Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Noah

Went to see Noah last night.



If you are looking for a faithful retelling of the biblical account, this is not it. It’s a sort of biblically inspired fantasy with loads of stuff added and changed. Fortunately I was aware of this beforehand, and therefore went determined to enjoy it (or not) for what it was. But I admit my expectations were rather negative. 

However, after seeing it  I’d say I was generally positive, with a few major negatives and some minor ones.

Some of my thoughts, listed as pros, cons (and just odd). 

WARNING - LOADS OF SPOILERS!!!



PRO: Epic. This was not a twee Sunday School story

PRO: The world is not a ‘bible times’ world, but has industry and technology.

PRO: Costumes were not stereotypical ‘bible costumes’.

CON: Costumes were stereotypical dreich dystopian costumes. I felt they started off quite good, but seemed to get dreicher and dystopianer. I like colour – I’m sure they would have invented such things as dye and decent sewing. Also, they were in the ark for ages – could they not have made it a bit more home-like? They can’t have had much else to do. Unless they were too traumatised to bother, of course.


PRO: Bits quoted (more or less) from the Bible.

PRO: God was real, and he created a perfect world. Creation was epic (if the order was a bit muddled).

ODD: Adam & Eve were glowing and bald before the Fall!

PRO: The Fruit was not an apple. The Tree had two trunks - an interesting design decision, which I assume was because it was the tree of the knowlege of both good and evil - wish I'd thought of that!

PRO: Adam & Eve – and then humanity in general  - messed it up, and God’s judgement was just.

PRO: The silhouette montage showing Cain killing Abel and then flicking through wars and killings throughout history up to the present day.


PRO: “The earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and was full of violence” – absolutely. 

CON: But a little less chaotic in places could have been good – more sophisticated, ‘respectable’ sins could have been included too. And maybe not so unrelievedly obviously negative either - the fallen world of Genesis also has pastoral nomads and flute players. Sin can be subtle.

CON: Unlike the popular Sunday School version, Noah does not beg people to come into the ark. Some people have criticised the film for this, but it's not in the Bible! In fact, in the film he fights them to keep them off, which seems a bit wrong at first. But they're not people casting themselves on God's mercy and begging to be saved - they're people trying to grab salvation for themselves.

CON: There was at least one bit (can’t remember what, now) that I felt was a bit too disturbing for a 12A.

CON: While God speaking to Noah in dreams/visions was good, as was some ambiguity, in real life God didn’t leave so much to Noah’s interpretation (with nearly tragic consequences). God seemed a bit too remote.

ODD: There w ere these big gnarled stone creatures, which were pretty cool.
I particularly appreciated the character design in that there was one main one that was recognisable and also managed to look like a sympathetic character – not easy! But...

CON: ...they were supposed to be fallen angels, and they seem to have been chucked out of heaven because they had wanted to help humanity after the Fall, which made them partially good guys, and gave a negative view of God.

ODD: They were eventually pardoned by God – is this even possible? The Bible doesn’t categorically say, but, thinking it over – if humans can ultimately only be pardoned by God sacrificing himself, what basis could he pardon angels on? 

CON: God’s mercy on humans was not quite so clear – the ultimate choice of whether humanity survived was described by one character as a choice that God gave Noah (although God seems to have approved of his choice). Whereas, in reality God himself chose to let us survive despite what he knew it would cost him.

PRO: Miracles were real. God provides what is needed (even unexpectedly after people have given up.)

ODD: Trees to make the ark miraculously grew  – why? Maybe they felt they needed to show God at work in the world before the flood? But then, they avoided having God speaking clearly. Hmmm...

PRO: The ark was an interesting design. Also, it was BIG. It did not have giraffes’ heads poking out the top


PRO: The animals weren’t that clear, but gave a general impression of being a bit prehistoric. I liked the bits where they came to the ark.



PRO: The flood was BIG – we see a view from space of the entire earth covered in swirling cyclones. The water was not just a rainstorm, but there were the ‘fountains of the great deep’ spouting up, and walls of water, and general dramatic mayhem.


PRO: The flood and destruction was a terrible and horrific thing. Noah and his family really struggled with it – something I had not thought of before.

PRO: Tubal Cain was an interesting character – he  sometimes seems almost sympathetic – but then his arrogance toward God keeps coming out.

PRO: Ham was an interesting character, muddled with different messages about what it means to be a man (he thinks it means to have a wife, his father says it means to fulfil his responsibilities, and Tubal Cain says he is now a man when he kills).

PRO: Noah was not some kind of plaster saint. He realised that there is evil in all humanity, including himself, not just the ‘bad guys’ who were wiped out.

