As I’ve grown older, I’ve reevaluated the story of Noah and the Ark I heard in Sunday school. It is rather strange to think back on how his tale was taught to me at first.
There was more attention given to doves and rainbows than the annihilation of most of the human race. I’m not sure how much value there is in sugarcoating the story like this. If we turn our heads from the parts that disturb us, we risk missing the point of the tale and weakening its power as a narrative.
After seeing “Noah,” I have a feeling director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky shares some of my concerns.
The first few minutes of the film find Noah, played by Russell Crowe, his wife Nameeh, played by Jennifer Connelly, and their children trying to survive on the outskirts of civilization. As the last descendant of Seth, the brother of Cain and Able, Noah is charged with protecting the earth and his lineage from the corrupting influence of Cain’s line.
One night, Noah has a vision of the destruction of the world by water – a flood cleansing the planet so that life may begin anew. This sets Noah and his family towards their ultimate goal. They will build an ark to weather the storm.
“Noah” is a finely crafted film for the most part. Crowe’s unique brand of stoicism serves him well here. He radiates strength and determination as Noah, who spends most of his time comforting his family and contemplating the will of the Creator.
However, it is Connelly who gives the best performance as Naameh, a woman desperately trying to make Noah see the good in humanity when all he sees is the capacity for evil. One person you won’t be hearing from is God, who remains silent throughout the film. I would presume Morgan Freeman was busy at the time.
Unlike the didactic God of the Old Testament, the God of “Noah” speaks through signs, miracles and visions instead of words. This is an excellent decision by the filmmakers, as it allows for more showing and less telling. And show it does.
Part biblical epic part blockbuster, “Noah” makes liberal use of its enormous computer-generated imagery budget to create some fantastic visual sequences.
The best of these takes place when Noah tells his family the story of creation, each of the seven days looking more remarkable than the last.
Unfortunately, “Noah” occasionally becomes a little too fantastic for its own good. The inclusion of some mythical creatures in the film, most notably former-angels-turned-gigantic-rock-monsters called Watchers, placed a nearly unbearable strain on my suspension of disbelief. These incongruous creatures are also shoehorned into some massive battle sequences that end up feeling forced and mostly unnecessary.
He also isn’t afraid to tackle some of the darker themes that are inherent to the story. Often the film’s assessment of humanity seems to just be just shy of despair, with Noah beginning to doubt that God even wants his family to survive the flood.
While I applaud the exploration of Noah’s doubts, his leap into misery feels a little too sudden. Once the family boards the ark, the tone of the movie shifts dramatically, and not for the better. That said, the fact that “Noah” even tries to cover these complex themes is enough to warrant forgiveness for most of its faults.
Overall, “Noah” is less a visualization of Genesis and more a director’s reimagining of the story as myth. Aronofsky takes some pretty significant artistic liberties with the source material, and the film is mostly better for it.
Star ratings aside, I highly recommend this movie. It’s admittedly bizarre, but there’s never been a movie quite like it, and I doubt there will be another one like it any time soon.
Connor Kelley is a junior in accounting. Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.