Noah — A Biblical Epic for the Eyes and Mind
“Even though it is a story of hope, family, and second chances, it is also a story filled with great destruction and misery. For every pair that survived, there were countless other creatures on the planet that drowned during the deluge, innocent and wicked alike.” Director Darren Aronofsky said these words in an interview, when discussing about his interpretation of Noah’s story. Though Aronofsky is an atheist, he adhered to the spirit of the text and saw darkness within the story rather than making it a comedic apocalypse story. In “Noah” (2014), he has taken scant verses from ‘Genesis’, devoted to ‘Noah and the Flood’ and daringly delved to develop a bold interpretation of a tale and has also added blockbuster doses of a disaster movie. Although this is Aronofsky’s highest- budget movie, “Noah” is no less idiosyncratic than his other work.
The film begins with a prologue about what happened in the Old World – how Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden led to the wickedness of mankind before Noah’s time. Noah (Russell Crowe), who is said to have descended through the line of Seth, is deemed to be the only righteous man. As a small boy Noah watches his father getting killed by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) – a descendant of Cain (Cain, the son of Adam, who killed his brother Abel and set in motion a chain of violence). Noah from then on stayed clear of these greedy human beings and lives in a desolate land. He has settled down with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and their three sons — Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll – in a land given by the “Creator.”
After experiencing apocalyptic visions, Noah goes to meet his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins). Noah becomes convinced that the Creator decides to purge the corrupted world of life. He believes that his task is to build an ark and save the birds and animals from the mighty deluge. To build the ark, Noah is helped by Watchers – six armed rock creatures (resembles the giant tree creatures from ‘Lord of the Rings’). Birds, amphibians, reptiles and giant mammals come majestically into Noah’s ginat box. Soon, a barbarian horde, led by King Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) arrives before the ark looking to book a passage. After a battle, the family is tucked safely into the ark. Noah’s persistent belief is that men and women do not deserve to survive and he also thinks that repopulation of mankind is not possible, since the only surviving woman of child-bearing age — his adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) — is barren. But, Noah’s zealous conviction and rigid determination is tested by the creator through the events inside the ark.
“Noah” succeeds beautifully as a spectacle. “Let me tell you a story …” Russell Crowe says to his family, midway through, as he proceeds to relate the conventional biblical creation saga of the world. It was one of the many breath-taking scenes in the movie. The amazing crane and helicopter shots that show the Ark’s assembly and the impressive computer-generated marvels like the gathering of world’s creatures, plus Matthew Libatique’s gorgeous lens shoots of unadulterated Icelandic terrain makes the film visually salient, despite a running time of 137 minutes. But, Aronofsky didn’t make “Noah” just to be an eye candy. Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel’s script makes the family dynamics take precedence over the voyage itself in the final stretch.
The script for most part stays true to Bible basics, but also dares to ask questions about Noah’s psychology: Is he heeding God’s call, ready to do something terribly cruel? Or is he just a man only imagining that God is speaking to him? The story revises the Bible’s ark story (where God does much of the talking) making God the silent one and is always mentioned as “Creator.” At one point, an enraged Noah, looks at sky and says, “Why do you not answer me?” Aronofsky uses the character of Noah to make a commentary on the modern-day religious zealots who believe that they have a monopoly on the ‘truth.’ The third part of the film brings emotional fireworks. It brings contradictions inherent within every human being, when asked to do violence in the name of Lord. The subplot of Noah concentrates on the environmentalism aspect by pitting Noah’s family against the barbarians defiling the nature.
The splendid performance of Russell Crowe and his interpretation of Noah makes us recall some of his excellent earlier performances, notably in Gladiator, The Insider and Cinderella Man. Rather than being a genial grandfather figure, Crowe presents Noah as a warrior, who is intractable in his belief.
“Noah” may make certain viewers unhappy because of the liberties, it takes and the conclusion, it draws. The biblical story and fantasy spectacle is used as a jumping-off point to present an intimate drama about a man, who is torn asunder between religious fundamentalism and human compassion.