  

CON: This leads him to become obsessed with the idea that God wants to wipe out all humanity and therefore he must kill Shem’s baby. For the latter part of the film (too long) this is the major plot point, and Noah seems to stop being a good guy altogether for some time.

ODD: He thinks he should kill the baby if it is a girl who could become a mother. But obviously after the flood Shem & his wife could have more children he didn’t know about. So why not kill Shem’s wife instead?

CON: Every single human being was white – how could they be, if Noah’s family were supposed to be the ancestors of everyone that came after?

ODD: The skin the Serpent sloughed before tempting Eve is kept by Noah’s family and they wrap it round their arm like the strap of a tefillin when giving a blessing. I’m not sure why.

PRO: Whatever Noah’s faults, he almost never wavers from doing what God wants however hard. (The only time he does waver it’s just as well, because it was only what he thought God wanted.)

PRO: Lots of little Biblically accurate bits, like Methuselah dying in the year of the flood (in this case, in the flood).

Methuselah
PRO: Ditto for Noah & his family being vegetarian. Interestingly, the other people aren’t, which I suppose is possible.

PRO: Ditto for Tubal Cain being a metal worker.

PRO: Ditto for Noah getting drunk, lying naked and being covered by a rug by Shem & Japheth who are hiding their faces while Ham looks on – wasn’t expecting that one!

PRO: It did end on a rainbow. I was sure they couldn’t miss that out! (a rather odd rainbow, but one that clearly came from God)


There’s a danger in being biblically accurate that we focus on the details and miss the big picture. (Also there is the danger of being smugly self-congratulatory and nitpicking). While this film made no attempt to stick to many of the details, it was fairly good at getting the big picture. So, overall:

PRO: It was big. It was dramatic. It was not twee. 

CON: Adding stuff is fine in a fantasy like this, but you could have been just as interesting without so much actual contradiction of the original.

PRO: God as the creator who judges the world justly for the mess we’ve made came over clearly.

CON: God as someone who speaks clearly and who absolutely wanted to have mercy on humanity did not.


Results: 

It made me go back and read all of Genesis 1-9. Hopefully it will also send people who don’t know the story (beyond cute animals in a tiny boat) to the Bible to read it. 

Gave me a few ideas for my illustrations – haven’t published my Noah PowerPoint yet, as it needs a little more work. I might make my ark more interesting, for example. As far as the drama is concerned, my style, and the fact that I need to keep things U or PG, obviously has some limitations. (Although small children can be quite gruesome – I asked the kids in Sunday School to draw the animals in the ark, and at least one added people drowning outside! But not all children are the same, and you need to be careful.) But I think I could get away with some tiny figures trying to flee the flood.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Quote

If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.
(Attributed to Einstein*)
Of course, another option is that you are just no good at explaining things to six-year-olds. But, it's a good point nonetheless.

*but not really by him, according to Wikiquote

Thursday, 3 April 2014

My Lighthouse

Rend  Collective - My Lighthouse

I've been hearing this around lately. It's so cheerful (and true). Click on the picture to go to the site - I can't get the blog player to work.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Bible bullet points

The Bible really needs bullet points. Of course, they weren't in the original, but neither were such modern refinements as paragraphs, or speech marks, or vowels (in Hebrew), or even spaces between words (I think). But part of translation is expressing what is said in the format used in the language being translated into. And in modern English, when you want to get a list over clearly, you use bullet points.


I've just been typing out this verse for the church diary - doesn't it work so much better with bullets?
...what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
  • that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
  • that he was buried,
  • that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
  • and that he appeared...

I've often thought the same of Ephesians 1. Apparently in Greek it's one sentence - but you can't have a sentence that long in English! Some Bibles even split it into paragraphs, which makes it more digestible, but even more obscures the fact that it all links back to the 'for' in v4. But you can have a huge long sentence like that in English if you bullet it:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For:
  • He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. 
  • In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will –  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 
  • In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. 
  • With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 
  • In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 
  • And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

I think this kind of thing would make the Bible much more accessible to people. Not by changing it, but by actually getting closer to the original.

Friday, 21 March 2014

What Do Artists Do All Day? BBC programme

Just watched a fascinating programme about a comic artist: 
What Do Artists Do All Day? - Frank Quitely 

Just 1/2 an hour long.

Particularly interesting as he's in Glasgow, and so I recognised a lot of the places.

Only available until 26 March, and only in the UK, but here are three free clips that were available:





Saturday, 15 March 2014

Quote

There are cathedrals that you walk into and think, "Isn't the architect clever?"
There are others you walk into and think, "Isn't God great?"