At my childhood home in Florida, above the many yearbooks and mementos I’ve collected over the years, there’s an object that holds a place very near and dear to my heart.
As a young boy, I had an unabashed love and appreciation for animals of all shapes and kinds. I grew up playing with plastic figurines in the shapes of my favorite feathered and furry friends and even wished to become a veterinarian to help nurse my beloved creatures back to health.
Upon discovering my intense love for fauna, my grandfather — a carpenter for many years — took to his workshop to start on a very special project.
With his bare, calloused and weathered hands, my grandfather crafted together a tremendous treasure — a wooden version of Noah’s Ark, complete with giraffes, elephants, bears and lions, all of which came — as the story goes — “two-by-two.”
Admittedly, my passion for animals subsided rather quickly as I grew older, but through the years, my love for Noah’s Ark remained, and when I heard of the cinematic version of this biblical tale, I couldn’t help but think back to my beautiful ark.
My mind wandered to the times when I would sit on the floor of my bedroom for hours upon hours, retelling the story of Noah with the wooden figurines my grandfather had crafted so meticulously. I’d line the wooden animals up in order (elephants first, of course), set them perfectly into their stalls and pretend as if my carpet was the flood as Noah sailed the endless sea.
Amidst all my nostalgia, I had to go see this movie.
Going into the movie, I was nervous for two reasons. First, I was scared that “Noah” was going to stray far, far away from the biblical story I came to know and love. Second, I feared that people wouldn’t understand the context of the story and would immediately start off in a deep contextual hole that they would never climb out of.
Well, the second of my fears was eliminated almost immediately.
For those unfamiliar with the tale of Noah’s Ark, the beginning of this movie is perfect because the scene is set quickly and accurately. It starts with the story of Adam and Eve, runs straight through Cain and Abel and eventually settles in on the beginnings of Noah. It was the perfect introduction to the film as it informed those who might not have had a clue, but also reminded those who knew the context of the little details we might have forgotten.
Following the flawless start, however, my first set of fears grew considerably.
Without giving too much away, there is an interesting set of characters who certainly do not play such a strong role in the biblical setting of this story. I wasn’t necessarily heartbroken that this so obviously deviated from the original plot, but I wasn’t quite thrilled either.
That all being said, the rest of the movie was absolutely tremendous, but way more deep and emotional than I could have ever imagined.
As I prefaced, I grew up loving the story of Noah’s Ark and still love it to this day, but my vantage point has changed considerably since I first took a deep look into the story itself.
I’ll put it this way: when you read the story of Noah in the Bible as a child, it comes off much more “happy-go-lucky.”
Noah was visited by God, who told him to build an ark to protect his family and the animals of the world. It sounds rather positive, and for the majority of the film, it certainly was.
As the film marched on, however, it became increasingly clear how little I actually thought about the consequences of Noah’s various actions. As I said before, my youthful vantage point only gave me a cursory understanding of this story.
There are some very deep, powerful and emotional situations in this tale, and I guess that’s not at all what I was expecting. Sure, as it’s Hollywood, I was expecting the battles. I was expecting some dramatic moments. I was expecting blood, gore and violence, be they necessary or not.
What I didn’t expect was how deep into my being this movie would dive and how real this story would become.
For instance, there is a deep battle between good and evil throughout. There are legitimately deep questions of destiny versus free will. There are moments when you believe Noah to be the evil character rather than the hero. None of these things even so much as entered my mind as I drove to the theater and privately prognosticated what this movie would be. If anything, I thought the only conflict would be a very literal battle between good and evil that would come to an obvious conclusion.
To give you a sense of the emotional roller coaster, I didn’t expect to be welling with tears in a movie about Noah’s Ark, but it happened.
Overall, “Noah” was an absolutely fantastic film. Although I might be a bit biased, as I had a relationship with the story itself prior to the screening, the movie was everything I wanted it to be and more.
I pictured the film in a more religious context, but director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream”) didn’t seem like he wanted to alienate any audience, and I enjoyed it just the same.
Was Aronofsky clearly avoiding any obvious religious notions? Yes. Was it bothersome? Not in the least.
“Noah” is a film for everyone, as it has just about everything you could really ask for: drama, romance, history, violence and deep, thought-provoking questions of the existence of mankind.
Upon my exit from the 2 1/2 hour emotional roller coaster that was “Noah,” I called my mother to ask about my ark.
As I reminded my mom of its existence, a big smile sprawled across her face (yes, we use FaceTime) as she remembered the vast amounts of time I spent lying upon my carpet with wooden animals in hand.
She then said something in passing that I thought was incredibly relatable to my relationship to both “Noah” and the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.
“I hope it’s not moldy,” she said, “maybe I should go clean it up.”
Unbeknownst to me, my understanding of the story of Noah’s Ark was moldy as I walked into the theater, but as I emerged from the darkness, I had a clean appreciation for what “Noah” is truly about.