Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth
The Indian Express rating: ***1/2
NOAH was arguably the world’s first superhero, certainly the first whose story lends itself well to CGI/3D-enhanced telling. Aronofsky knows that. What he knows better is to reach higher and plunge deeper — to tell us a story that could lend itself to any time, and not just the first book of the Bible. Noah can be the Chosen One, bidding God’s orders to give the world a new chance, or Noah can be one among us, facing difficult choices and finding a way to do the right thing.
The purists are quibbling, and you may contest the string of ineffective actors who play Noah’s children in the film, presumably picked up to pull in the younger audiences. Aronofsky claims to have been fascinated by Noah’s story since he was 13. Despite being such a fine reader of complex, characters (The Requiem of a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan), that explains why Aronofsky can’t distance himself enough to spare the film a distinct pontific tone. However, while you may well argue with it, none of that takes away from the understanding Aronofsky and co-screenwriter and friend Ari Handel present of one of the Bible’s most-fascinating stories and its central character, even slipping in an environmental message.
We meet Noah (Crowe) as a child witnessing his father being killed by Cain’s descendants, and next in a desolate desert as one of the last defenders of the “Creator’s land”. Noah, wife Naameh (Connelly), and his sons Shem (Booth), Ham (Lerman) and newly born Japheth lead a tough life, made tougher by men who are scavengers, looting and living off other people. And then there are Noah’s nightmares, rendered in vivid colours, which he interprets as the end of the world being near. On way to consult his grandfather, the wise old Methuselah (played with relish by Hopkins), Noah and family rescue a badly injured girl Ila (Watson) and take her with them.
Methuselah confirms Noah’s fears, and gives him a seed from the Garden of Eden to start a new world. Noah proceeds to build the ark, concluding that there will be a deluge that will destroy mankind because of what it had become, and that God wanted him to save the animals to start afresh. Why only animals? Because they alone continue to live the life they led in Eden.
Aronofsky doesn’t spare the details, with the ark built almost exactly as described in the Bible even though it looks like an unlikely floating structure. The film also visualises the angels exiled to earth, or the Watchers, as robots rendered in stone. They are disconcertingly Transformers-like at first, but in the pitying randomness of their structures — they fell from heaven, and took new forms from mud and rocks — they grow on you.
The flood is impressive, as is continued…