The first thing you will notice when watching the opening passages of this film, it is NOT, your bible-thumping Noah story. It has that same otherworld mystique of a Star Wars film that starts in a galaxy far, far away, and very long ago. This could have happened on Earth or somewhere else. It’s this masterstroke by Aronofsky that sets the tone for his very human, very realistic storytelling. There are more strokes to come.
When you open and the depredations of man are quickly presented, the tone of familiarity is established so that all grounding in the biblical tale is released from any and all preconceived notions the viewer may have about what they are about to experience. Score masterstroke number two.
Then there is the first miracle. It is small and it leads to others but what transpires in your story as they occur is a grounding of humanity that is the good in Noah’s world, offset by the bad in the rest of the world. And it is bad indeed. As he is prodded to go see his grandfather Methuselah on the mountain the Tolkien-esque dark side of humankind raises its ugly head. This evil is off-set by the fearsome angel ‘Watchers’ who, once cast down to earth, are condemned to a particularly heinous earthbound form. As Noah finds his calling he enlists the Watchers’ aid once they know he serves the creator. It is always ‘The Creator,’ and only once a God reference, which rings era authentic like so many things throughout the film. The references to many pre-christ spiritual beliefs add age, particularly as evolved in paganism and many non-Christian spiritualities. I really liked the herbology and third-eye references. At this point count me completely enthralled in the film.
When the Ark is nearing completion and the last and greatest miracle of all occurs when the animals populate the ark, for maybe the third time I am struck the intricate brilliance of this film in its attention to details that are not what you would imagine yet make absolute perfect sense along the way. Handling the animals is just one of many logical processes that sells so much of this. But along the way is the utilization of symbolism, too. The dark humans and the light Noah family. Noah’s warring soul and his humanity and perception of the task at hand have such nuance and Russell Crowe does him justice just as Jennifer Connelly is the heart and soul of his strength as his wife Naameh. Even Emma Watson as Ila brings such passion and verve to her critical roll.
That brings to me what shines about all that passes in front of my eyes, unwavering humanity. Aronofsky never lets us forget that these are just real people in unprecedented situations with just their limited experience and the soul the creator bestowed upon them, to draw from. It is this understanding that lends awe to the events that come to life in front of me. There is such angst and torment but there is such nobility to be found at all times.
I think it is the Watchers that drive that home most. When the dregs of men come to seize the Ark from Noah and they fight to preserve the will of the creator, they learn that in fighting for this small buttress of nature against oblivion that they can die and be released from their imprisonment is not when they lay down their efforts against the raving horde, but fight on beyond endurance to see Noah on his journey. When the last Watcher being dismembered takes a moment to bid Noah farewell, is when the final symbolism is driven home and hope is raised anew. Noah’s final acts are not a surprise but the weight of them settle around my shoulders for all that he has already endured to that end.
Noah, I felt so much like my bright youth watching the mighty Charlton Heston in “Ben Hur” or the “Ten Commandments” and that reverence will stay with me here as well and that is a redemption in the big movie that still can be made and you are proof, My friend.
You story put to my eyes will be well worn and much loved before they close at last.