Monday, 7 April 2014
Noah (3½ Stars)
It's difficult to see what the target audience was when Darren Aronofsky decided to write and direct this film about the Biblical character Noah. He could have kept closely to the Biblical story, which would have pleased Christian fundamentalists while irritating the evolutionists, or rather the anti-creationists, as I prefer to call them. He could also have written a modern story, trying to explain Noah's adventure in the light of modern scientific theories, which would have pleased sceptics but annoyed creationists. Instead of this he wrote a fantasy epic, made up of 50% Bible and 50% his own ideas. Judging by the first reviews I've read, this middle path seems to have alienated everyone.
The trouble with filming the story of Noah is that even though it was a major event in human history, very little is said about it in the Bible. Mr. Aronofsky felt the need to add things to pad out the story and make it more dramatic. I can just about accept this as a necessity to make a good film, but in my opinion he went too far when he added things that contradicted the Biblical accounts.
I think everyone knows the story, so I won't shy away from spoilers in this review. We read about Noah in the Bible from Genesis 5:28 to Genesis 9:29. He received a prophecy from God that the world would be destroyed by a flood, so he built a giant ship, an "ark", in which he saved himself, his family and all living creatures that walked on the Earth or flew in the air.
Now let's talk about my problems with the film itself. Noah is assisted in building and defending the ark by "watchers", who are the remainder of fallen angels. Maybe they are included as a reference to Genesis 6:4, "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown". There is a lot of theological controversy about the meaning of this verse, but the use of the same word in Numbers 13:33 shows that the Nephilim were giants. A common interpretation of the verse is that before the Flood the fallen angels ("sons of God") mated with women, and their offspring were superior in size and strength to normal pure bred humans. The "men of renown" would be the heroes of the old myths, men such as Hercules. That's a possible interpretation. The film's portrayal of the Nephilim as stone golems who had crawled out of Tolkien's imagination is highly speculative.
It is very strange that Mr. Aronofsky made Tubul-Cain a stowaway in the ark. In Jewish traditions Tubul-Cain was Noah's brother-in-law, the brother of Noah's wife Naamah. This story, though denied by many scholars, could have been used to add poignancy to the film. It could have been Noah's wife trying to save her brother, not Ham having sympathy with an enemy. But placing Tubul-Cain in the ark was just a cheap trick to add an extra battle to the end of the film.
To me it's incomprehensible why the story of Noah's sons and their wives is so mixed up. Genesis 7:13 is very clear on the subject: "On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark". It wasn't just Noah, his wife, three sons and Ham's wife, as the film portrays it. It's totally unnecessary for the film to make Ham the father of his brothers' wives, then wander off alone. In the Bible Ham had four sons after the Flood, Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan (Genesis 10:6), whereas Shem had five sons and Japhet had seven sons. Presumably they had daughters as well, but the Bible rarely considers women important enough to name them.
Overall, I have to praise the film for the good acting. My relatively low rating is a punishment for the inaccurate screenplay. It could have been a lot better if the story had stuck closer to the Biblical account.