Director: Darren Aranofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone
As a devout atheist, it goes without saying that I’m not big on the old biblical tales and as such, religious themed films tend not to be my thing. That said, the story of Noah’s ark was probably the most appealing to me as a child, not least because of the abundance of animals. I was curious then, as to how the live-action feature ‘Noah’ would portray such an array of wild creatures successfully. From what I had heard, ‘Noah’ was rather poorly received by audiences; my twitter feed around the time of its release is testament enough to the controversy the film provoked and the pitfalls of revitalising an antiquated, sacred story. So I was setting ‘Noah’ up for a fall before the DVD even entered the player – I had already postponed the viewing a few days previous – and to make matters worse, I’m not really a huge fan of Russell Crowe either. This film had some serious convincing to do.
We all know the story, right? I will keep this brief. Noah, descendent of Seth, and further Adam, is a peaceful man, with a love and respect for God and his creations. When God smites Earth with a raging flood, Noah is entrusted with saving two of each animal on board an ark. Unfortunately, Noah (Crowe) believes it is God’s will that the human race should be exempt from the new world. This means his family, including his adopted daughter’s unborn children, must perish during the flood. Noah must fight off King Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) and his army, before making a decision which will determine the future not only of his family, but the whole planet.
I have to admit, Russell Crowe is rather impressive in the titular role. He certainly looks the part, and delivers a powerful display to stand head and shoulders above his co-stars. Crowe absolutely carried the film and brought a new energy to an aged story. Opposite Crowe once again, Jennifer Connelly plays the loving wife who has to put up with her spouse’s shit. Unfortunately, Connelly gives a pretty nondescript and ordinary performance, but it could have been any actress in that role for all the difference the character makes. A very subordinate role, very blandly portrayed. Emma Watson is by far the best of the supporting roles, playing Noah’s adopted daughter/daughter-in-law Ila (it’s complicated). The traps of the ‘Harry Potter’ stereotype are hard to escape however, and her performance is very Hermione-esque.
The film was surprisingly artistic, with interesting, recurring cuts to images from the garden of Eden, of the serpent and the forbidden fruit. Add to this a collection of stunning, panning shots of the vivid mountains, expanse of land and ominous oceans and you get a welcome break from the action, as well as some rather clever symbolism. I expected the film to be really linear and dull, but alongside the odd thrilling fight scene, there was plenty of excitement and depth. The depiction of the vast floods and tumultuous conditions is very impressive but the animals, in particular the birds, were poorly animated. Perhaps director Darren Aronofsky took note of Alfred Hitchock’s disregard for authentic animal representation in ‘The Birds’ (go to 0:38). Worse still, were the bizarre creatures called The Watchers, fallen angels condemned to a life in stone, whose movements were reminiscent of the 1950s ‘Godzilla’.
Although the film was quite slow-moving at first, it hits a quick turn of pace and races to a climax before you know it. I would say the criticism ‘Noah’ received is unfair and unfounded, a film which profited from such low expectations upon my viewing, to exceed everything I imagined it would be. It is very hard to retell such a well-known tale, but Aronofsky puts together a powerful, precise and moving film, adding poignancy and depth to an inevitably predictable story.