Noah (2014) Dir. Darren Aronofsky


Aronofsky adds a biblical twist to the Lord of the Rings.

Noah (Russell Crowe) is Aragorn, the hero who emerges out of noble lineage to take on a mission that may cost him his life, the sacrifice he’s very much willing to risk. His grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) is Gandalf, white-haired, old wise man with magical powers and a quirky sense of humor. Noah’s sons are the hobbits, at times, helpful, and at other times, wayward, but altogether good at heart.

The Watchers are the Ents. The Ents’ last march on Isengard was an exciting battle with ugly, tree-chopping goblins (aka evil tree-chopping, animal-slaughtering people in Aronofsky’s version), a likely inspiration of the evil tribe’s attack on the Arc. The Ents’ last march aimed to protect the nature, protect the Middle-Earth. The Ents’ last march was just before the great waters came to swipe all the evil away from the face of the earth (aka the Flood).

The Arc is the One Ring, MacGuffin everybody’s after. And like in the Ring’s case, everybody wants to take advantage of the Arc, use it for good or evil. In the process, the characters are challenged by the Object (Arc, Ring – take your pick), forced to make difficult decisions: use the Object against its initial role, or stick with the mission? It reflects their character, their grit, or lack of it. And many people/creatures die trying to either defend or get it. In the end, the Object brings the characters to the top of the mountain where one world ends and the other begins.

Female characters (Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson) are a bit of a conundrum to me. It seems with so few of main characters, they should play an important role. Yet, their role (yes, one role for all of them) is to birth children. And they’re willing to submit to their role. They even protest when they are denied it. If this was supposed to be biblicized LOTR (even if it wasn’t), why is it so blatantly sexist? Tolkien created amazing female characters, who were both smart, fearful and skilled fighters, not primarily child “incubators.” Shame on you, Aronofsky.

The message of “Noah” is clearly environmental. Yet, with all magical special effects, walking lava creatures and postapocaliptic visions the earth resembles a different planet, or a different world altogether. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out whether I was watching LOTR’s biblical remake or Aronofsky’s end-of-the-world movie. Sadly (for Aronofsky), LOTR was already biblical enough and in a more subtle and insightful way. LOTR used a fantasy rhetoric to convey a Christian message. Noah drifts between adapting the biblical story and creating a fantasy story. I say: make up your mind, Noah. Your message is lost on me.

Long days, pleasant nights,
Veronica Bazydlo

6 thoughts on “…veterinary

  1. Baz says:

    LOTR comparisons are inevitable when creating today’s fantasy epic. “Noah’s” presentation shows just how influential Jackson’s unprecedented multi-film project was, maybe in a similar way how “The Fountain” was sci-fi story crafted in a post-Matrix world. However, Libatique’s cinematography – despite heaviest usage of CGI to date in Aronofsky film – is still unique, beautiful and as inventive and sophisticated as ever. Visually, he returns to most of the trademarks of what makes an Aronofsky film but at the same time pushes forward introducing new shots. As always Mansell provides original score and without going into much detail you cannot deny that it’s an instant classic. While attention to audiovisual presentation is crucial, it’s the drama that makes or breaks the film in a character-driven story. And “Noah” is first and foremost just that. I have to disagree with the sexism accusation. Potentially you could ask how can you not make a sexist film inspired by the Bible? Actually, this issue makes the critique missing its point. Theme of giving birth is essential for a story that concerns repopulating the entire Earth. Can Noah really be called sexist if he is the leader of his family, and soon to be the leader of the remaining human race? Should he ever consider the word of his wife or any other woman while he is the one chosen, and entrusted by the God to fulfill His willing? It’s a broader issue but I think that calling ‘sexist’ the film that focuses on antediluvian character is ridiculous. LOTR is a modern novel. Bible is not. It’s expected that female characters are handled in a completely different way. But Aronofsky goes beyond that and halfway through the film reveals the true face of “Noah’s” women, especially Naameh who walks out of her “obedient wife” role and stands against her husband. But what can she really do? Nothing. She can just ask Noah to do this or that. She has no real power and it’s unthinkable to be otherwise.

    How interesting building an Arc can be? Sure, not much, and that’s why most of that is omitted along with the whole animal-collecting process. The core of the drama is Noah fighting himself, not the army of Tubal-Cain, which by the way is still pretty kick-ass. Just like the director stressed it, it’s about a man struggling with survivor’s guilt and the burden of saving or ending human race. Of trying to do the right thing in a situation where there are no good options and where he is seemingly left all alone with all the precious decisions. There’s a lot more to “Noah” but it would require to write a hefty analysis that’s not fit for a blog comment. Altogether, it’s an exceptional achievement in adapting and expanding on a story that is described in the Bible in a nearly bullet-point manner while delivering something extremely rare: a grand blockbuster that’s equally smart and entertaining.

    • Veronica Bazydlo says:

      I agree ONLY with your last sentence. Yes, that is Aronofsky’s success. And his only success here. Unfortunately, the story screams sexism and it looks ridiculous to try to defend it. Do remember that this is a movie, a work of fiction. Putting Bible aside (my comments and accusations are not about the Bible), it is up to Aronofsky to show us his own perspective on the story. He could have done it by giving the characters more depth and meaning, or by uplifting and focusing on male characters while neglecting women, which he chose. Saying the Noah is the alpha male, the savior of the human kind, the leader of his family just proves Aronofsky’s (and your own) ignorance. We have evolved past it since the biblical times so why perpetuate it in a contemporary work of art? Aronofsky could have taken any direction with this story, but he chose the worst one. He chose to show us that he is a male director, not a great one. Sadly.

      • Baz says:

        You seek political correctness in one place where it should never be the factor: art. One of the things that differentiate true art from phony look alikes is the lack of polical correctness. Art should never go for compromises and political correctness is one of the biggest compromises that you would like to enforce on cinema. Once again it’s the story of Noah who fights for his family and people, not for their emancipation.

        • Veronica Bazydlo says:

          Said by a man about a movie made by a man that is man-centered. You’re using all the passe sexist arguments that men have been always using to justify the status quo. Art should be exactly above this.

          • Baz says:

            It’s funny, because it seems that the biggest problem you have with “Noah” is its alleged sexism that you are so fixated on and not drama or narrative. It’s strange that you accuse Aronofsky of sexism considering his previous works that featured wide variety of deep female characters. With your way of thinking nearly every film could be called sexist. Oh, and by the way “Noah” is also racist, anti-religious, homo- AND xenophobic. You should support those groups too.

  2. I agree that this was not such a great movie. Good special effects, but as you mention, a bit sexist. I also thought that it was kind of boring. That said, how can you make the process of building an arc interesting? The son wanting to kill Noah was bit much, he was a pretty good Dad.

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