• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Sunday, December 08, 2019

    Greatest Heroes of the Bible: The Story of Noah

    In terms of biblical chronology, this is the earliest story, and whilst the series wasn't broadcast in biblical order - the episode covering the Tower of Babel didn't air for another six months, for example - the first part of it did screen on the series' first day (Campbell and Pitts). The episode is presented as a single/joint episode in the complete box set that was released on DVD a couple of years ago.

    The programme starts with a five minute creation sequence, very much in the mould of Huson's The Bible (1966) but with only a fraction of the budget. Then we are introduced to the main story, with a a certain amount of invented subplot to flesh things out a little. Here it takes what would is looking like the standard plot line for the series. God's "hero" is part of a tiny band of the faithful who take on a larger majority who are indifferent, if not openly hostile, to God. When conflict arises God intervenes in dramatic fashion. I've still got a way to work through the series but most of the episodes I have already reviewed follow this pattern. Slavery is a common motif - almost the defining sin of those who oppose God. As usual the invented parts of the plot are spruced up with biblical language even if it is found in completely the wrong context. "You shall surely die" Noah is warned at one point by the city's Karmir (with echoes of Airplane).

    Here Noah is specifically marked out as a proto-John the Baptist - he even describes himself as a voice crying in the wilderness. Noah is played by Lew Ayres, whose career almost spanned back to the silent era, though he is best known for his role for 1930's All Quiet on the Western Front and for being Dr. Kildare in nine movies filmed in the early 1940s. Ayres, a conscientious objector in WWII cuts a far more sympathetic figure than Russell Crowe in Aronofsky's recent Noah (2014). That said, there is one scene from Aronfsky's film that is very similar to one here, where the people of the local settlement, spurred on by their charismatic if self-obsessed patriarch, attack the ark just moments before the rains come.

    Special effects are somewhat mixed. A now familiar drawn-on bolt of lightning accounts for the city's high priest. Likewise God's voice comes from a billowing cloud. Aside from that the use of (presumably) a miniature ark combined well with footage that shows a torrent rushing through trees, and people slipping off rocks into the water. The effects are rather undermined by other shots and sequencing, however. Noah and his family emerge from the ark into the bone-dry, arid deserts of (presumably) Southern California, looking as if it hasn't seen rain for months, rather than having been under water until recently.

    Ayres does a pretty good job in the lead role, even if he is given some rather pungent dialogue at times. The acting of those who oppose him is pretty hammy, but again, that's emerging as a standard feature of the series as a whole.

    Campbell, Richard H. and Pitts, Michael R., (1981) The Bible on Film: A Checklist, 1897-1980, Metuchen, N.J., & London: The Scarecrow Press.

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