By Melinda Ledman, Contributing Writer
In 2012, Brian Godawa, an award-winning screenwriter and author, first sounded the alarm for the Christian audience that Aronofsky’s Noah was not going to be a word for word adaptation of the Biblical Noah.
His critique sparked not only an outcry from Hollywood-wary Christians, but also intriguing discussions across multiple web and social media sites about the role of film as art in our culture. With the coming release of Aronofsky’s Noah film, Godawa addresses your concerns about Hollywood’s treatment of Bible-based stories.
ChristianCinema.com: Should films loosely based on Bible characters like Noah be viewed as just artistic interpretations or as deliberate misrepresentations of our faith, facts, and doctrines?
Brian Godawa: Just because a movie is about religious subject matter does not mean that it will affirm a religious worldview. Secular filmmakers subvert religious stories all the time for their purposes. For example, Pocahontas by Disney twisted that true story into a pro-pagan story that virtually ignored the Christianity of its heroine. In this sense, the filmmaker’s spin can distort in a negative way.
However, few movies are all bad or all good. Even a movie that is not faithful to our interpretation of the Bible can still provide powerful and meaningful moments or insights of truth. For example The Last Temptation of Christ had some of the most powerful miracle scenes I have ever seen. And it captured the truth of what it may have been like for Christ’s own temptation (Hebrews 4:15). However, it also presented a false Gospel of a sinful Christ and mythical resurrection.
No movie is perfect and we must be gracious enough to draw the good from the bad and be able to intelligently explain when we think that the good outweighs the bad.
ChristianCinema.com: For people who won’t do research or read books like yours on Noah, do you think these kinds of movies do more harm than good?
Brian Godawa: My book is called Noah Primeval, and I wrote it for people who have a hard time reading the Bible. I wanted the experience to be like watching a movie. I actually have more fantasy elements in it than Aronofsky has in his movie. But the question is what is the metanarrative? What is the Big Story of meaning that is being told about the world and life?
It’s a mixed bag. Sometimes movies that are negative toward the Christian faith, like The Da Vinci Code or the paganistic Avatar do well at the box office and do bring trouble for Christians who are not prepared to defend their faith. On the other hand, they often force Christians to get off their lazy rear ends and read more and learn more about their faith and other worldviews.
And when they do, they learn how to defend their faith or discover they may have some bad interpretations themselves. So I welcome the differing viewpoint as a challenge. The downside is that movies can easily prejudice in non-believers with false ideas about God and redemption. But even then, I welcome those movies, because they force Christians to stop being so quiet and speak up about their faith like they’re supposed to. You might even be surprised. There may be more agreement with your views of God, good, and evil than you realized.
ChristianCinema.com: How can people that are frustrated by films like these turn their anxiety into engaging conversation?
Brian Godawa: By learning more about their faith and how to defend it, and then by engaging with the world when these movies come out. And by being more balanced in our reactions. Learn how to discern not just the bad, but also the good in the movies you watch, which will show wisdom and gain respect from those who disagree with you. This is why I wrote Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom and Discernment. Chances are, if you are so insecure in your faith that you can’t watch another person’s interpretation, then you may not have a very authentic faith, and maybe you should get more serious about studying it.
—- Brian Godawa is a Hollywood screenwriter and author of the Amazon bestselling novel, Noah Primeval, a Biblical fantasy about Noah’s Flood. He has also authored the book Hollywood Worldviews that has become a text book in many Christian film programs in schools and universities across the country. Follow his blog on http://godawa.com/movieblog/ or on twitter at @briangodawa