Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Film Review | Noah

Darren Aronofsky is true to his grain as an ambitious, outlandish and dead-serious film-maker in his imagining of the Biblical Noah’s ark. Much of his new film’s appeal is in its visual daring. Just the computer-generated imagery (CGI) is enough to infuse the film with a sense of epic doom. Noah is yet another affirmation of the 21st century Hollywood canon that all stories with such epic scope are best executed in 3D—the film’s budget was reportedly $125 million (around 750 crore).

But in spirit too, the director makes it contemporary. Noah (Russell Crowe) is not as much a do-gooder who is servile to God, as he is a vegetarian Hamlet. He is torn between his divine and personal obligations. We hardly ever hear the voice of God; everyone in the film—either herbivorous, hippie-like communities that believe industrial humankind has depleted the earth and so deserve punishment, the serpent-eating descendants of the murderous Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), giant rock men from the Stone Age or “the watchers" filled with molten lava—constantly refers to “the creator" whose creations are under siege.

Climate change, Transformer-style earthlings reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents, enthralling CGI effects, combined with Biblical ideas of penance, mercy and suffering, make this film ponderously grandiose. But it is a trip worth taking because of the film-maker’s vision of terror.

Aronofsky’s other film that rose to a quasi-philosophical level, combining fantasy, science fiction, history and religion, was The Fountain (2006), one of my favourites by the director, in which a man played by Hugh Jackman is grappling with love and mortality when faced with his wife’s debilitating cancer. Noah is more accessible because of the religious content (the film has been banned in Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and a few other Islamic countries).

Aronofsky takes liberties in the plotting. Reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds, who themselves just flock to the ark, go into a state of lingering somnolence after Noah’s wife (Jennifer Connelly) burns a few pieces of incense and fumigates the ark’s chambers. Among the character additions is an adopted daughter of Noah, Ila (Emma Watson), also his prospective daughter-in-law. Anthony Hopkins plays the personification of wisdom, Noah’s grandfather and the oldest man in the world, Methuselah. The film’s most interesting character is the villain Tubal-Cain, invoking Satan and industrial society with an electric presence on screen.

So Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel are interested in the dark and troubling sides of Noah’s story, inching towards the inexplicable horror of a killing which, while seeming to be a closure to his philosophical struggles, provides enough dramatic propulsion to the climax.

Crowe plays the lead with a portentous and brooding energy, and is every bit the fiercely masculine presence he is in most of his films. While Winstone is brilliant as Tubal-Cain, with the only high-voltage energy in the entire film, the rest of the cast is efficient in their parts in the grand scheme.

Noah is superbly inventive, but much too overwrought. Aronofsky’s experiment has the kind of seriousness and nerve that makes watching it necessary as well as tedious.

Noah released in theatres on Friday.

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