One of the first things I noted about Noah was that it was not accurate. When I shared this with someone, I was immediately answered with, “Well, OF COURSE it’s not accurate! The story is completely made up!” While I felt my intelligence was a little insulted at that, I suppose I ought to clarify: Noah is not TEXTUALLY accurate, the same way that the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (sorry, pet peeve) is not textually accurate to the book. However, I wholly feel that this is in its favor.
Though the film is based on a religious text and biblical characters, it did not feel like a religious film at all. It’s a story about a family trying to save a piece of the world at the behest of “the Creator”. The film was very careful not to call the Creator anything else, not God or Jehovah or Yahweh or any other name, which I think added to the non-religious feel of it, and also, to the mystical and fantasy-like setting.
Throughout the film, there are elements of magic and a sort of shamanistic relationship with the earth, as opposed to “miraculous” or “hand of God” occurrences. I liked the interpretation of the text which tends toward stewardship of the earth, meaning, taking care of it, as opposed to dominion over it (textual interpretation pet peeve, read: Book of Genesis), which implies that the earth is humanity’s for the taking, pillaging, and destroying.
In that way, I interpreted the main theme of the film to be more environmentalist and “green” than to be an epic tale of how one man and his family managed to survive God’s wrath on the rest of humanity. The focus was very much on saving the animals from the destruction of the world rather than on Noah’s family being “good” (or perhaps, “better” than everyone else in the world) and escaping or surviving the flood. The animals were to inherit the earth, not Noah and his posterity. In that way, I can understand why some Christians might not like the liberties that the film took with the “plot” and the “moral” of the biblical story, but I felt it was a more natural interpretation and was all right with it.
Whatever you may have against the story or the actors or anything to do with this film, it is a visual masterpiece. The cinematography was overwhelmingly beautiful, and the perspective from which some of the grand scenes were shot lent so much intelligence and sympathy to the situation and the characters, I don’t see how anyone couldn’t be moved at least a little by it. With some of those visuals and some of the environmentalist and even – dare I say – evolutionary themes, it reminded me of some of the scenes from the new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, as both Noah and Cosmos made wonderful use of timelapse photography to show the recovery and transformation of the planet.
In all, Noah is beautifully photographed, and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t at least make it to the Oscars next year for cinematography, though I believe a director nomination for Darren Aronofsky is also well-earned. The sound seemed a little strange as some noises seemed to come from within the theater rather than from the speaker – they were emitted from only one or two of the speakers, which I assume was by design – but it made for a somewhat eerie experience during those scenes.
The story itself felt much more realistic, despite the fantasy and magical elements, as (again) the cinematography did a wonderful job of capturing the grand scale and the sheer volume of such a disaster as a global flood, and the director proved just how terrifying such an event would be, even at a distance through the medium of film. It was a very graphic and violent film at times, which also made it more realistic and interesting as more of a Titanic sort of story rather than a Passion of the Christ sort of story.
The performances in the film were also terrific, though I wouldn’t expect any less from Russell Crowe (Noah), Jennifer Connelly (Naameh) and Emma Watson (Ila). Crowe bears the brunt of the burden as the film’s main character and namesake, and he portrays the fragile balance between obedience to his creator and love and protectiveness for his family. I felt bad for Jen Connelly as Noah’s wife Naameh, though. It seemed she was always crying! So many of her scenes, she was worried, upset, or brought to tears for some reason or another, but hey, she does it well, so I can’t fault her for it. Ila was interesting because she was sort of an outsider, but she became a part of the family and had her own obstacles and fears to overcome as the movie went on, and for being a supporting character in such a massively scaled movie, Watson carried herself like a pro.
Speaking of performances, no, I haven’t forgotten Anthony Hopkins! Hopkins plays Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather, an extraordinarily old man who has a little magic of his own. While I feel it goes without saying that he was terrific, I think too many writers and critics have been going without saying anything of Hopkins’s performances in the past few years, so I would like to elaborate just a bit. Though his role is even smaller than Watson’s, Hopkins is nothing if not formidable. He captures the paternal sense of being around Noah and his other great-grandchildren, the sagesse of knowing why Naameh has come to see him, and the whimsy of combing the ground for berries – “I have a craving,” he says to Ila – just as the skies grow darker as the great storm and flood are imminent. It’s not easy to embody so many peccadilloes in one character, let alone in as few scenes as Hopkins has, but he can, and he does.
Whatever hesitations or doubts you might have going into a movie like this, one which has religious implications and perhaps has cast actors that you are not incredibly fond of (*cough* Russell Crowe–not my opinion, I love the guy, but I know there are many who do not), go see this movie.
Noah is a breathtaking, visual marvel, that, if nothing else, will give you a greater appreciation for the beauty of the world that we live in, and for those filmmakers like Aronofsky who dare to try to capture that beauty knowing they have only two hours of your time to do so.
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