Noah movie will do this for viewers.
(5) The Noah movie can foster what Pope Francis calls a culture of encounter. Specifically because the film isn't a literal, biblical account, because it has a great cast and because it is visually-appealing epic blockbuster, many people that would never describe themselves as religious will be open to seeing it. Consequently, it allows us to invite those of different faiths and those away from the Christian faith to join us for the movie. Much good can come from the post-movie discussions. Hopefully some of those discussions lead those involved to also encounter God in prayer.
(6) The movie should make us more aware of evil and goodness in the world. Seeing how good and evil is presented in the movie made me consider how both evil and goodness is present in the world today. In Noah's time, God saw so much evil that he chose Noah to give the human race a new start. The characters in the movie struggled realistically with the sin, violence and evil within them. We live in a culture that often chooses to downplay and avoid discussing the effects of sin and evil and the need to promote life-affirming values that lead to virtuous choices and service. This movie may produce some reflection on this.
(7) The movie makes a strong pro-life stand. At one of its most pivotal moments, the movie is powerfully pro-life. Without giving the story away, a character faces a choice to eliminate innocent, defenseless human life or to choose to protect and defend it. I hope that those who consider themselves "pro-choice" will see that scene and be open to a change in their views. Unborn girls and boys are vulnerable, voiceless and innocent too.
(8) The movie treats life as an incredible gift from God. Noah and his family understand the gift that God gave them in letting them live and to being part of God's plan of salvation. It similarly treats the world and nature as incredible gifts that we must responsibly steward. These are strong Christian messages.
Scot Landry | @scotlandry | slandry@TheGoodCatholicLife.com
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