Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Noah (Darren Aronofsky's) Brand New Book Comes to The Big Screen, March 28, 2014!

Noah, Darren Aronofsky's (Available
in hardcover from Amazon.com)
.[1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Darren Aronofsky's book, Noah, by Darren Aronofsky, was released on March 25, 2014. And, with the film's debut to the big screen scheduled for release in U.S. markets on March 28, 2014, the time between book and big screen was only three short days.

WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT THIS BOOK AND MOVIE[2]


     Some people who are religious will applaud the making of this film. Some atheist or Islamic peoples might condemn it. We might even see some Christians condemn the movie because it is too liberal, or political, or even because it pushes an environmental message instead of a more main stream Christian theme. Some people, undoubtedly, will think it antiquated and boring because it is a story of the past, and some will want to see the movie only because Emma Watson or Russell Crow is starring in it.

Perspective depends on where you are standing (or sitting)! [3]
     Perspective is a very curious thing. Everyone who reads the book or watches the movie will have his or her own perspective of things. They will bring a particular attitude, they will have a particular way of looking at it with their own unique point of view. They will make judgments about the story based upon they way they grew up, their education or lack of it, what religion they learned, whether or not they adopted atheism, or whether or not they even read books at all or perhaps think the topic uninteresting, boring, dull, or inane. It is what the reader/viewer brings with them to the story that determines the extent they care about the story.

Inspiration for story-lines can come
from anywhere, be anything, any-
place, anyone--even Noah. [4]
     So...why should we care about this story? First, I don't think that we should forget that while the inspiration for the story may have come from the Bible (more specifically, the book of "Genesis"), the book and movie, Noah, is, nonetheless, a work of fiction. Noah did not write an autobiography, nor is it a memoir. No one interviewed Noah and then wrote this book. It was inspired by a book--the Bible. Most fiction is inspired by something; authors get their inspiration from many different sources.

     Second, every story needs certain things to even be considered a successful novel. A beginning, a middle and an end--a story arc that introduces characters, gets them involved in something dramatic, and then concludes with some sort of resolution.

Does the story of Noah utilize all 7 Elements of Storytelling? [5]
     Ken Ramsley, in the "Seven Elements of Good Storytelling," lists for us the critical elements of creating a story: (1) A central premise; (2) Strong three-dimensional charac- ters who change over time; (3) A confined space (often referred to as a crucible for the characters); (4) A protagonist who is on some sort of quest; (5) An antagonist of some sort bent on stopping the hero; (6) An arch in everything (everything is getting better or worse); and (7) Conflict (perhaps the most important element of all). [6]

     Tangentially related to these critical story elements, I drafted a blog post addressing the hero's journey, and what it entails. That blog post was primarily based upon the work of noted author, Joseph Campbell. I discussed, extensively, what is required for the elements of such a story. That blog post review can be viewed by clicking this link. Campbell talked about how in all cultures around the world, patterns exist in story-telling and that these patterns are found in virtually every culture. That is simply amazing! The story of Noah is one of those kinds of stories. [7]

     Campbell tells us that we are the true heroes of our own life. We are the knights slaying the dragon...we are Noah saving mankind. Watch this short eleven minute video about the Hero's Journey (from YouTube) as Pat Soloman (at TedxRockCreekPark) explains to us, Joseph Campbells theory of "The Hero's Journey," in just a few minutes. [8]



     If we look at the story of Noah as literature, setting aside (for a moment) all of the personal baggage and biases we bring to the telling of a "religious" story, and instead, analyze it according to Ken Ramsley's criteria, we can force ourselves to be logical and objective and less prejudicial in our approach. For example, just watching the trailer for the movie of Noah (without even looking at the book), I can provide a list of the seven attributes suggested by Ramsley for the necessary elements of a good story. I bet you could, too.

     Third, in my blog post about The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel (follow this link to that blog post [9]), I had the privilege to write about how a group of wonderful men working and fighting to save artifacts endangered and stolen by the Nazi regime; many of those works were stolen from a people interned in death camps...a beautiful people, those from the Jewish culture (along with other nationalities, religions, and cultures).

     Mr. Edsel's book explains how a whole cultural heritage was being threatened with destruction. Stories like those in The Monuments Men and stories about Noah in Darren Aronofsky's Noah are part and parcel part of a culture of a people--it is imperative we preserve all such cultural stories from the past. The story of Noah is one of those kinds of stories that must be preserved; and, it is yet another reason to care about the book and the movie, Noah.

