Noah

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A couple of movies I’ve watched lately have been mostly silent. Little monologue, little dialogue, little voice-over. Motion pictures are, as usual, hypnotic, so I hardly notice the relative silence until later, but I still question: what were they trying to say?
The first, about a woman traveling alone through the length of Australia doesn’t need much explanation: there are rarely people to talk with, so she talks little. Noah is a different matter.
This purports to be a retelling of the Bible story, but as usual, movies always change the stories they adapt from books. In the Bible, the reason for the Flood was attributed to sin, but the Bible was remarkably unspecific as to what the sin was. The movie begins with a voice-over explaining that the descendents of Cain dominated the world. We’re shown the desolate wilderness in which the movie is set, suggesting the film is an allegory of the present.
Noah sometimes speaks (and speaks well), but is usually silent. He’s been shown visions, and so begins building the Ark. In the Bible his neighbors make fun of him. In the film things get more sinister.
This is where the movie starts diverging from the Biblical account, and I start to wonder why. Tubal Cain is Noah’s opponent here, claiming the territory where Noah is building the Ark. In the Bible, Tubal Cain is the man who first worked metal, but has nothing to do with the Flood story. Probably he is used here because his name suggests his descent from Cain.
But Noah has allies in the Watchers, who are animated stone beings, who fight against Tubal Cain’s people when they try to get in the Ark. The Watchers are in the book of Enoch, popular with early Christians, but which didn’t make the canonical Bible. I don’t recall them being turned to stone. Is there a message in this, or is the unBiblical conflict and violence just entertainment?
Noah’s son Ham is unhappy with him because Noah refused to allow the girl Ham likes on the Ark. Noah’s interpretation of his vision is that humanity must die. His mission is only to save the animals, apparently, of whom we see very little.
Tubal Cain manages to stow away on the Ark, and enlists Ham to help get rid of Noah, but Ham changes his mind and kills Tubal Cain. This also seems extraneous.
A girl Noah rescued after she was abused has gotten pregnant by Noah’s other son, Shem, and gives birth in the Ark to twin daughters. Noah thinks it’s his duty to kill them, but can’t. That may be why he gets drunk after the Flood, which actually makes better sense than the Biblical account. He passes out naked, is observed by Ham, then respectfully covered by his other sons. His wife then informs him that the Creator had left human survival for him to decide. I guess that’s a happy ending.
The movie conjures up an atmosphere that’s hypnotic, but it never seems to make a lot of sense. Conflict for no good reason doesn’t make the story more meaningful or more entertaining, as far as I’m concerned.

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