A Muslim's Disappointment in Noah: The Film, Not the Prophet

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

I waited for the film “Noah” to come out with much anticipation, but also with mixed feelings. I really wanted to see it, but I am very sensitive to portrayals of Prophets on stage and on screen, because these are very sacred, special people. I do not like when these holy men are portrayed in any negative manner. Despite these misgivings, I did see the film, and I must say that, I was quite disappointed.

On the positive side, the way the flood was portrayed was quite cool (and close to both Biblical and Quranic depictions of the flood), and I did enjoy experiencing what it may have been like in the first few thousand years after Adam was sent to earth and on the ark in the midst of the flood.

Yet, those positives could not outweigh the disappointing negatives. Now, I know that the director, Darren Aronofsky, has said that this film is the “least Biblical Biblical film ever made.” And as I have said before, I am not looking to Hollywood to teach me sacred history. Nevertheless, even if filmmakers marketed the film as being “inspired” by the Biblical story of Noah, it was hard for me to stomach a story about Noah that was…SO unlike the actual story of Noah.

Now, the story of Noah in the Bible is short on details of his actual dealings with his people, and it focused on the ark, its construction, and the ark’s journey. But the movie filled in so many “details” that were just so far removed from the actual story, that it made it hard to watch at times.

Yes, the story in the film of the young girl that Noah adopted is very nice and sweet…but completely made up. In the movie, only Shem has a “wife,” which is his adopted sister. The Biblical story has all of Noah’s sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth, already married at the time of the flood. The whole story of Ham and that girl that Noah forced him to leave behind? Not true. What’s more, perhaps the one part of the Biblical story (which is absent, by the way, from Islamic tradition) which I would have loved to have seen left out, i.e., Noah getting drunk and naked, was kept in.

Again, I am not looking for Aronofsky to teach me about Noah, and it very common for screenwriters and directors to take “artistic license” with classical stories. Still, if you are going to call a movie “Noah” and make it be about that great Prophet, then the film should at least be pretty close to the actual story.

What’s worse, the whole film seemed almost anti-God and anti-human. Yes, Noah’s mission was to save the animals from the coming deluge and destruction. But, his mission also included saving himself and the believers as well. In the movie, however, Noah’s mission was to only save the animals and let humanity die off.

In the movie, there were some angels that had pity on Adam and Eve after they were expelled form the Garden and went down to earth to help them. As a punishment, they were cursed by God and became these stone monsters called “The Watchers.” I mean the whole ark and its construction was a manifestation of God’s mercy. The film, however, gives you an image of a cruel and vindictive deity, and I did not appreciate that at all.

Moreover, Noah in the film came off as a self-hating, homicidal maniac who was doing God’s bidding. God told him to kill his newborn granddaughters? Really? And when he could not bring himself to do it – out of pure love – he feels like he has failed God, and he takes to drinking. This is why I am nervous about Prophets being depicted on film and on stage. The true Noah was nothing like the man portrayed in this film. Not one iota.

Yes, I was truly disappointed by this film. And the sad thing is: there was no reason to radically alter the actual story of Noah for this movie. In the real story – at least in Islamic tradition – there is a battle between good and evil, intrigue, conflict, betrayal, hope, courage, and survival against all odds. What more could a Hollywood movie want?

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