3 Reasons Japanese Should See Aronofsky’s “Noah”

Noah Poster Top Portion

“Noah” will be released in Japan on June 13, 2014

Controversy has swirled around the “Noah” epic with many Christians denouncing it. While the film takes liberties, there is good reason to take your Japanese friends to see it.

Noah Poster

1. “Noah” includes one of the best portrayals of the creation story on film. Years ago retired TEAM missionary John Schwab said to me, “when you teach Japanese the Bible, start in Genesis!!” This makes perfect sense as Genesis is the beginning of the story. The first three chapters of the Bible are pivotal as they provide crucial background on God, the creation, the source of sin, and the promise of redemption. For a person with no exposure to the Old Testament narratives starting with the New Testament is like walking into a movie theater half way though a film and trying to figure out what the story is about.

Starting in Genesis provides the context needed to understand who God is and why Jesus did what he did on the cross. The portrayal of the creation story in “Noah” is a way for Japanese — who often know nothing about the Biblical narrative — to “get” a crucial part of the story.

2. Throughout the film “The Creator” is a phrase that is used many times. Noah prays to “The Creator.” Noah and his family follow “The Creator” who warns them of coming catastrophe and tells them how to build a vessel that will keep them and the animals safe. Noah and his family are in relationship with “The Creator.” They communicate with him. He cares about them and is shown to stand for justice and goodness. “The Creator” is portrayed as wise and powerful. The caveat is that we don’t know how this will be translated in the Japanese version of the film.

3. Any film about the Bible is an opportunity to start a conversation. “What did you think about the film” works fine as an opening question. “What did you think about the “Creator God in the film?” is a good question to ask. Almost any open question can lead to important conversations (don’t fail to listen!).

There has been strong objections to a lack of Biblical accuracy in “Noah.” Many Christians react to “Noah” because it is not the kind of film that they expected. For most of us Noah is a cute Sunday School story while “Noah” is a violent, complex tale with conflicted characters. What was Noah (the man) really like? We simply do not know. It is possible that he struggled with fear and temptations like we do. While the movie isn’t perfect — the ridiculous Rock Giants are particularly hard to accept — “Noah” does get many of the main elements of the story right.

I know a man who followed Christ after seeing “Ben Hur” while in prison. He was there for terrorism. Now this man is a missionary to Japan and a chaplain in prisons. Was “Ben Hur” completely accurate to the Bible? No. And, neither is “Noah.” Apparently, Hollywood has two Moses films and an epic about Cain and Abel in the works. While Hollywood seeks to cash in on the popularity of Bible stories, I pray God will use these films to draw people to himself.

1.3 million “likes” on the Japanese Facebook page for “Noah” indicates a great deal of interest in the film.

If you see “Noah” with Japanese friends, please post about how it went.

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5 comments

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  • From my friend Darrell A. Harris on Facebook:

    Thanks Paul. I agree, completely. I loved the blog-entry from Nicholas R. Quient, as well as the comments from Stephen Halker.

    I am an enormous Aranofsky fan and have been since the beginning. While I thought this was more uneven than is best output it was still worth my money for an IMax ticket on opening day. It did not disappoint.

    Here are a few other links to theological thoughts on this picture. I found them very helpful . . .

    The first link gives some context and a glimpse into the filmmakers writing process.

    The second accuses aronofsky of a surreptitious imposition of gnostic and kabbalistic views on his unsuspecting audience.

    The third debunks the gnostic charge and elucidates the influences of the kabbal – i think that third writer gets it!
    enjoy~

    http://www.jewishjournal.com/…/apocalypse_noah_darren…

    http://drbrianmattson.com/…/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

    http://seenthatmovietoo.wordpress.com/…/is-darren…/

  • My husband and I often watch and discuss movies with our youth group, so church members asked us what we thought about Noah. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I was inclined to agree with what you have written here, but then I read this article:

    http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

    Now I am inclined to be cautious. My husband and I encouraged church members to wait and see the movie when it comes out on DVD; we might use this movie to help teach our youth group about recognizing lies and subversion in popular culture. I sincerely hope this movie is more helpful to Japanese Christians and seekers than I think it will be.

    • Celia,

      Thanks very much for your comment. That is wonderful that you are discussing films with your youth group as they probably watch them all the time. Films do have an impact on how our thoughts, feelings and behavior — they are a powerful influence in our culture. I have a teenage daughter so I am concerned about this issue.

      When we watch films — and this is true of any story — we interpret them from our personal perspective. And, everything in a movie means something to someone, even if it is just a random object that wasn’t chosen intentionally. What was intended by the writer of the story, by the director, by the person who shot the film (and the way a film is shot does affect the meaning), by the editor may not be what the person watching the film understands it to mean. What I’m getting at is that Dr. Brian has strong opinions about the meaning of the film — which may or may not line up with the intended meaning.

      If we want to know what the film means, Aronofsky is the primary source. I found two interviews where Aronofsky discusses the film with a Christian publication:

      http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/march-web-only/darren-aronofsky-interview-noah.html?paging=off

      http://www.religionnews.com/2014/03/24/interview-director-darren-aronofsky-on-justice-vs-mercy-in-noah/

      I don’t have any reason to believe that the director is making up stories about his personal history and what sources he used to make the film so this to me has more credibility than conclusions drawn by a viewer.

      No matter what the film “really” means it is out there, part of our culture now, and most of your youth group members have probably seen it. The question is how are we going to respond?

      Condemn it? (Seems to me that approach usually has not had the intended results)

      Discuss it? (It seems to me, that is a really good idea)

      Ignore it? (Not realistic)

      I hope my comments are helpful. There are few easy black and white answers here. However, I firmly believe that we can’t just ignore and or condemn pop culture and end up in a good place. Kudos for discussing films with your youth!

      Warmly, Paul

    • I just looked at your blog and see you are in Japan and with OMF! Nice to be in touch. I know a number of your colleagues.

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