(2014 - Director: Darren Aronofsky Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson)
Ignore the "controversy" surrounding this film. Yes, Noah doesn't wholly abide by the text of Genesis. It exists to give us what isn't in the text. From the beginning, it's obvious this story embraces creative liberty. It's the filmmakers' interpretation. It's ambitious, challenging, daring, beautiful, and has a message that will hit home with modern audiences. It results in feelings and conversation that I feel is authentic to what the story of Noah and the flood represent.
How can someone make a movie that's based solely on the story of Noah found in Genesis? The Bible gives little detail about Noah and his family. What we do get a lot of in the scripture itself are technical details about the ark and the animals on board. That leaves room for interpretation. And instead of the typical feel-good story about a big boat full of animals and rainbows we learned about in Sunday school, we get a complex, cerebral story about sin, forgiveness, and faith.
Visionary director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream) takes the nuts and bolts of who Noah is and unapologetically builds a world around him we've never seen before. Noah is a historically-centered movie. It gives beauty and clarity to the idea of the beginning of time, how man came about, the fall from The Creator (the word God is never uttered in the film), and the divide within humanity and lineages. The Nephilim are mentioned only a couple times in the Bible, but they play a major role in this film, which I don't mind at all. Their story ends up being one of the most interesting elements of the movie. While Noah is based on a singular character, its scope embraces the entire future of humanity.
Noah is dark. Very dark. As it should be. It exists within a world ravished of resources, overflowing with sinful men. Aronofsky puts us into the psyche of Noah and what he might have been feeling while carrying the weight of these events and responsibilities. How can one man stand there as the entire world gets destroyed? How can he not be weighed down by the guilt and horror as he hears the screams of thousands dying knowing he could have saved them?
The largest leap with the script is to have Noah turn his back on humanity. Within the context of the script, it makes complete sense. As a keeper of Adam and Eve's lesson, Noah feels that mankind is the reason for the destruction of Eden and, consequently, should be exterminated completely. That includes himself and his family. To carry this plot out, things had to be different. We get to know Noah's sons and their struggle to find wives. Noah feels that it's his responsibility to recreate paradise without humans. Russell Crowe shines in this movie most when he's dipping into darkness, enveloped in his shame. He knows he, as well as his family, are wicked and don't deserve to live. The threat of new life, including his newly born granddaughters, must be exterminated.
Noah's choice to not kill his granddaughters is powerful and holds the meaning for this film. The story of Noah is about the rebirth of love in the world. It's about Noah putting down his knife and letting love back into the world, even if he feels like he's disobeying The Creator. That's what the story of Noah and the flood should feel like. It's the reintroduction of life and beauty in the world. It's a second chance at paradise. Noah takes a different route to get there, but ends on a beautiful note of hope and forgiveness.
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Noah may be Aronofsky's most visually transparent film. You can find glimpses of his calling cards, but it's more straight forward than anything he's done. The movie is gorgeous. The visuals are, at times, breathtaking. The ark is a thing of wonder considering they built a full-scale ark on set.
Many will walk away thinking this film was weird. It is. The story of Noah is unusual. Aronofsky takes a primal, natural story and gives it depth and complexity that most people can find meaning and wonder in. It allows for and invites conversation about the story and the text itself, and that's more important than a Hollywood film being 100 percent accurate.