Noah – Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Release Date – March 27th 2014.
As I write this it is raining really hard. What better environment to revisit the biblical tale of Noah – the man who had word from God that he should build an ark to save the creatures of the Earth from an impending flood of 40 days and 40 nights.
Darren Aronofsky, who narrowly missed out on the Best Director Academy Award for 2010’s Black Swan to Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) returns to his trademark modus operandi – Characters with strong obsessions driven towards self-destruction.
Ironically in this case, the lead character is also driven towards preservation and conservation.
Noah, a descendant of the first man Adam, receives word from “The Creator” via visions and signs, that a great flood is coming and he must build an enormous vessel to safely transport all of the world’s creatures to a new paradise on Earth once the floodwaters recede.
Russell Crowe plays Noah, ably supported by Jennifer Connelly as Naameh, Noah’s wife. All the performances are strong, including Ray Winstone as Tubal-cain, Noah’s nemesis, Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather and Emma Watson as Ila, Noah’s eldest son Shem’s wife.
Aronofsky with long time collaborator Ari Handel (The Fountain) and John Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall, The Aviator) have combined the tale of Noah, familiar to any kid who owned a bible, with a flash of fantasy and even science fiction to craft an epic story about one man’s struggle with the two faces of man – good and evil.
This is a really weird film. Given Aronofsky has a bent for unconventional pieces including Requiem for a Dream and the excellent, surreal Black Swan, it should come as no surprise that in tackling the account of Noah, his take is not at all straightforward. For me it is a little haphazard in it’s narrative and at times left me confused about what the focus of the story was.
Aronofsky has been interested in the story of Noah for 30 years, having won a poetry competition in high school with an entry based on Noah’s Ark. He even cast his 7th grade teacher who inspired him at the time in the film.
Ultimately this is a story of one man’s obsession with doing what needs to be done, regardless of the cost. Witnessing the repeated desecration of the Earth by generations of mankind, Noah resolves that “Mankind must end”, and that “The evils of mankind shall not live in this new Eden”.
The way that he goes about his task of building the Ark and fending off the hordes of desperate crowds hell-bent on escaping the coming apocalypse seems ruthless and he struck me as a man suffering from psychosis.
His redemption comes when the water does indeed rise and it turns out he was right all along.
Was he right though to exclude the remaining population from coming aboard his ship?
This is an enormously challenging and confronting film. It is confounding, profound and has stretched of spectacular action contrasted with deep soul searching. It’s when Aronofsky marries those two elements within Noah that the spell is broken and I feel like I’m watching two entirely different films.
At it’s heart the message seems abundantly clear though – Earth is no place for mankind because we are unable to value what is at our disposal and systematically set out to plunder and destroy what we have been provided by the universe.
Given that Noah is a revered figure in many religions including Christianity, Islam and Judaism, I was disappointed to learn that the film has been banned for various reasons in a number of countries including Indonesia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar.
Aronofsky likens his films to the “Cyclone” rollercoaster at Coney Island he loved to ride as a child.
Noah is certainly unsettling, hair-raising, exciting and something that may take more than one experience to truly understand.