In the story of, Noah, we
find the family waiting a num-
ber of things to happen, nota-
bly, the flood. [10]
     In examining the story about Noah, we might just learn something of ourselves. We can learn how and why we make decisions, how to be disciplined in our daily life, how to stay motivated, and how to show others the way to love. We can ask ourselves, "What is truly important in our lives?" and be able to answer the question.

     If we were to examine such a movie critically, perhaps we could come away with tools to be better able to live life. So, whether we are atheist, Islamic, religious, or simply modernist, we should be able to find something in this story that would be of interest, motivation, or inspiration in our own lives.

I love this little assessment bar! By the way, the article in
which I found this wonderful graphic also contains a really
wonderful (short) story (about 1 page long) entitled, "Have
You Heard of the Cockroach Theory for Self-Development?"
It is by Brushan Reddy, and is very on point to this post. [11]
     One last point. Before the movie has even come out, I've heard it condemned because Noah got drunk. In life we can't escape seeing people abuse alcohol (or drugs, or whatever). It is HOW WE CHOOSE TO REACT to those situations that is important.

     We see bad examples of how to live life all around us. What are we going to choose? To drink...to use drugs...to be unfaithful to our spouses? No. It is who we are on the inside that is important, what we choose for our own selves. Be disciplined. Be honest. Be sober. Be loving. And if we fall or if we are in need, ask for help. Don't give up on ourselves. We have all suffered in life--all of us. So, I'm telling you, not to give up on yourself. Just don't.

This photograph is of Noah when he is drunk as his sons
look on after covering their father. The photograph [2009] is
of an original painting by Albertus Pictors (Harkeberga Church);
the photographer was Marcus Martenson. Martenson's blog
shows a number of wonderful photographs of the church,
featuring the work of Albertus Pictors. [12] 
     And parents, if you take your kids to see this movie, talk to them about Noah getting drunk. Talk to them about alcohol abuse and make it a lesson. Make it a learning experience. With my children, when some- thing objectionable was on the television, or in the movies, I talked to my kids and explained why the scene was in there. I asked them questions, and listened to them. They in turn, listened to me. Love your kids enough to do this for them.

So, why should we care about this new book and movie?

     Well, for all the reasons I mentioned above, for starters. I'm sure you could come up with your own reasons why we should care about this book and movie. If you think of something I haven't listed, please just tell me in the comment section. I really would love to hear from you.
THE BOOK COVER:
     The book's cover image (the image, just to the left, here, which is from the upcoming movie) is the back of Noah, facing the sun, his body bathed in, what photographer's call, a "halo" of light (the lighted areas just peeking over the edge of Noah's head, shoulders, and arms--like the silver lining of a cloud.)

     This image seems apropos since Noah is, generally, deemed by all, to be a holy man in the service of God. The man, a representative of all mankind, is facing a new day. The sun brings the light of God into the darkness, lighting the day where man lives with the new covenant given man by the Author of All. It is dark everywhere God's light does not shine.


     As we see, just above, the book cover image is one from the movie, Noah. The book, obviously, is one created to help promote the movie. Nothing wrong with that. We all want to promote things and products in which we are invested. We must, however, attempt to discern what messages are being incorporated into the book, if...we are to be discerning readers. For example, the "blinding sun" in Noah's and in our eyes seems to convey the idea, that looking upon God is a blinding experience, dazzling and radiant, all at once. Yet, the upright, alone, like Noah, can face God.

     Second, the lettering, while very legible, is not in a usual presentation for text. We expect most text to be horizontal. Here, the printed text, "NOAH," is at ninety degrees from what we expect it to be. It appears that the authors wanted, first, an association with the word, "Noah," and the image it rests upon--the man, Noah.

Whether it is a subliminal message, or just good photographic
imaging, when we look at the image of Noah on the front
cover, our eye meanders over and around the center of the
image. It appears that we are meant to consider just how the
image makes us feel and to pause to think. [13]
     It seems the creators of this juxtaposed image wish us to work to perceive something beyond what our eyes see: "a man looking at the sun." It seems they wish us to look at the word, "Noah," in an attempt to make sense of the altered environment of the photo.

     For example, if we placed the word, "Noah," anywhere else in the photo, how differently would we perceive the photograph? And does placing the text vertically on the image of Noah, make our eyes go back to track over and over, the center of the photograph, examining it repeatedly? How is placing Noah's name in this location meant to make us feel? While the cover, at first blush, appears simple and rather straight forward, it belies the hidden messages and subtlety that the photographic image really conveys.

