Noah (2014)

Noah (2014)
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins
Director of Photography: Matthew Libatique
Music by Clint Mansell
Edited by Andrew Weisblum
Written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Rating: 7 out of 10

Noah is a movie that has a certain fascination going for it and it works as a ,movie, but fails, mostly ideologically. Cinematically, it is often impressive but also gets lost in CGI and recurring plot threads. It has an unusual protagonist that is very hard to like, which makes it a perfect role for Russell Crowe. The movie is… I don’t know, it certainly has its appeal and you can see some of the interesting thoughts that went into it, also not trying to make it a dumb faith-movie (it really isn’t) and treating it simply as a compelling story. But for whatever reason, the movie doesn’t really work. As a fan of Darren Aronofsky this is hard to watch even if you see his touches here and there. But in the end, my biggest problem with the movie is its message, which I’ll further analyze below.

The movie starts off with a retelling of the origin story of… well, there the problems start already. I’d suggest with the origin of our culture. It is one of the most amazing things I can imagine because it takes the ideas that Daniel Quinn expressed in Ishmael so brilliantly and visualizes them. In a mainstream Hollywood movie! The idea is that humans are not inherently bad, but that just one greedy, predatory culture (our culture) overran almost everyone else, but that some humans still lived the same way as before. It is the story of the original sin, of the fall of paradise, but without implying that all humans were cast out of Eden and became farmers. It is brilliantly filmed and animated and incredibly thought-provoking. It achieves what Instinct (the terrible actual adaptation of Ishmael) failed to do so gloriously. It gives you an alternative way of looking at humans by showing different cultures instead of claiming they have a fundamental flaw. So my hopes were incredibly high after this opening.

But then the movie, for no apparent reason, decides to take the typical path and straying away from an unconventional view to the most conventional one. Noah (Russell Crowe) gets the task of saving all animals and his family from the rest of the people living there, which, up to this point, were the destructive culture (the Takers, if you use Daniel Quinn’s terms). But suddenly he starts to believe that all humans are evil and that none of them, including himself and his family, should survive. In a late scene, when the flood has happened and they’re on the ark, he tells his family a story, the story of Creation. And, yes, the movie does a compelling job of mixing the biblical version with the scientific one, which, like the opening scene, is extremely well done. It takes up the same beats the opening has, but suddenly Noah explains, Brother against brother, man against creation. We murdered each other. We broke the world, we did this. Man did this. Everything was beautiful, everything that was good we shattered. So, from the opening, where one culture destroyed everything (while the other continued its way), man is the villain. It’s not only disappointing for the movie, it’s also a contradiction within its own narrative.

The movie tries to make the point that Noah is the problem, that only he has this radical view but it does that while at the same time painting him as the hero we follow and believe in, providing many, many arguments that prove he is right. Yes, the movie ends with a happy ending (a rainbow!), but as in so many other movies, the image of humanity is made clear: man is flawed, man is the problem. We can try to live on and do things a little bit better, but we are the problem. Which means there is no solution. This way, the movie works like many sci-fi movies (someone remind to discuss that topic here), selling us hope on the surface while actually serving us hopelessness. The movie can have all the rainbows it wants, if it wants to tell us that we are inherently flawed, there is no hope for us. But if what the opening of the movie says is true (which I firmly believe), that we just created a devastating culture, which can be changed (for example by looking at the other cultures that are still left from before the beginning of civilization), then there is hope. Too bad the movie loses track of its own ideas by retreating to our cultural ignorance.