Guest Editorial: Cristiano Silva on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah

February 11, 2013

Reading the first book of the Bible simply kindles my imagination, maybe even more than the last one. This doesn’t mean that I think of Genesis as a book of invented stories of things that didn’t happen. That’s not the case: I don’t have any problems in rationally believing, by faith, that what is written there is the truth. One may argue that the truth is not always conveyed in the Bible in literal form but it’s done sometimes in a symbolic way. To this idea, I agree, and I also think that maybe we could apply this principle to the first chapters of Genesis. But this is another discussion; for now, I’ll just reaffirm my faith: Genesis tells the truth about the creation of everything by God, including the special creation of Man by Him (Adam and Eve, “male” and “female” – Genesis 5:2), and about how sin entered into this world. It presents God, explains our origin, and reveals our need for a Redeemer.

But here is why Genesis kindles my imagination: although telling the truth, it is not exhaustive in details. God didn’t intend Genesis to be a scientific or historically accurate report of how things were created and happened; that’s simply not its purpose. Because of that, whenever I begin to read it, I end up with literally dozens of questions at chapter 11, and one of them is: what exactly was the pre-diluvian ancient world like?

Generally people think of the ancient world as an undeveloped, stone-age level land that was full of primitive men, women and barbarians. Christian believers probably tend to think of the pre-diluvian age that way as well. But was it really like that? I doubt it, and G. K. Chesterton has inspired my doubts regarding this matter. When talking about the modern opinion about the ancient world in his book The Everlasting Man, chapter 3, he states:

The modern man looking at the most ancient origins has been like a man watching for daybreak in a strange land; and expecting to see that dawn breaking behind bare uplands or solitary peaks. But that dawn is breaking behind the black bulk of great cities long built and lost for us in the original night; colossal cities like the houses of giants, in which even the carved ornamental animals are taller than the palm-trees; in which the painted portrait can be twelve times the size of the man; with tombs like mountains of man set four-square and pointing to the stars; with winged and bearded bulls standing and staring enormous at the gates of temples; standing still eternally as if a stamp would shake the world. The dawn of history reveals a humanity already civilized. Perhaps it reveals a civilization already old. And among other more important things, it reveals the folly of most of the generalizations about the previous and unknown period when it was really young. The two first human societies of which we have any reliable and detailed record are Babylon and Egypt. It so happens that these two vast and splendid achievements of the genius of the ancients bear witness against two of the commonest and crudest assumptions of the culture of the moderns. If we want to get rid of half the nonsense about nomads and cave-men and the old man of the forest, we need only look steadily at the two solid and stupendous facts called Egypt and Babylon.

I consider, for example, that many people imagine Noah as he was depicted by John Huston in his classical movie The Bible: In the Beginning. That’s the general idea of him. It was just very recently that I found out that there are people who would disagree with that, and some of them are storytellers who combine elements from biblical and semitic mythological texts to produce high quality fantasy narratives.

The famous American director, Darren Aronofsky, is one of them. He had an idea of an epic of Noah, a story that was in his mind since he was a 13 year-old-boy, when he won a prize for writing a poem about the end of the world as seen by the eyes of Noah. He faced problems in finding a studio to produce his movie, and because of that, he decided to adapt the script into a comic book. In his own words, he said:

It seems like if you come up with an original script, in Hollywood it’s not as effective as a comic book. It doesn’t even have to be successful as a comic; I mean how successful were ‘Kick-Ass’ or ‘Scott Pilgrim’? Those were fringe comics, right, and they were basically turned in to big pictures.

It worked: he got the financial support of Hollywood and is post-producing the film right now.  The cast includes Russell Crowe as Noah, along with Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins, and will be released in 2014. Although I’m really looking forward to the movie, I was  more interested in the graphic novel, especially after I saw some previews of it. Planned as a four-part series—with its last volume as an epilogue of the movie—the first volume was released in France in 2011, with art drawn by Canadian comic book artist Niko Henrichon, who also worked at Marvel Comics. This was a problem for me, simply because I don’t speak or read in French, but after its release in Germany last year, I could finally buy it. Thank God I can read German.

Noah 01: Wegender Bosheitder Menschen (“because of the wickedness of men”) didn’t disappoint me at all. A well-written story combined with gorgeous artwork resulted in a great comic book. I hope it will be released for English readers sometime soon. For now, they can check a translated preview available online through this link.

