Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Brutal but beautiful - Noah

‘Black Swan’ director Darren Aronofsky’s latest blockbuster ‘Noah’ is an ambitious mythological epic which centers on man’s folly. Noah is the last remaining person of the ancestral line extended down from Seth. Noah and his family dwell under the radar in volcano-scorched outskirts until Noah starts having visions of blood seeping from the bedrock and the waters of the earth reaching to meet the sky. Intimidated by these omens, the group venture on to meet Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah, to know the meaning of the premonition. However he can only offer cold comfort since it is revealed that The Creator, discouraged by the barbarity of humans, intends to cleanse the earth with mighty floods.

A two fold character

The Creator wants Noah to build an ark which can hold two of every animal. This he does with the help of some fallen angles named the Watchers.

Noah’s struggle with the belief that the human race is meant to die out with his youngest son even after he discovers that his formerly barren daughter-in-law is now miraculously pregnant is vividly captured by Aronofsky. Noah’s battle with his conscience, whether to heed The Creator’s words or to let his grandchild live, is one of the highlights of the movie which keeps the audience at the edge of their seat in anticipation.

As Aronofsky reveals Noah is a two fold character. At the beginning he is seen as the saviour who unites and releases fallen angels from their misery. He saves thousands of animals from becoming extinct and builds an ark to keep them and his family safe from the storms. Yet he is also an accomplice in the implacable Creator’s plans to wipe out mankind from the planet. He lets an innocent young girl who has besotted his son, Ham, die brutally by being trampled by a frenzy crowd making their way towards the ark. He turns deaf ears upon the screams of multitudes that cling at straw to survive from the floods. Later he terrorizes his own family in typical patriarchal tyranny noting that even Seth’s line should die out with them.

More suitable for grown up

Another interesting point is when Noah relates the fable of creation. Aronofsky employs aeons-spanning time-lapse to present an eye-catching vision of Darwinian evolution where animals evolve into man and Adam and Eve are formed. Such imagery is created in the form of fallen angles that turn into a band of massive, lumbering, stone-encased giants known as the Watchers.

here are many moments of wonder and creative spectacle in the tale. The manner in which the beasts enter the ark is a sight to behold. However there are a few moments which audiences might find too gruesome to watch. One such instance is Noah witnessing a vision of a lamb being torn apart by a mob. Thus ‘Noah’ is more suitable for grown up audiences because the younger crowd will find it difficult to grasp the philosophy behind the production.

This is echoed towards the end when Ila tells Noah of why The Creator has chose him for the task. It is not merely because, as Noah himself puts it, “He knew I would complete the task, nothing more” but because he was given a choice. As Ila puts it “You chose mercy. You chose love.”

Not just for Christians

Aronofsky also places the flood as the centerpiece of the tale rather than its climax. Fortunately it has worked wonders on the movie. The movie has a firm grasp of mood and atmosphere. The end of mankind is no laughing matter. It is something to be taken seriously and considered even in the modern setup.

Russell Crowe does a magnificent job in portraying the protagonist who is the hero as well as antagonist of the tale at times. The rest of the cast from the fiery Emma Watson to the humble Jennifer Connelly add depth to their characters. They are the backbone behind the success of the film. Anthony Hopkins does well as the berry-obsessed grandfather. Ray Winstone however is less effective as the ferocious Tubal Cain.

Movies based on biblical tales will always spawn controversy. Many critics have accused Aronofsky for not sticking to the source material. His film may not be perfect but the fact that he has done his homework well is apparent. It is timely film which sheds light on conflicts of an ancient world which is relevant even today. ‘Noah’ is not just for Christians but should be watched by people sans religious, ethnic or cast barriers.

‘Noah’ is screening at Majestic Cineplex’s Platinum cinema. 

Ruwini Jayawardana -