Friday, 4 April 2014

Noah

It's not often that I go to see a movie that has had as many bad reviews as has Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah', but having seen and heard so much negativity surrounding this film, I felt I ought to take a look for myself and see what all the fuss was about.

The story of Noah and his ark is one that is still (I think) told to children as it was to me when I was young. The cosy image of the bearded old man with his boat full of all kinds of animals can be an endearing one. The biblical story on which it is based is a little earthier than the cutesy idea that is often portrayed, and it was good to see that Aronofsky didn't shy away from some of the meatier aspects of the tale.
The biblical story is one of judgement for humanity's disobedience, tinged with hope as God chooses Noah and his family to be the ones to restart the human project. Aronofsky's take seemed to me to be less hopeful, until near the end of the film when Noah seems to have a change of heart when confronted with his twin grand-daughters. Noah is portrayed early on as some kind of vegetarian crusader, appalled at what he sees as the needless slaughter of animals for food (yet not averse to slaying more than a few humans when he or his family are threatened) who is told of the impending destruction of humanity by The Creator (the only way to which any deity is referred). As the story unfolds he becomes convinced that, even though he and his family are being saved from the deluge, that they too deserve to perish with the rest of humanity, though this should be through natural means, rather than the horrors of drowning. (!)

What seems to have upset a number of critics - particularly those from the evangelical wing of the Christian constituency - is that this is not a strict telling of the biblical story from Genesis. The stories of the flood in Genesis 6-9 (the biblical account is an amalgamation of at least two sources, as any attentive reading will show) only give certain details of what may have taken place (I am firmly of the opinion that this is myth rather than strict history): what Aronofsky does is use his creative licence to fill in some of the gaps. Some of that ways he does this are quite fanciful to say the least: The Watchers - fallen angels who became encased in stone and whose initial task was to protect Cain after his banishment, but who then help Noah with the construction of the Ark - did seem just a little too far-fetched. But the tension between Noah's family - descendants of Seth, the third son of Adam & Eve - and the rest of humanity, descended from Cain did seem plausible, and their leader, Tubal-Cain, was played with Ray Winstone's usual menace to great effect. It was also good to see that the epilogue to the story, where Noah gets drunk and is seen passed-out and naked by his son Ham, was included (though not the cursing of Ham and his descendants).

There were a number of nods to the contemporary world within the film. The green agenda was a prominent under-current early on for me, as was its flip-side in the exploitation of the world that Tubal-Cain seemed to be advocating. In Noah's telling of the story of creation, Aronofsky managed to combine the biblical creation myth with images depicting the Big Bang, the formation of galaxies and planets, and the processes of evolution seamlessly, demonstrating that these two ideas don't need to be seen as being mutually exclusive (which for me can only be a good thing). And in one of the dream sequences which depicts the descent of humanity into depravity, some of the images of human death spanned the centuries up to the present day, which, although anachronistic, demonstrates maybe that judgement and salvation are still relevant today as topics for thought and action. And there is always the sub-plot of family tensions - sibling rivalry/ jealousy and the tensions between father and sons (particularly the troubled middle one) - to contend with.

As a piece of entertainment it was OK, no more. As an adaptation of a biblical tale, it was patchy at best. The acting was really nothing to write home about: I think all of the main leads have done better work. Visually it was OK - though I only saw the 2D version - with some quite good special effects.

All in all, not as bad as some have made out, but not a film that I'll be busting a gut to watch again.