As a fantasy, it is based on the biblical story, adding mythological elements to it and depicting a very different pre-diluvian world. Many may find this odd, but I found it to be simply wonderful. Yes, I think it is a high quality fantasy and a very well conceived fictional work, but although it’s based on the Bible, it’s not a faithfully biblical narrative. Darren wants to tell a story about environmental abuse of the world, as a warning to our generation about abuse of nature and climate change, and Christians know how the biblical story is more than just that.

At this point, I understand many will simply reject this work—both the comic books and the movie—considering them as an abuse of the biblical text, used as “left-wing environmental propaganda”. I really respect this opinion and the rejection, mainly because I recognize it as a demonstration of the importance of the Bible in our redeemed lives. That’s the opinion, for example, of Christian writer Brian Godawa, as seen through this link (recommended reading!), who also wrote another very good fantasy about Noah (maybe I will talk of that in a future review). Particularly, I can’t make a decision about Darren’s story as a whole, simply because the movie and all the subsequent graphic novels weren’t released yet, and maybe they’ll present aspects with which I’ll strongly disagree.

As a Christian, however, I believe that sin corrupts what we do as men and women, including our relationship with God,  ourselves and with our world. God ordered us to rule over creation (Genesis 1:28, 2:15), to take care “of the garden”, and because of our wickedness, we don’t do that; we abuse it. In my humblest opinion, this was true in Noah’s time, and it’s true, as I see it, also in our time. The abuse of the environment is not our definition of sin, and it’s not the reason we deserve the Wrath of God, but it’s surely one of the ways we manifest our sin. Why shouldn’t we finally recognize that—just because a non-Christian said it to us? Should we simply ignore this problem?

The story as told in this first graphic novel shows a very impressive kind of post-apocalyptic world oppressed by the wickedness of humanity, full of brutality, violence against people, idolatry, abuse of nature, and one man of God and his family who oppose it. Noah is depicted as a complicated figure (as he also is in Brian Godawa’s story by the way), who receives visions from the Lord about the future destruction, and as a man of God tries to warn everybody about it, inviting them to repent. Within this narrative context, based on a biblical story that is my ultimate reference, I reaffirm that this first graphic novel is really fantastic.  It is the best comic book I read last year, and I hope that the next volumes will maintain the same quality.

Even with the probable future problems with the story, I think Darren’s upcoming movie will serve as a great opportunity for us to talk to people about God, about the effects of sin in women and men, and most important of all, why we need to repent and have Christ Jesus as our Redeemer. May it serve to the Glory of God by our sharing of the true message of the Gospel to all people. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy this beautiful comic book. 🙂

One last piece of advice: grab a copy of Susan Wise Bauer’s book, The History of the Ancient World; go to the nearest library, or simply buy it. Open it to chapter 2, entitled “The Earliest Story”, where she discusses the ancient narratives of the Great Flood. Really worth reading, brothers and sisters.

Cristiano Silva is a Brazilian Christian Protestant, Calvinist, member of Presbyterian Church of Brazil in Vila Mariana, São Paulo, and writer of the blog Redeemed Geek. He considers Avengersvs. XMen a lame saga, and misses the old DC Universe, with its old-fashion Kryptionian dress style.

 

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9 comments on “Guest Editorial: Cristiano Silva on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah

  1. Nice info!

    Halfway through, I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if he has heard of Brian Godawa’s books,” and a sentence later, you mention it!

    I love Brian Godawa’s work, but I haven’t began reading his Genesis novels yet.

    • Yes, I had a great time reading Godawa’s Noah Primeval last year. He did a good job with the story, and also by putting some really interesting theological texts in the appendices section of his book. I’m looking forward to continue the saga, but in fact I would like very much to make some time to read his Word Pictures, which seams also very good.

      For anyone interested in Godawa’s work, I recommend the site of his saga Chronicles of the Nephilim, available in this link.

  2. Great article, Christiano! I am looking forward to seeing the movie and hoping to read the graphic novels one day in English.

    • Well, I think just before the release of the movie, the comic book will also be released for USA. Maybe even for Brazil, who knows; there are a lot of european material been released here in my country lately.

    • “Word Pictures” is one of my favorite books period. It really helped shape me as a writer and lover of stories.

  3. Rodrigo Camargo Feb 14, 2013

    Congratulations about this review! Nice one!

  4. Just registering that Image Comics released the complete series in US. Worth reading!

    http://imagecomics.com/comics/releases/noah-hc

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