Throughout Darren Aronofsky’s directional career in the film industry, every single work by this auteur has dealt with the central theme of obsession in its own unique manner & different settings. His debut feature, Pi, was about a mathematician obsessed with numbers & patterns, Requiem for a Dream was about the lives of 4 individuals heavily addicted to drugs, The Fountain was a 1000-year odyssey of a man obsessively trying to save the woman he loves, The Wrestler was about a well-past-his-prime wrestler obsessed with his earlier glory within that square ring and Black Swan was about a ballerina obsessed with perfection. And in every single one of these stories, these characters’ obsessions lead them to only one path; the path to self-destruction.
Now in case of Noah, the theme of obsession once again tags along with the director, except that this time it’s not just some character in the film who’s obsessed with something but, if one takes a closer look, it’s Darren Aronofsky himself. If I’ve to summarise in a few words, Aronofsky’s latest feature presents his own obsession with the tale of Noah’s Ark which he had been wanting to bring on the silver screen for years & in quite an ironic but fitting fashion, it ultimately goes down the same self-destructive path that the characters in his earlier films did as Noah turns out as the director’s weakest film to date. However, just like his other films, it manages to stir up some controversy with its depiction of Noah in accordance with its source material.
Loosely based on the story of Noah’s Ark present in The Book of Genesis, Noah tells the tale of the titular character; a man of faith with whom the God communicates. Haunted by vivid dreams of an impending apocalypse & after seeking council with his grandfather, Noah eventually deciphers God’s wish to annihilate the whole world through a torrent of flood waters & restart life all over again. He is tasked with the responsibility of building an ark that’s supposed to house a pair of every species in order to protect them as well as his own family from the cataclysm so that they can replenish the planet once it all ends. The film does show most of these events but its main concern is depicting the inner demons Noah struggles & wrestles with as he answers God’s call without questioning his motives & is faced with unwanted circumstances.
Over the years, director Darren Aronofsky has built an impressive reputation as one of the auteurs of modern cinema but this latest project of his was a huge gamble from the very beginning. The story of Noah in itself is a sensitive subject matter for many religious people around the world because of which this film was always destined to garner extreme reactions from most. And considering that the crew took massive liberties with the story as depicted in The Bible, the reaction has been on the unwanted side. But even if you take out the religious factor & treat it as a fantasy, Noah still doesn’t work but to be honest, it didn’t turn out to be as bad as I was expecting it to be. The direction is pretty good as Aronofsky has managed to make it appeal equally to all kinds of viewers, whether religious or not, but it isn’t even close to his previous works.
Considering that the story this film is adapted from is only 4 chapters long in the Bible, the screenplay involves a heavy amount of padding which also slowed down its pace by a great deal. The production design is stunning as the ark in itself is a sight to behold while the depiction of The Watchers; fallen angels turned into stone by God for assisting humans, is also interesting to some extent. Cinematography adds a darker ambience to the entire film but unlike Aronofsky’s other films, is nothing special this time. Editing could’ve provided a better pace & rigid structure to the whole narration. The use of Visual Effects is extensive as many things including the entire animal kingdom shown in the film is computer-generated but overall, it isn’t consistent enough as some effects-heavy sequences are able to stand out while other scenes feel poorly rendered.
Coming to the music, Noah marks the sixth collaboration between director Darren Aronofsky & film composer Clint Mansell, who has given cinema some of the most haunting soundtracks in recent times but his best works have always been on Aronofsky’s films. And continuing their successful venture together, the background score of Noah is another majestic, magnificent & memorable work from Mansell as the film boasts tracks that feel authentic to the era depicted in the story & remains in tune with the events it accompanies. As far as the performances go, Noah features an ensemble cast in Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman & Anthony Hopkins and we get to see almost all kind of performances from them, ranging from too much hamming to an absolute waste of screen space.
Leading from the front is Russell Crowe in the role of our titular character and although for the most part he manages to keep us invested in his depiction of Noah as a not-so-noble human, there are moments when it feels like he’s getting a performance overdose. Jennifer Connelly plays Noah’s wife & doesn’t have much to do. Ray Winstone is in as Tubal-cain; Noah’s nemesis who’s trying to save the humankind by taking over the ark which ultimately makes him the antagonist because God decided that the time of mankind is over. Emma Watson plays Ila; a girl Noah’s family adopted during one of their journeys. Logan Lerman plays Ham; Noah’s son, & does a pretty good job in his given role. And finally we have Anthony Hopkins in the role of Methuselah; Noah’s grandfather who provides him the magical seed from the Garden of Eden which instantly grows into a forest whose woods end up being used in the ark’s construction.
On an overall scale, Noah is Darren Aronofsky’s most ambitious film to date which unfortunately ends up being a disappointment as it has very less to offer despite the tremendous amount of artistic license taken in bringing the story of Noah’s Ark to life. Apart from Clint Mansell’s brilliant score, there isn’t a single aspect in the film that has nothing to complain about. Still, I went in with almost negative expectations after all the rotten reviews started surfacing during its time of release but maybe because of that, I didn’t find it as bad as I was hoping for. There’s no denying that it’s Aronofsky’s worst film to date but then there have been far worse examples of terrible cinema by great directors. Admirers of Aronofsky will eventually check it out & so will anyone who’s curious to find out how this biblical story has been portrayed on the film canvas but I can’t recommend it to anyone else & it’s okay if you want to give it a miss.