Noah has been such a weird prospect from the day it was announced. We live in a cinema-going universe that is dominated by secularity. Of course, there is a strong Christian (and other religions) film industry, but it doesn’t often find its way into the multiplexes. That is until you pair the Bible epic with the director of Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan. What we’re left with is the shell of a Bible epic, sort of like carving the innards out of a red pepper and then stuffing it with rice, cheese, mint and olives. Yes, superficially it still looks like a pepper, but the reality is that there are a lot more flavours going on there, and the same is true of Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical blockbuster.
Synopsising the story of Noah seems pointless; so let’s just say that it’s the standard Noah’s Ark story with some elements that seem to have wandered in from the set of Game of Thrones. In a way, the story seems inconsequential (though there were times when I felt the tension dip due to the fact that I knew how the story was obliged to resolve itself), as do the performances. These are generally of a pretty high standard: I liked Crowe’s stoical Noah and Connelly’s touching Naameh, as well as Watson’s upper-class Ila and Lerman’s conflicted Ham. Anthony Hopkins makes literally no effort whatsoever to do anything other than Anthony Hopkins, and Douglas Booth’s Shem appears to have ended up mainly on the cutting room floor. But, by and large, those elements of the film work fairly nicely – Aronofsky is a good actor’s director and certainly knows how to get the best out of Jennifer Connelly.
But amidst all that standard stuff, shades of The Fountain start to creep in rather ominously. In a way, this is the film’s greatest strength – the dream vision sequences keep the film from become a dull VFX heavy recreation of the Old Testament – but they are also where the film becomes unruly and ill-disciplined. It sometimes frustrating to watch, because the film’s visual aesthetic is strong, but the po-faced script is working at counter-purposes with the trippy narrative direction. And, at a certain point, it feels like all these different elements have been packed inside the pepper, which is bursting at the seams, swollen and grotesque. It’s by no means a bad film, but it’s a film that has several different ambitions that are not reconciled with one another, and sit in constant tension.
A strangely art-house Bible epic, Noah is an intriguing watch but can never quite reign in its divergent impulses.
|Starring:||Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins|
|Running Time:||Felt quite long|
|Certificate:||A top-end 12|