Wells to Aronofsky, sent this morning after seeing Noah last night: What a myth! What a severe, surreal, eye-filling, Old Testament buzzard of a 21st Century Bible movie, and with rock giants yet! Defenders and ark-construction helpers who stand 20 feet tall and speak with the weathered, synthesized voices of Nick Nolte and Frank Langella but who sound to me like Optimus Prime. Noah isn’t perfect but it’s certainly a mad, imaginative leap off the high-dive board. Some of the scenes are mind-blowing, shattering. (Especially those creepy depictions of Noah’s underwater hallucinations and that Terrence Malick-like story-of-creation sequence.) It’s not soothing, not comforting, not conventional — it’s really and truly out there on its own planet.
It’s a dead-serious fantasia, Noah is. And in no way does it resemble anything more or less than a fevered hallucination in a certain filmmaker’s head.
Deranged as it is, the first three-quarters of Noah exudes a spiritual clarity of mind and absolute certainty of righteousness that few have but many seek. The problem is that this righteous clarity is borderline psychotic. Most of Noah is about harsh judgment and penalties and zero tolerance for even the slightest divergence from the path, and the very last portion is about mercy (Russell Crowe gets to re-do that John Wayne moment in The Searchers when he finally catches up with Natalie Wood) and charity and hope.
The latest word is that several Christian leaders and Catholic audiences in Mexico are cool with Noah, and that haters like Glenn Beck are off on their own beam.
Rightwing Christian wackos are apparently objecting to the ecological metaphors about tending the garden and whatnot. Conservatives have always felt it’s their right to have absolute dominion over the earth, and in today’s context that means an absolute right to despoil all they want so they can swagger around and live in McMansion vacation homes in Wyoming or Idaho so I’m not surprised this aspect bothers them. Who are we to obey the earth? The earth obeys us, and we can burn fossil fuels any time we feel like it. We have our lifestyles to enhance!
Noah is totally down with the idea of the Godless receiving the merciless punishment they deserve — straight out of the End of Days manual. This aspect will certainly strike a chord with the nutters. It’s odd but you really can feel the presence of a brooding and displeased Creator in the vibe of this film, and also the severity of God’s Old Testament law…it’s a hard, cold, right-or-wrong realm. Righteous and condemning and rather horrid. But Noah is also rooted in a fertile, verdant imagination. It’s a movie made by a madman…a man as mad as Noah, mad as Moses, mad as Howard Beale. As mad as Abel Gance or F.W. Murnau or Eric Von Stroheim.
And it’s a hell of a lot crazier than anything ever made or even dreamt of by that pompous right-wing douchebag, Cecil B. Demille. Yes, DeMille depicted God’s vengeance in The Ten Commandments (Edward G. Robinson and his heathen followers dropping into the caverns of hell) and Samson and Delilah, but even DeMille’s hypocritical fantasies shrank from the extermination of hundreds of thousands of sinners, not all of whom, we have to presume, are as evil and egoistic as Ray Winstone‘s Tubal-cain.
This is probably the creepiest and most unnverving movie about God’s scheme since Michael Tolkin‘s The Rapture (’91). If you remember that 23 year-old film and particularly how it made you feel (especially during the Third Act in the desert), you have a rough idea of what Noah is.
I love that Noah alludes with some degree of sincerity to the evil that came from eating the fruit of knowledge. Damn those knowledgables — they screwed it up for everyone!
I’ve just re-read summaries of the Biblical text and re-watched the Noah portion of John Huston‘s laughably awful The Bible: In The Beginning (’67), which is rank with patronizing, sanctimonious bullshit start to finish. Noah, on the other hand, is ballsy and merciless (until the every end) and very much your own theme park. The only thing I didn’t like was that barren Iceland setting, which made me feel chilly. This is supposed to be ancient Mesopotamia (where a local flood apparently did happen thousands of years ago) but Iceland almost looks like the moon. Who kind of masochist would live in such a chilly, barren, tree-less environment? People who hate the idea of building huts and growing vegetables and hunting game?
Seriously — what a fantastical fable and an original loopy fantasia. An initially nutso portrait of moral absolutism that gives that shit up at the very end.
Spoilers that won’t matter to except habitual spoiler-whiners follow in the next two sentences:
There are two very tough moments, of course. One, when Ham’s newfound girlfriend meets an awful end, partly if not largely due to Noah’s refusal to help her. And two, when Noah pledges to carry out the Creator’s law as far as Emma Watson‘s children are concerned. I for one was really, really hoping that Noah’s sons, Winstone and Noah’s wife, Jennifer Connelly, would get together as a team and club Noah to death at that point, and then cut off his head and throw it into the sea.
But there’s no clear didactic line in this film. It’s unruly. Tubal-cain is obviously the stand-in for capitalistic or Christian arrogance but Winstone isn’t given any other aspects or dimensions to play. He’s reduced to standard-issue villainy. Crowe’s Noah is obviously the good guy but then he isn’t. He descends into dogmatic blindness. And all the faceless, nameless characters who aren’t part of Noah’s family (except for the unlucky hot girl who briefly hooks up with Ham) are growling ravenous beasts. So there’s no major figure to side or empathize with except for the supporting cast — Connelly’s Mrs. Noah, Watson, Noah’s sons (played by Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth) and the makeup-covered Anthony Hopkins, who plays Noah’s grandfather Methusaleh, who won’t stop thinking and talking about eating berries.
I agree with Crowe’s performance as Noah is his best since his work in A Beautiful Mind.
Noah is a handful and an eyeful and a huge bear to wrestle with while you’re watching it, and an experience that probably won’t leave you alone the next day. The linger factor is always the best sign of quality, and this movie has it in spades.