I totally agree with Ben Shapiro and Andrew Klavan about movies that pervert the original author’s intent

winona_ryder_little_women_us_dvdThis is me, writing back in 2008 about Winona Ryder’s adaptation of Little Women:

Two of my favorite 19th Century books have very pronounced moral lessons indeed, and they remain enormously popular despite (or maybe because of — but more of that later) those lessons.  The first is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and the second is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.  Both of them, no doubt, are familiar to you too, although the latter is likely more familiar to the girls than the boys reading this.

[snip]

In Little Women, Jo March is a wonderful, enthusiastic, energetic girl (and, eventually, woman) who gets into a lot of trouble because she runs off half-cocked all the time.  Indeed, her impetuosity results in her being denied her heart’s desire:  an all-expenses paid trip to Europe.  However, she learns that life has consolations and that they may be much better than merely getting what one wishes.  By subordinating her own uncontrolled desires to the demands of hearth and home, she enriches her own character, learns better to appreciate those around her and, of course, is entitled to her reward — marrying a good man.

The lessons in both books are pretty clear to anyone who bothers to read them.  You don’t need an advanced English degree, and hours spent analyzing symbolism and myth, or even more hours deconstructing whatever is written, to figure out the moral lessons Alcott and March were making.  Those lessons lie at the core of each book, with the stories around them intended both to entertain and to accentuate the moral the reader takes away.

If Elizabeth just had a frivolous romance with Wickham, and disliked Darcy to the end, the story would be morally stagnant, and would fall in the category of junk romance, rather than great literature.  Austen’s charming writing is made worthwhile only because of the moral steel that underlies it.  Likewise, if Jo simply frolicked from one misadventure to another, Little Women would probably remain an unknown, shallow work of 19th Century children’s fiction.  What makes it interesting are Jo’s epic struggles to subdue her immature self to realize a truly fulfilled adult life.

What irks me is that so many remakes of these two books work assiduously to hide from the reader or viewer these core moral lessons — lessons that have kept these books vital for centuries. I’ve grumbled for years about Winona Ryder’s adaption of Little Women, which is a visually beautiful movie but which completely reverses the story’s moral underpinnings.  Jo goes through the movie just trying to do what she wants, and the viewer is given to understand that it’s just so unfair when events stop her.  At one point, she explains to Professor Baehr that her father’s philosophy was something along the lines of “if it feels good do it” (and I’m quoting liberally here, because I can’t remember the actual line in the movie, just the sense of it).  At that moment in the movie, I simply shut down.  No beautiful costumes or charming scenes could make up for the fact that Winona Ryder had turned on its head the book’s actual message, which is that, if it feels dutiful, morally appropriate and mature, do it.

Yeah!  What I said way back when.  There are few things more offensive than a movie that, rather than exercising artistic license on a book to adapt it to a visual medium, turns the author’s core lesson on its head.

Noah-2014-Movie-Poster-650x962And this is Andrew Klavan, writing about Noah:

Ben Shapiro is a devout Jew, and I’ve heard him speak with real and revealing insight into Torah — something that’s not all that common. In a genuinely sharp essay at Truth Revolt, he took the film apart as a “perversely pagan mess” that replaced God with Gaia to deliver a muddled environmentalist message. You can read the whole excellent thing here, but one point struck me particularly:

It is one thing for a movie adaptation to stray from the source material. Adding characters or scenes, crafting details that vary from the strict text – all of it is in bounds when it comes to adaptations. Critics of Noah who have focused on the extra-Biblical magic of Methuselah or the lack of textual support for instantaneously-growing forests are off-base.

The far deeper problem is when an adaptation perverts the message of the source material. If the movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird had turned Tom Robinson into a villain and Mr. Ewell into a hero, that would rightly have been seen as an undermining of the original work. The same is true of the Biblical story of Noah and the movie version of that same story. It isn’t merely that Aronofsky gets the story wrong. That would be forgiveable. It’s that Aronofsky deliberately destroys the foundational principles undergirding the Bible, and uses Biblically-inspired story to do it.

[snip]

Now all three of these guys are friends of mine, true men of faith, and big brains — and Nolte’ll let the air out of your tires if you even look at him sideways — but I have to admit, without having seen the film, without being able to judge of its quality, it’s Shapiro’s point that sticks with me. If, as I say, Aronofsky is a declared atheist, if he intended to deliver “the least biblical film ever made,” I can’t help but wonder: why make a biblical film at all? No? I mean, the Bible is the sacred book of gazillions of people. If you disagree with it, if you have a different message than, you know, God’s, well, fine, but then why not make up your own story, why twist and gut and dishonor this one?

It can’t be because Aronofsky is a radically courageous teller of truths. Attacking the Bible doesn’t require any courage in America and certainly no radicalism. Read those comments above. Is Shapiro going to hunt Aronofsky down and behead him? Sure, Nolte might (the man’s a savage), but he’ll probably think better of it in the end. And hell, Moeller’s practically inviting the guy to tea.

What do you think the reactions would have been if Aronofsky’s film had been called “Mohammed?” If Aronofsky had said, “This is going to be the least Koranic movie ever made?” Do you think the reactions would be so civilized, so thoughtful, so interested in “facilitating important conversations.” Now there’s a film that would take courage. There’s a film that would be radical. And there’s a film that Aronofsky is never going to make!