THE BOOK:     Well, finally! On to the book, itself. First, let's look at the physical book, itself:

     The book is unique in its pres- entation. First, it consists of a durable hard cover (far left side of the photo) with photographic images on the front and back cover.

A large portion of the interior consists of photographs from the movie--some of the photos are matte and some are glossy.
 
     Then, at the back of the book, a recessed area, kind of like a photo frame or a mat frame has been included, it holds the second part of the book--a smaller book within the larger book.

     This is a very intriguing way to create the book. A book within a book--I think that is kind of cool and unique. What is of even more interest is that the little black book that has been included for the reader...

...is the entire script of the movie about Noah. What? Yes, you heard me right. It is the entire script for the upcoming movie, Noah. 

     In the photograph on the left that I took so I could show you what the script looked like, you can see who is speaking, what they say, and directions for various actions. You can also see the location of the scene (but the page I selected to photograph for you, unfortunately didn't have that included).

     I honestly don't know if this has ever been done before, but I personally haven't seen a book promoting a movie put together in exactly this fashion.

BOOK SYNOPSIS:
Noah's Ark on the water with the animals inside  and
the rainbow set in the heavens as a sign of God's
covenant with man to never destroy the world
again, by water. [14]
     Most of us already have a good idea of the basic plot of Noah. We've heard about it in church, read about it in the Bible, been taught it in Sunday School (or catechism classes), or even seen movies or documentaries about Noah and the ark.
     Basically, in the traditional Christian version, God tells Noah to build an ark to save his family and the animals (two of every kind). Then the rain and waters come, flooding the land and killing the unjust. After a long while floating upon the water, the ark lands on Mt. Ararat, the waters recede, and the land dries out.  Then, Noah lets the animals and his family out to begin repopulation of the world.

WHAT I THINK ABOUT THIS BOOK:
CAUTION: BE AWARE--THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS SECTION.
This beautiful concept art (not in this book, Noah)
for Darren Aronofsky's Noah movie shows
some of the opening sequences of the book/movie.[15]
First, what I loved about the book:
(1) I loved the cover. The photographic images (front and back) were beautiful and went beyond just being creative. The photograph selected from the movie was inspired. Moreover, it demonstrated a masterful skill at photographic messages and artistic sense that really worked for the Noah concepts;

(2) I loved the photographs utilized inside the book. About the only thing I have to add, here, is that they are just beautiful. The book would fit well on any coffee table;

(3) I really loved the unique concept of creating a book that is more than a novel, more than a picture book, and places the book in a unique position of being a picture book with a movie script included (to tell the story). So, I loved the book within a book concept (See my photographs of the book, above). Very unique!

Second, what I didn't like about the book:
(1)      I didn't like what Aronofsky did to Noah's character. Ken Ramsley, in his "Seven Elements of Good Storytelling," said that any good story needs "strong three-dimensional characters that changes over time." [6] While any well-written character will have foibles, weaknesses and limitations, I didn't care for the concept that Noah wanted to kill his family in order to destroy mankind.

     Yes, Aronofsky's Noah does eventually change by the end of the movie, but personally, I just didn't buy that he would build the Ark to save all the "innocent" animals and not care to save God's greatest creation, "man."

Darren Aronofsky's Watcher from the movie,
Noah. The creature is 16' tall, has six
arms and is made of rock and mud. [16]
(2)     While I like creativity in a writer, sometimes it hits a jarring note. The "Watchers" are just such a note. On page 23 of the script we get a description of the Watchers: "Staring down on them are thirty Watchers - sixteen-foot-tall six-armed beasts made of rock and mud. SAMYAZA is their scarred and grizzled leader."

     While parts of the early books of the Bible may be strange in places, none more so than Aronofsky creating or utilizing, "...these 'Watchers'--who appear to be both fallen angels and giants--[but] will actually be helpers of Noah's" (so says Peter T. Chattaway of Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith puts it.) [16]

     They would probably be really great in a sci-fi story, or perhaps a fantasy novel, but here, they just seem out of place. I don't know--perhaps I am way off base, here--after all, Noah lived a very long time, way past the age of the average person, and that's unusual.

(3)     And finally, the "shimmering snakeskin" that is referred to as a "talisman." In chapter one, we read, "At first Noah thought it was a length of material....[then] Lamech...began to wrap the item slowly around his arm, Noah realized it wasn't material at all...It was a snakeskin....The snakeskin began to shimmer...and curl up and around Lamech's arm and body of its own accord, undulating as it did so." (p.8) Apparently, the snakeskin is the skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden and from the time of the downfall of man. I fail to understand how this snakeskin is a "talisman" and a blessing that is passed down from one generation to the next. Maybe watching the movie will make it clearer to me, but I just didn't get it from the book.

