Noah (2014) Review
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Certificate: 12A Running Time: 2hr 18 Mins
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson
Plot: A man is entrusted with the responsibility to rescue the innocent of the world before an apocalyptic storm floods the wretched from the face of the Earth
When a film based on religious events transcends into mainstream consciousness, it is remarkable as to how the layman miraculously transforms into a pious scholar. Public reaction was fierce when Mel Gibson’s divisive Passion of Christ was released a decade ago with many regarding the film as blasphemy. Unsuprisingly, It is much the same reaction to Noah in the Islamic world. A warning to those of that ilk, it is crucial not to approach Darren Aronofsky’s Noah expecting a faithful adaptation of either Islamic or Christian texts. This should be treated as an entirely separate world more akin to mystical realms presented in science fiction rather than anything remotely reminiscent of scripture. Each man has their own interpretation hence the desire to chastise and corrosively undermine the film-makers interpretation of the legend is a futile pursuit. As Paolo Coelho once said ‘If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.’ To dismiss Noah purely on the grounds of a fundamental disagreement with its religious integrity would be to overlook a work of rare significance. Are we not able to be open minded and view a piece of art as merely that?
From a purely cinematic perspective, Noah is an imbalanced odyssey that has moments of brilliance but all too often drowns in its great flood. Aronofosky’s fable descends into a world of chaos where man is overcome, consumed and poisoned by his sinful nature. The harshness of the times is contrasted with the transcendence experienced by the prophetic Noah. A man tasked by the Creator to cleanse the wretched from the face of the Earth whilst overseeing the salvation of the innocent. Aronofsky’s fundamental flaw is to vilify Noah to the extent that he is portrayed as a psychopathic wreck; a crucial oversight is the lack of screen time given to Noah’s efforts to rescue the wrongdoers from eternal damnation. Instead, he is entirely dismissive and resigned to their impending doom which serves to fuel his wicked demeanour. There is a degree of tenderness lacking; one could argue that it is the burden on the man to ‘get the job done’ that casts a shadow over Noah’s moral compass but there is a hysterical nature to proceedings that serves to desensitize the protagonist’s humanity. It is the underwritten but strong role of his wife (well played by Jennifer Connolly) that allows the audience to relate to him.
Although Noah has its flaws, there is an undoubted Malickian influence that flows through Matthew Libatique’s mesmeric cinematography. The creation of life sequence is spectacular and can draw likenesses to the birth of the cosmos interlude in Terrence Malick’s philosophical meditation, The Tree of Life (2011). There are streams of water that miraculously flow across distant lands and a beautifully silent observation of Earth from space. The substantial use of CGI to capture the battle sequence where Earth is plundered by the great storm produces a blockbuster action sequence which has an apocalyptic edge. The role and appearance of the Watchers is circumspect, they are a band of fallen angels that have been cursed to stone. Their giant rock appearance together with their deep voices bears great resemblance to the Transformers or even the likes of Treebeard in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Ray Winstone (Tubal Cain) plays the villain with surprising gusto. He is the embodiment of man’s ego and belief that humankind is superior to his creator. Rather than him, it is Noah’s family that test his character; firstly, the black sheep of the family Ham (Logan Lerman), tests his patience with his failure to live by the iron fist. He is a reminder of the original sin that encircles our spirit but also provides a stark reminder that goodness can exist in all living things. Noah’s estranged wife who supports but is repelled by his crude stance towards his unborn grandchild.
A strong environmental allegory can be drawn with the modern world. Blessed with abundant natural resource, mankind seeks to wreak havoc upon the Earth and take all that has been bestowed upon him for granted. In a world where consumerism and the quest for material gain is top of mind, the man vs. God dichotomy certainly provides food for thought but Noah’s hysterics sadly detract from the deeper meaning.