Emotional connect

Biblical epic Noah tests director Aronofsky’s blockbuster chops

Mumbai | Updated: April 9, 2014 4:22 pm
Darren Aronofsky Darren Aronofsky

Rain lashes down from the heavens while hungry followers of Cain trample over each other for a spot on Noah’s massive wooden ark. The end is inevitable and, of course, not pretty. Director Darren Aronofsky, best known for dark and unrelenting dramas such as the Oscar-nominated Black Swan, would have it no other way in the biblical epic Noah, which stars Russell Crowe that released in U.S. and Canadian theaters on March 28. “There’s something elemental about the water,” Aronofsky said. “Water has an incredible power to destroy and it also gives rebirth. It’s an amazing force. So, I’ve just always wondered why no one ever brought it to the big screen.”
The film distributed by Viacom Inc’s Paramount Pictures is the auteur director’s first big test of whether he can guide a big-budget spectacle to box-office success. And the risk-taking Aronofsky, 45, is sure to unsettle some along the way as the film blends one of the best-known Old Testament tales with the trademark psychological torment to which he routinely submits protagonists. “We all have the Noah story inside of us since we were very young,” the director said, making the case for why his challenging film can have wide appeal. “It’s so deep, a part of not just Western culture, but everyone on the planet has heard of the Noah story. Even if it’s not part of your belief system, you have a flood story.”
The film also stars Jennifer Connelly as Noah’s wife, Naameh, Anthony Hopkins as Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah, and Emma Watson as Ila, the wife of Noah’s eldest son, Shem, who is portrayed by Douglas Booth.
While faithful to the slim four chapters in the Bible, Noah also takes a detour into fantasy with the biblical Nephilim. Aronofsky explains the giant fallen angels made of rocks as a representation of a pre-flood Earth that was home to alternate possibilities of life.

Wrestling with darkness

The decision to include the fallen angels, called the Watchers in the film, is one of the reasons why Noah will be challenging, even for religious audiences, said Rebecca Cusey, an editor of the religious website Patheos.com and film critic.
“This movie takes it more seriously than a lot of people who teach it in Sunday school. We have to admit that this story is really dark, wrestling with the darkness and having different strains of theology.” Paramount said Noah had a $125 million budget. The film is tracking to gross a respectable $41 million in its opening weekend domestically, according to Boxoffice.com. The film also represents a string of bets Hollywood has made on Bible stories. Studio 20th Century Fox is set to release director Ridley Scott’s epic Exodus in time for Christmas, with Christian Bale as Moses. The studio also released Son of God last month, an adaptation of 2013’s successful, The Bible TV miniseries.
For Anthony Hopkins, the revival of Biblical epics on the big screen speaks to the global economic and political upheaval since 2008 financial crisis. “Maybe it’s a resurgence of a desire for certainty in an uncertain world,” the Oscar-winning actor wondered, adding that biblical epics tend to give audiences hope in chaotic times. But Bible stories also dovetail with the action films that make significant money for Hollywood studios, said Craig Detweiler, a professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. After all, Noah serves up plenty of action, special effects, blood and violence.
“Perhaps Hollywood is reaching back to Old Testament stories because of the brawny nature of the conflicts,” said Detweiler, who has worked for studios as a consultant on religious topics. “It is the ultimate way to get teenage boys who otherwise would have no interest in this subject into one of our culture’s largest shaping stories,” he added. “It’s like a graphic novelisation of one of the most seminal texts in civilisation.”


Angelina Jolie in Bosnia to campaign against war rape

Actress Angelina Jolie was reduced to tears while talking to rape victims of the Bosnian war during a campaign to end sexual violence against women in war. “There can be no peace while women in conflict or post-conflict zones are raped with impunity,” the Oscar-winning actress said in Sarajevo. Jolie was accompanied by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, with whom she will co-host a global conference in London in June on preventing rape being used as a tactic in war. She said she hoped the initiative would help break down taboos about war rape. Witnesses said Jolie cried while listening to victims in the town of Srebrenica. “Our tradition is not to talk about rape,” said Munira Subasic, head of the association of Srebrenica mothers.
“Many women have been through it, but don’t talk about it. That is why this visit is important, to show them they don’t have to cope with it alone,” Subasic said. The initiative was partly inspired by Jolie’s film, In the Land of Blood and Honey, which dealt with sexual violence inflicted on a woman during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. Jolie and Hague also laid flowers at a cemetery for Bosnian Muslim victims of the Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst massacre since World War Two. Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic killed around 8,000 Muslim men and boys after the U.N. protected enclave fell in their hands in July 1995. Mladic is now on trial for genocide at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague.
More than 100,000 people, most of them civilians were killed in the war between Bosnia’s Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks and Croats. It is believed that around 20,000 women were raped.




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