     Speaking of the movie, perhaps watching the trailer would give us all a better feel for how the book incorporates these seemingly disparate pieces into a cohesive whole. Adaptations of books are curious things, sometimes working out well, and at other times, not working out well at all. Let's take a look and see what we think.
________________________________________________________
     The trailer, or rather, the featurette is from YouTube. The trailer features Emma Watson and Russell Crow from the movie, "Noah."  The featurette is only 4:16 (minutes and seconds) long, so all in all, not a long watch, but informative and intriguing. [17]



     With Stars Russell Crowe, playing Noah, Emma Watson playing Ila, Jennifer Connelly playing Naameh, Anthony Hopkins playing Methuselah, with Nick Nolte playing Samyaza, Logan Lerman playing Ham, and Douglas Booth playing Shem, and with Darren Aronofsky directing, the movie looks to have a lot of potential to be a box office success. The genre is Adventure/Drama; the reported production cost was about $160 million dollars sans marketing and distribution.  Probably the most important information for families with children to consider is the rating--it has been rated as PG-13 and is 138 minutes long. The opening is March 28, 2014 in U.S. theaters.
________________________________________________________
MY RECOMMENDATIONS AND RATING FOR THIS BOOK:
     For a Bible story, this book has an awful lot of violence, physical, sexual, and psychological. I have yet to see the movie, but I think, wisely, the movie makers have labeled this movie as PG-13. Perhaps that should be a guide for the reading of this book as well. 


A poster of the movie, Noah, U.S.
theater release date: March 28, 2014.[ 18]

     I love many aspects of this book, as I explained, above. You also read about my reservations about the book, as well. Balancing it all out and throwing in my enjoyment of reading the book as a factor, I was able to come up with what I feel is a fair rating for the book. 

My rating for Noah. [19]
I award this book 3.5 stars out of 5. I am hoping the movie does a great job graphically to make the script come alive and make sense of the disparate elements.

     Thank you for joining me this week to review this exciting new book about Noah in preparation for the upcoming movie, Noah. Please join me next week as we open the pages of another book.

I loved reading this book--even if it did leave me scratching my head in perplexity! This week, I hope you pick up a book and read it. If it isn't Noah, then pick something else you will enjoy...and remember to keep turning those pages.

Until next time...
White Rose. [20]

...many happy pages of reading.

All my best to you, my friends!

Sharon.









REFERENCES
_______________________________________________________
1. "Noah, Darren Aronofsky's." Amazon.com. Retrieved 03-20-14.
2. "Why Should We Care?" Spectator News.com. Retreived 03-25-14.
3.  "Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life!" Me To The Power of We.com. Retrieved 03-25-14.
4. "My Inspiration Box." Challenge Future.org. Retreived 03-25-14.
5. "The Seven Elements of Storytelling." DigitalStorytelling.coe.uh.edu. Retrieved 03-25-14.
6. "Seven Elements of Good Storytelling." Ken "frobber" Ramsley. Retrieved 03-25-14.
8. "What is the Hero's Journey?: Pat Soloman at TEDxRockCreekPark." YouTube.com. Retrieved on 03-25-14.
10. "Wonders Of My World--in the world through which I travel I am endlessly creating myself." Wonder Of My Worlds.com. Retrieved on 03-25-14.
11. "React or Respond." Navigonlp.com. Retrieved on 03-25-14.
12. "My trip to Harkeberga church to Albertus Pictors Paintings." Marcusmartenson.com. Retrieved 03-25-14.
13. "Musings and Meanderings." Meanderingsooziii.blogspot.com. Retrieved 03-25-14.
14. "Printable Bible Noah's Ark Coloring Page." Smartypantsfun.com. Retrieved 03-26-14.
15. "Concept Art for Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah's Ark' Epic Discovered?" [by Alex Billington] First Showing.net. Retrieved 03-26-14.
16. "Aronofsky's Noah may be even stranger than you thought." [by Peter T. Chattaway] Patheos.com. Retrieved 03-26-14.
17. "Noah Official Featurette #1 (2014) Emma Watson, Russell Crowe HD." youtube.com. Retrieved 03-26-14.
18. "Noah." (Movie Poster) Noah. Coming Soon.not. Retrieved 03-25-14.
19. "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart." [3.5 Stars] A Blighted One.Wordpress.com. Retrieved 03-26-14.
20. "Top 28 White Roses Pictures For Free Download." Funstock.com. Retrieved 03-25-14.