Noah: Aronofsky’s Must-See Biblical Epic

noah_posterThough the movie is not flawless, Noah,  Darren Aronofsky’s new Biblical epic, is a must see for many  different reasons.

For starters, Aronofsky demonstrates that he is one of the boldest directors working in Hollywood today.  It may sound paradoxical, but Noah is a big budget, special-effects driven blockbuster that’s also a personal movie.  Noah shows thematic continuities with Aronofsky’s previous films, all of which are unconventional narratives revolving around troubled, tormented and obsessive characters and telling their stories in an inventive postmodern way.

The responsibility of delivering a commercially accessible film, whose budget is rumored to be over $130 million, must have put a lot of pressure on the gifted director to satisfy different demographic and religious groups.

noah_4_croweThere is no point to tell the Biblical story in a familiar, old-fashioned way (sort of Sunday after-school special). In a revealing interview, Aronofsky has said he promised his star, Russell Crowe, who plays the titular role, that he will never shoot him in front of animals, which is one of the prominent cliches in depicting this tale.

The movie has already stirred controversy and has been banned in some countries, due to some below-satisfying testing results among avid believers, forcing Paramount to tweak its marketing campaign and claim that Aronofsky’s Noah is inspired by the source material, but not an attempt at a more factual account (if there is such a thing) of the popular parable.

Most viewers are familiar with the basic story of Noah and the Ark. That scriptural passage, in Genesis, revolves around a righteous man recruited by God to build a big boat before the arrival of a flood as punishment for man’s wicked ways. Heeding the word of the Lord, Noah constructs the mammoth vessel before herding two of each species of animal into the hold.  It subsequently rained for 40 days and 40 nights, with water covering the entire Earth’s surface, thereby drowning all of humanity except for Noah’s family.

noah_2_croweUp until now, the tale of Noah was basically a simple one about God’s decision to wipe the sinners and start all over again.  But Aronofsky, who has been haunted and obsessed by the story ever since he was thirteen, has come up with a novel take and intriguing reinterpretation of the popular parable. In his version, Noah is a complicated soul, a tormented patriarch wrestling with inner demons during his quest to obey the Lord’s command before the impending deluge.

noah_3_hopkinsThe film begins with a necessary expository sequence, the creation of Adam (Adam Griffith) and Eve (Ariane Rinehart) who bore three sons: Cain, Abel and Seth. The evil one, Cain, slew his sibling Abel, and those descending from Cain continued to do the devil’s work by exploiting the planet’s natural resources. Noah (extremely well played by Russell Crowe), Seth’s son, learns how to live in harmony with nature. He and his wife (Jennifer Connelly) raise their sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) and Ham (Logan Lerman), with the same ecological philosophy.

As written, directed, and played by Crowe, Noah is God’s servant, driven to the edge of madness in his effort to please the Lord and his commands.

Rich in text and subtext, Noah also has also a modenrist ecological angle.

Though always bold and engaging, dramatically, the movie is uneven.

Some of its computer-generated effects–especially the animals and the monsters–are not only impressive in their own right, but ostensibly designed to hold the interest of children and young viewers.

Aronofsky’s take on the Old Testament tale may divide critics and audiences, but it’s not sacrilegious.  Besides, there is no criterion to measure the film’s degree of faithfulness to the grandiose but brief and ambiguous source material.

If my reading of the film is right, “Noah” should become Aronofsky’s most commercial film globally, not a minor feat, considering that his previous outing, the Oscar nominated “Black Swan” grossed $329 million, two thirds of which came from foreign markets.A longer review will be published later today.