Darren Aronosky’s take on the biblical text of Noah and his ark is an intriguing one. Aronofsky takes the character from scripture, builds on the basis of what’s in the Bible, but adds his own signature twist to it. Like all his films, Noah is about an obsessed main character, in this case a man whose sanity slips because of his unrelenting commitment to serve the Creator and do His will. Other liberties taken include mythical creatures such as the Watchers, fallen angels turned into stone giants that roam the world mankind has polluted and left in ruins. As a result Noah blends fantasy and wonder with dark psychological drama and both Old and New Testament sensitivities. It’s a mixture that works surprisingly well.
We all know the tale: God tells Noah there will be a flood and that it’s up to him to build an ark for the innocent, for the animals that will repopulate the new world, and so he does. In the film things aren’t as cut and dry though: Noah has visions, dreams that scare and confuse him, and he has to find out for himself what they mean. Right of the bat we’re presented with a man clinging to his own interpretations, a man to whom confirmations don’t offer any sense of relief but instead increase the weight put on his shoulders. This Noah is a man who keeps pushing himself and the ones around him to do what he think he’s put on the earth to do, and later in the film this leads to some dark and downright disturbing places. Russell Crowe is mesmerizing to watch as the titular character, a warm family man who turns into something else entirely because of his sense of purpose and obligation. It’s a harrowing transformation that allows Crowe to show us his complete range in one film, and his versatility makes Noah such an intriguing character.
The other characters fare less well: Ray Winstone’s leader of men is downright evil foil for Noah and his kin, Noah’s three sons are each defined by one single trait and Anthony Hopkins’ Methuselah is the obligatory wise old man/misguided and cringeworthy comic relief. Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly have more to do as Noah’s adopted daughter and wife respectively, because they question some of his decisions and try to reason with the stern immovable patriarch he becomes later on in the film. Watson and Connelly do some impressive work with the scenes they’re given, and eventually they’re the reason you stay invested in the film: Noah does not only alienate his family, but also the audience, which makes it very easy to root for these two women who try to bring back the humanity and warmth of the man we first met.
Noah is a character study first and foremost, a real Aronofsky film. But the sense of wonder and awe provided by its setting can’t be denied. 8/10