Tuesday 8 April 2014


(Darren Aronofsky, 2014)

This is the Old Testament by way of a 1970s Prog Rock double album. More post-apocalyptic than Before Christ, Aronofsky's vision is dark and emotional, visceral and soulful, his film occasionally engrossing, often silly, always interesting.
It tells the story of Noah from his childhood to the time when his sons are set upon repopulating the world, after the flood. The most compelling and resonant passages all come in the lead up to that cataclysm. Aronofsky paints a picture of a barren, ruined world, where Noah (Russell Crowe, one of the few leading men with the right presence for a biblical epic) and his small family struggle to survive in the wilderness, never eating meat, only taking what they need, avoiding the violent men from the industrial cities who are descendants of Cain. Then Noah has a vision from "the Creator" (the word God is never uttered in this film) of the world destroyed by water. He travels to see his ancient Grandfather Metuselah (Anthony Hopkins) for advice, and realises he must build an ark to protect all of the animals once the waters come.
In this he and his family (Jennifer Connolly as his wife, Logan Lerman as the sulky Ham, Emma Watson as the incest-avoiding Ila) will be aided by the Watchers, rock giants who were once Angels, now imprisoned inside their rocky forms. They need help and protection, for Warlord Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) and his forces are bent on entering and claiming the ark when the rains come.
All of this is involving, with some impressively epic imagery by Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, working well alongside Clint Mansell's magisterial, mighty score.
The flood, when it comes, is awesome, preceded by a big battle scene involving men and Watchers and...
Its just all such nonsense, more sword and sorcery than Bible in tone and visual design, and though there are many good things (Crowe remains a magnetic presence throughout, Iceland looks magnificent, there are some vivid and visceral textures) it rarely, for all its modern psychology, feels all that much more interesting than the Biblical epics of the 1950s. Oh, there is a "relevant"ecological theme, and Aronofsky pulls off one stunning scene (Noah recounts creation as Aronofsky somehow melds the theory of evolution with Christian orthodoxy) but once the film settles down in its third act to everybody on the Ark as Noah goes off his rocker because of what he's had to do and still may need to do, it loses most of what made it different and even slightly distinctive. Is there any profundity here, presumably Aronofsky's chief aim? It is too bombastic, too ambitious in conception - here are angels returning to heaven, here is the serpent in the garden, etc - to really allow for any consideration of profundity in the real world. The closest it comes are the moments when you can feel the influence of Terrence Malick most vividly, when Aronofsky doesn't seem bent beneath the weight of all that Bible he's bearing. It is still somewhat impressive, but then so were those 1970s Prog Rock albums...in their way.

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