The idea of using the Bible to make a non-biblical film just seems wrong in and of itself — mean and small-hearted and bullying, and cowardly too when you consider he could’ve taken on the Koran. Regardless of the movie’s quality, it just seems like the wrong thing to do per se. Unneighborly you might call it. UnChristian.

But then, maybe that’s the whole problem.

Yeah. What he said!

Hollywood is apparently turning Noah into a rabid, mankind-hating environmentalist

The Flood

The last time I saw a first-run movie was in England, when we watched the final Harry Potter film.  What this means is that I pay very little attention to news about upcoming movies.  Since I’m not going to watch them, why pay attention?

I was vaguely aware, though, that Hollywood was producing a Biblical epic about Noah, of Ark fame.  Since it’s not a movie by a true believer — unlike The Passion of the Christ– I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I have to say that it apparently has succeeded in sinking below anybody’s lowest expectations.

To understand fully exactly what Hollywood has done to the Noah story, let’s take a minute to revisit that narrative.  It’s a long story, running three chapters in the King James version. I’ll try for a briefer retelling:

Humans multiplied on the earth, but so did the evil (also called “violence”) they committed, presumably against each other, causing God to regret his creation. God therefore vowed to destroy all life on earth. Before acting on that promise, however, God realized that Noah was a good man or, more poetically, “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” God therefore warned Noah of the imminent destruction, but offered Noah a covenant: build an ark, fill it with two of every living thing (male and female), and God would allow a new generation of life on earth. Noah, without cavil, did as asked.

God then sent forty days and forty nights of rain, inundating the earth with water. The result was that “all that was in the dry land [i.e., that land not meant to be under water], died.” After 150 days, the flood waters began to abate. Noah then used birds to ascertain that there was land. When the ark could finally make a safe landing, God issued Noah a very explicit instruction: “Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.” God also encourages man to eat meat.

So, to summarize: mankind was violent; Noah was good; Noah immediately accepted God’s covenant, building the ark and taking on two of everything; and when the flood water’s subsided, God instructed Noah to procreate, procreate, procreate; and dine in style on animal flesh.

You’d never know all that, though, if you learned your Bible from Hollywood. Brian Godawa managed to obtain the version of the script that was apparently used in the movie, and it tells quite a different tale. You have to read Godawa’s whole post to realize quite how far afield Darren Aronofsky went, but a few passages will make it clear that, unbeknownst to God, Noah, or the Bible, God and Noah’s genuine concern back in the day was anthropogenic climate change. No, really:

Noah paints the primeval world of Genesis 6 as scorched arid desert, dry cracked earth, and a gray gloomy sky that gives no rain – and all this, caused by man’s “disrespect” for the environment. In short, an anachronistic doomsday scenario of ancient global warming. How Neolithic man was able to cause such anthropogenic catastrophic climate change without the “evil” carbon emissions of modern industrial revolution is not explained. Nevertheless, humanity wanders the land in nomadic warrior tribes killing animals for food or wasteful trophies.

In this oppressive world, Noah and his family seek to avoid the crowds and live off the land. Noah is a kind of rural shaman, and vegan hippy-like gatherer of herbs. Noah explains that his family “studies the world,” “healing it as best we can,” like a kind of environmentalist scientist. But he also mysteriously has the fighting skills of an ancient Near Eastern Ninja (Hey, it’s a movie, give it a break).

Noah maintains an animal hospital to take care of wounded animals or those who survive the evil “poachers,” of the land. Just whose animal rights laws they are violating, I am not sure, since there are only fiefdoms of warlords and tribes. Be that as it may, Noah is the Mother Teresa of animals.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the feeling here that Noah is a vegetarian, something that surely would have shocked God.  The script goes on from there, only it gets sillier and sillier, including Noah’s desire after the flood to kill all the humans God charged him with saving.  I’d be tempted to think that Godawa was hoaxed (surely this can’t be the real script), except that preview audiences have hated the movie so much that it makes one believe that Godawa did get his hands on the real deal.

Just FYI, here are some pertinent parts of Darren Aronofsky’s bio (hyperlinks omitted):

Aronofsky was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1969, the son of public school teachers Charlotte and Abraham Aronofsky, who are Conservative Jews.[5][6] He grew up in the borough’s Manhattan Beach neighborhood, where “I was raised culturally Jewish, but there was very little spiritual attendance in temple. It was a cultural thing – celebrating the holidays, knowing where you came from, knowing your history, having respect for what your people have been through.”[5] He graduated from Edward R. Murrow High School.[7] He has one sister, Patti, who attended a professional ballet school through high school.[8] His parents would often take him to Broadway theater performances, which sparked his keen interest in show business.[9]

During his youth, he trained as a field biologist with The School for Field Studies in Kenya in 1985 and Alaska in 1986.[10] He attended school in Kenya to pursue an interest in learning about ungulates.[10] He later said, “[T]he School for Field Studies changed the way I perceived the world”.[10] Aronofsky’s interest in the outdoors led him to backpack his way through Europe and the Middle East.[11] In 1987 he entered Harvard University, where he majored in social anthropology and studied filmmaking; he graduated in 1991.[12]

In other words, New York Jewish, but no real sense of what Judaism is about (and keep in mind that Noah is an Old Testament story, so it’s one that should theoretically resonate with him); environmental background; and Harvard degree in Leftist “social anthropology.”

Aronofsky sounds like an extremely bright, mathematically adept young man who spent his life steeped in cultural Leftism.  Knowing that, maybe the movie isn’t a surprise at all.

Hat tip:  Ace of Spades