When stepping into a movie theater, you as an audience member have decided to be transferred to a different world. This is the world of the director. You cannot bring with you expectations of the world that you are going to be in for the next two and a half hours. It is up to the director to make sure you understand his world and that you will have an entertaining and/or thought provoking time in it. Some movies do a better job at explaining their world. Many fall short, but only few succeed in grabbing its audience, allowing them to step inside some place they may or may not have ever been before.
Darren Aronofsky has succeeded in creating a fascinating pre-flood world. Immediately I was able to forget what I thought I knew about the world before the flood and let Aronofsky invite me to his interpretation of this renowned Biblical story.
Noah lives in a world of filth, hate, violence, and sin. He has chose to live in exile with his family from the rest of the world. He must be strong, wise, and even sometimes ruthless. Noah is a warrior of The Creator. He is taught as a boy that The Creator is sovereign over all. That human are here to serve him, to fear, and love him. Noah is of the descendants of Seth, Adam and Eve's third son. Opposing Noah and his family are the sons and daughters of Cain, the other son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother Abel.
Noah is given a vision from God, a vision that the world and all living things will be wiped out by water that will cover the earth. Aronofsky uses a startling image of people drowning underwater with Noah in their midst, struggling to reach the surface. He wakes and finds that he must travel to see his Great Grandfather Methuselah.
From here we are introduced to some fascinating characters that I know many have had a problem with. These creatures are the watchers, what I see as Aronfsky's interpretation of the Nephilim, or fallen angels. I think the inclusion of these characters is fascinating and only adds to his pre flood world.
So often as humans we look at fantasy as myth, that fantasy is furthest away from reality. But so often in the Bible we are told the world, as we perceive it far from actual reality. That world is much closer to fantasy. I don't find it at all hard to believe that this world was much different they we perceive it today, that there were many "fantastical" things during this time. I can't help but admire Aronofsky's inclusion of these fanciful ideas into his graphic novel and now into his film Noah.
Through the rest of the film we see Noah struggling, struggling with the burden of the ark, with protecting his family, facing his advisories, and finally interpreting The Creator's visions. In the final half of the film the director starts to pull at our relationship with Noah, we start to question his actions, and maybe even start to hate him as a character. But this is the point in the film that becomes most important. This is when we see Noah at his lowest point, when he is most human. This is when Noah must make a decision, a decision that could change the outcome of the world, as he knows it. A decision we must all make every day of our lives. This is when we can say that God is not a tyrant, that he let's us make decisions. I find it remarkable that an atheist director can tell such a Christian message.
Thematically Noah has its ups and down. Too often we have characters telling us the themes and motivations of the movies in conversation. I can overlook this as I find many would not try to understand some of the more subtle messages, thus making this film accessibility better, overall. I personally would have liked to see Aronofky's more subtle side, but I can see Paramount putting some pressure on him to help out the audience.
We are still given many Aronofsky like sequences, a number of startling images, and even a creation story, much in the likes of Terrance Malick's 'The Tree of Life'. Many say that he is copying Malick here, but I found his using of frame-by-frame, time-lapse fascinating and one of my favorite parts of the whole film.
The casting is really fascinating, as always Russell Crowe is very believable in this period piece, The inclusion of Emma Watson helps play with how we perceive innocence and womanhood, though she is 24 years old, it is hard to think of Emma Watson as an adult for her youthful looks really pull at us, making us fell for her character even more. The only real comic relief we get is from Anthony Hopkins who plays the mysterious old Methuselah. Ray Winstone has the showiest and maybe even best performance as the film antagonist, Tubal-cain.
Not since Spring Breaker's last year, and Tree of Life the Year Before have thought so much about a movie. Noah is the movie that people should be seeing right now. Even if you think you will not like it, it needs to be seen, just so you can take part in its conversation. I would really encourage everyone of every belief to seek it out and discuss it. I can already say that it is one of the best films of the year.