I suppose I should have expected it, but Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ is
not the bouncy beardy that leaps out of kids’ bibles grinning beneficently as the
Earth’s creatures sweep into his big wooden ship. Nor is his world the kind of
debauched & dustblown desert that Chuck Heston might have strode across, bitterly
blocking out the orgasmic cries of the head-scarfed masses as the skies blackened.
Instead, Aronofsky paints a bigger picture, starting from Cain’s murder of Abel
splitting the tribes of Man, with Noah as the last descendant of Adam’s third son,
Seth. By the film’s opening, Abel’s line has been obliterated, Cain’s
children dominate the ruined world and only Noah stands for any ‘good’.
But what is ‘good’? Here, it’s the choice between violence and
non-violence. ‘The Creator’ (never ‘God’) wipes the world clean
because Cain’s act has so totally corrupted his offspring. The film’s
pivotal battle, then, is within Noah himself, as he comes to believe that all Man
– including his own family – was a mistake from the moment he plucked the
forbidden fruit – that, as he stands, Man can never be devoid of violence, and so
should be erased to leave a truly sinless world.
It’s an easy choice when two of his boys are wifeless and his eldest son is devoted
to Ila, a barren girl, but, when she mysteriously becomes pregnant, the need to fulfill
The Creator’s will starts tearing everyone apart.
Russell Crowe is brilliant as
this particular Noah. When he advances on the poor girl with knives in hand, you really
think he might do it. Just as you believe it when he totally, finally becomes his true
self again. If anything, the problem with ‘Noah’ is that Noah is too good.
The rest of the cast can’t really touch him. Emma Watson, in particular, just
can’t bring the necessary intensity to Ila, and his sons are just gaping
fish-mouths of ‘manhood’ compared to their dad. Even Jennifer Connelly
struggles to go toe-to-toe with Crowe, and it throws the film off-kilter.
But, visually, it’s arresting. The world is oddly post-industrial, thanks to
Cain’s children being assisted by The Watchers, fallen angels turned to stone who
only wanted to help Man and who eventually help Noah build the Ark. The Ark itself is
less a ship and more an artless rectangle of assembled wooden cubes, through the walls
of which we hear the screams of the damned, and I thought Aronofsky was brave to handle
the flood so minimally – with more sound than any overblown CGI spectacle. This
isn’t The Bible by Michael Bay, thank God. It’s fundamentally about the
choices that can wreck a world and make a man.
And there are no guns or superheroes, which makes a change. Russell sings in it, though.
It’s a very brief warble, but it was enough to trigger a Les Mis flashback. Just
to warn you. And at one point he looks like Kenny Rogers, but then, hey, don’t we