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On both sides, why can’t we come to terms with Bible movies?

Dylan Lemert, Preface columnistBy: DYLAN LEMERT
Columnist

On the tail end of the last weekend-released “Noah” film comes a wave of controversy. In reality, seedlings of this contention were planted months ago when it was divulged that director Darren Aronofsky’s take on the well-known Bible story would be given a spectacularly Hollywood treatment.

And with a budget of $130 million, “Noah” is a Bible film certainly unlike most other in history. The production values and artistic flourishes greatly surpass the stylistically tepid films produced by today’s Christian studios. Likewise, whereas it has the noticeable polish of films such as “The Passion of the Christ” (only with a budget greatly exceeding that of Mel Gibson’s work), “Noah” is the product not of a devout Catholic but rather a self-identified atheist.

But isn’t a movie just a harmless form of expression? Yet I can’t count how many times I’ve seen individuals on my social media queue bash the film for intensely opposite reasons: Either “Noah” is too literal or not literal enough. (And this despite the fact that rarely had either party actually seen the film for themsetlves before casting frantic judgement.) But how can this be? How can a work of art be so many different things to so many different people?

Hold on — isn’t that the whole point of art, though?

So goes the long-standing tradition of converting Biblical narratives to the film medium. Rare is it when a scripture-turned-movie-epic is deemed as doing justice to the source material; rarer still is the Bible movie that receives universal acclaim.

Russell Crowe plays the titular character in “Noah.” The film, which opened March 28, was met with criticism by some  audiences.  (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Russell Crowe plays the titular character in “Noah.” The film, which opened March 28, was met with criticism by some
audiences.
(Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

In turn, this places films like Aronofsky’s version of the flood narrative (and like the aforementioned “The Passion of the Christ,” and like Martin Scorsese’s ultra-controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and the list goes on) between a rock and a hard place, at risk of upsetting both the religiously faithful and the faithfully irreligious.

“Noah” still remains a curious exception. The film is an important movie if for no other reason than it exposes the hypocrisy of both sides of the aisle, the duplicity of the same old routine: Religious people arguing for more representation in Hollywood, then crying foul when Hollywood’s portrayal doesn’t deliver. The nonreligious advocating for artistic expression and the value of literature, unless of course that literature happens to be the Bible.

Year after year, movie after movie, it’s the same old song and dance.

I grew up in a religious household, one where the story of Noah was read to me over and over. But I was encouraged to use my imagination to fill in the gaps. I’d like to think there’s a similar happy medium for movies, too, if only we can stay our vocal disapproval long enough to find it.

Movies are important to me. They’re important because I believe they reflect the current nature of society. But ultimately a movie, even if it is based on a story taken from a religious work, is just art. It’s just imagination. The name-calling is unwarranted, so why don’t we close our mouths for a couple hours, grab some popcorn, and just watch?

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