14/05/2014

Noah



Does the latest film version of the age old Biblical tale float? 

In theory the story of Noah -who builds an Ark to rescue two of every species from God’s impending worldwide flood- is made for cinematic adaptation with the opportunity to visualise such an apocalyptic tale. Yet if you check the details it is more difficult to avoid the fact that this is a made up incident appearing to suggest a vengeful God and only really makes sense if you are particularly religious.  Darren Aronofsky’s film attempts to swerve around this with the addition of familial tensions and moral issues but comes badly unstuck in the process.


In an attempt to lend verisimilitude to this unlikely story, Noah manages to avoid mentioning `God` (though you could argue the word hadn’t been thought of yet) instead referring to `the creator`. This creator appears to be able direct people through dreams so after the vaguest of symbolic visions and a bit of enigmatic waffle from Anthony Hopkins in a cave Noah starts building his Ark courtesy of a forest that grows before our very eyes. It is as if a B&Q had opened nearby. Only two of each animal seem to share this vision as they turn up in pairs neatly divided into species and type. Perhaps a zookeeper wrote the script?
As if there had not been enough convenience already Noah has a gas that can put his passengers to sleep as soon as they board saving the sound effects people countless hours reproducing restless animal noises.  Yet he doesn’t use this gas to quell the riotous hoards of people outside who- quite justifiably you feel- think they deserve a place on the vessel too. Neither does it appear during the subsequent voyage when Noah goes a bit crazy and starts trying to kill people and by people I mean his own family. Yes, Noah is a very odd film indeed.

The cruise ship was not quite the same as it looked in the brochure.
On the Grumpometer if Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood was a 6 his Noah is a 9 and a half. In the film’s bizarre second half he becomes increasingly convinced that he and his family are all sinners and nobody except the animals should ultimately survive which surely was not the idea of the creator’s vision? That is the trouble with interpreting visions; it depends on the sanity of the person seeing them yet sane people tend not to see them! In fact you start to think- and there is nothing to disprove this theory- that Noah is actually going mad, imagining things and putting his family in danger.
The script offers the latter little resistance for his wife and kids as events unfurl like a psychological drama. Noah’s actions are ill defined; why for example does he let his older son construct a boat to escape and at the very last minute torch it? Did he just not notice the boat building? Or is he being vindictive for the sake of it? Neither is tenable which means that the longer the film lasts the less credible a character Noah becomes. Russell Crowe is a sturdy enough actor to make you believe most things but it becomes impossible to identify with Noah. The genuine surprise is Ray Winstone who plays the leader of nearby tribe that have got wind of the Ark and want in. As written and played, Tubal-cain is the best –if not only- character in the film and requires something that stretches the actor out of his usual range. With the fact that he manages to get onto the Ark and the way the story develops you’re rooting for old Ray when the inevitable fight with Noah happens.
The flood itself is tremendously realised and even though it’s not a 3D film you may well feel a little seasick. On the whole though, Noah is an awkward film in every respect. By refusing to be a traditional parable the story veers off into some kind of B movie escapade while the contrivances required to set up the scenario prove unconvincing.. There is certainly a visual sweep and impressive scale (particularly the Ark itself) but somehow nothing seems to make that much sense.

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