Review: Noah (2014)


There is a scene early on in Noah that greatly encapsulates Darren Aronofsky’s approach in the telling of the famed parable from Genesis. The scene depicts Noah and his family walking through a blackened and brownish ash landscape that is as vast and wide as the eye can see. Aronofsky’s use of handheld camera reveals a minimal sum of dead humans that Noah speculates got scavenged and killed after settling. It’s a scene that cements Aronofsky’s humanist interest in the story of Noah’s Ark.

God or as he is referred to in the picture- “The Creator” merely feels as though he is a catalyst for which debates about the nature of humanity and their behaviour and place in the entire world are debated. Aronofsky along with co-screenwriter Ari Handel conceive of the titular character in a godlike fashion. He makes many moralistic judgements about some of the humans he encounters and their role in this new creation of the earth, while also committing an action in the film that is the equivalent of hearing tragic stories of when human beings pray in times of crisis and find they are not answered.

These interesting layers of the story are combined with some of the prevailing themes that Aronofsky likes to grapple with in his films. The most pronounced one being his protagonists dealing with obsessions with impossible and idealistic conceptions. For example, in The Fountain (A film equally steeped in Biblical motifs) Hugh Jackman’s character was obsessed with preventing death at any cost. In Black Swan, Natalie Portman’s character is obsessed with perfection to psyche breaking costs. Noah in the picture is obsessed with the belief that mankind is a plague upon the Earth and should be left to die, a fact he presents to his family in a hauntingly quiet scene.

Aronofsky’s direction of the film is very interesting, particularly with his interplay between the epic and the intimate scenes. There are moments when Aronofsky lets the landscapes and grand vistas rule in an almost Leanian way, additionally showcasing how scarce, and small human beings are in these moments. Then there are instances when man looks so big that Noah’s beliefs are justified in how they have affected the Earth. However, the abstract scenes cement Aronofsky as one of the cinema’s best visualists working today, be it some of the terrifying dream sequences or the scenes that look like a beautifully conceived and presented oil paintings.

Elsewhere, Russell Crowe’s performance is noteworthy for its subtlety and power. The former is present in some of Crowe`s early scenes when he is learning about his task and the latter is showcased in the scenes on the ark when he is telling his family about his current beliefs. Clint Mansell’s score is magnificent in its unfolding depth and ability to combine many different genres of music including ambient, classical and electric. It is a great piece of work that proves that the Aronofsky/Mansell collaboration is still fruitful.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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