Audiences who grew up singing about Noah and the Great Flood may find Darren Aronofsky’s big screen adaptation unfamiliar. He depicts Earth’s earliest days as desolate and inhospitable, overrun by strange creatures and marauding bandits. Fearful of his family’s safety, Noah dreams of a great storm, which he believes to be “The Creator” forewarning him of his plans to wipe the Earth clean and begin again. So Noah proceeds to build a giant ark to protect his family and two of every creature.
To this degree, Noah fits with the Old Testament tale, but in Aronofsky’s primitive world there exist fantastical rock monsters, resembling extras from Lord of the Rings. It’s a bold move that has upset numerous religious groups, but while they do jar with the version of Noah we all know, they complement Aronosky’s world that pulsates with a mystical, misunderstood energy.
Noah ultimately succeeds because its central struggle is a very human and very Christian one, albeit shrouded in Tolkein-esque sensationalism. Noah’s faith is put to the ultimate test, his actions repeatedly questioned, and by those whom he loves the most. Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman all offer strong support, but its Crowe’s tortured performance that ultimately holds everything together.
It is easy to level criticism at Noah for its liberal handling of a sacred text, and unflinching determination to show Noah’s flaws as well as his strengths, but those willing to look beyond these reinventions will discover an incredibly bold and beautifully crafted film that dramatises precisely what it means to have faith.
This review first appeared in Cathay Pacific’s Discovery Magazine, July 2014