An Imaginary Noah Film from 1950

Many criticisms can be leveled against Aronofsky’s recent antibilical film, NOAH. One which I thought at first was unfair was those who said God was absent from the film. I thought the criticism absurd. While He is not called ‘God’, He is called ‘the Creator’ throughout the film, which, in any case, takes place in an era before Moses, when no man knew the sacred name.

But on second thought, the critics were not being absurd. The Creator in this film is a god, but not the God. He is absent.

If the reader will indulge me, the gaping absence of God from Aronofsky’s NOAH can be best felt in this film if we imagine what it would be like if He were in it.


Imagine this film if it had been made in the 1950s, perhaps with John Huston playing the role of Noah. He receives a vision of the coming destruction of the world, and sets to work building the ark.

john-huston-bibleThe animals which gather to him, Noah actually likes and pets and feeds, and acts like Doctor Doolittle. Perhaps there is some comical by-play with Noah’s wife Noe, who does not like the elephants and giraffes trampling the vinyards and eating the grain. Noah tells her that there will be no harvest this year, except the harvest of sin.


Ham, played by Yule Brenner, finding himself without a wife, goes into the golden cities of the sons of Cain, where he is seduced by Nael, played by Gina Lollobrigida.


Meanwhile the brown-haired and mousy Sare, a slave girl, has a crush on Ham. She is played by Donna Reed.


Nael tells Tubalcain, played by George Sanders, about the ark. Tubalcain sees the building of the ark as a threat to his kingdom, on the grounds that if folk begin to believe the world is doomed, they will repent of their evil ways, and not obey him.

geo sanders

He sends Nael as a spy among the Noachians. When she takes up a torch to burn the ark, she is discovered by Noah, who sends her home. Or, if you prefer, a lightningbolt from a clear blue sky kills her, or a bear arriving from North America.

Ham is now wifeless and destitute, and Noah tells him to have faith in the Lord. God will provide a wife.

Noah visits Methuselah, who gives him the last seed of Eden to plant in the new world, on what will one day be Calvary. This will grow into the tree from which the cross is hewn, indeed, it is the seed from the tree of life, which will not grow unless it first dies and drops to the ground. Methuselah tells Noah to have faith in the providence of God.

Methuselah dies peacefully, not while groping after one last berry of physical pleasure, but while praying. Three strangers in robes appears at the door of the hut and tell Noah that the windows of heaven are about to open, and all the fountains of the Earth. God withheld his hand until Methuselah was gathered to him.


Tubalcain, with his army and his siege engines, advances on the ark to destroy it, but just then the rain starts. Tubalcain’s engines are clogged with mud. His fighting men close around the ark, brandishing torches, but by a miracle, the wood will not burn.  They are frightened and fall back. The floodwaters begin to surge around their ankles.


Noah climbs to the top of the Ark, and calls down to the army that now, even now, even at the last moment, if the sinner will repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness, the doors of the ark will be opened. Tubalcain defies him, and says that their great idol, Dagon, will make the flood waters recede. Ham begs Nael to come aboard the ark, but she refuses.


In the climactic scene, Tubalcain and Nael and a thousand extras are in the mountain-top temple of the great idol Dagon, begging for the waters to recede. The lower slopes are lapping with water; it is gushing up the streets. Nael discovers her slave girl Sare is sweet on Ham, and so orders her to be sacrificed on the altar.

Yeah, I would Freak Out, Too, if the Powerplant turned into That

At that moment, the three strangers in robes are seen amid the crowd. When the soldiers try to touch them, the swords and spears burst into fire. The three call upon the crowd to repent, and the crowd mock them. The first of the three strangers raises his hand, and everyone in the room is blinded except Sare. The second of the three takes her by the hand, and conveys her to the ark, where she and Ham embrace.


Noah says that the providence of God foresees all, and provides all. The third of the three strangers closes the door.

We see a last shot of the mountaintop, now entirely flooded, with Nael and Tubalcain clinging to the idol that cannot save them. They see the ark in the distance, and shake their fists, cursing the ark, and the flood, and the God who sent both. Tubalcain dies a horrible death, dragged underwater by the weight of his gold armor.

samsondelilah550The camera lingers on Nael, because, after all, she is played by Gina Lollobrigida.


Noah hears the screaming of the multitudes drowning, and Ham and Shem ask fearfully why they cannot lower ropes and help the dying aboard? Noah says, “It is the judgment of the Almighty that they perish. I cannot open the doors that God has shut.”

Or, if you do not like that scene, let us say Noah does throw a rope out, but Tubalcain is holding a sword he will not release to catch the rope, and Nael is holding a bag of jewels. The weigh drags them under, and they will not let go.


Aboard the ark, Shem and Japheth and Ham struggle with doubts. How can so much water ever recede? Even if it does, how could there be any green things left on the earth? The ark has no sails and no oars. Even if the mountains did reappear as islands, how could they find it? As they are waiting in expectation for the dove to return, Noah tells them to have faith.


Reluctantly at first, but then remembering how Sare was saved at the last moment, they pray. In answer, there is a break in the cloud, and a single streaming beam of light comes down. Down that beam of light is seen the dove descending, an olive twig in beak. By a miracle, the trees and crops and fruit of all the world have been renewed, restored to life. They exit the ark into the sunlight beneath the rainbow. There is rejoicing.

That, dear reader, is what is missing from Aronofsky’s dark, dreary and senseless film. There is no thanksgiving, no salvation, no divine justice, no divine mercy, because there is no divinity. The Creator is not a divinity, merely a Demiurge, the Iadalboath of the Gnostics. He is a monster who demands obedience, but at the same time is indifferent to whether men obey or not, since true enlightenment, in this film, consists of ignoring the Creator’s will, and following your own authentic inner self.

The same events as appear in the Biblical story are portrayed, but Aronofsky portrays each one to carry the opposite of the real meaning.

What is missing from Aronofsky’s NOAH is Noah.