What a lot of twitter, mutter and blog there’s been about “Noah”. After all, it’s a long way from the fifteenth century Chester Mystery Cycle of plays and even further from the Britten opera in which I was once cast, improbably, as the Voice of God. Church leaders have been sounding off about extra-biblical Nephilim, flawed angelology and Big Bang pastiches about Creation. People taking liberties with the historical Tubal-Cain, mangy, lizard-eating stowaway as he is portrayed – Ray Winstone’s South London gangster accent and all – and all kinds of incestuously lascivious unspoken backstories about Noah’s sons’ wives – or lack of them.
The Ark looks like a gigantic floating wardrobe, as improbably buoyant as this Seine river boat, into which the pachyderms and reptiles lumber, swarm and slither in their multitudes, settling into their prearranged spaces as if by orchestral direction, obediently sleeping, anesthetized with a smoke-wreathed censer, as birds swirl satisfyingly inwards.
Aronofsky’s Noah seems to have become disturbed, apparently by the depravity of the rest of his species, so much so that he obsesses on the idea that humanity should not survive. This isn’t the first time he’s gotten away with stellar portrayals of tortured souls – ‘The Wrestler’ (2010) almost brought Mickey Rourke back from the dead. In this new incarnation, Noah believes that the Creator must be using his family just to save the animal kingdom and then mankind will simply fade into extinction – a rather second-rate Day Six attempt at the best of the best. If his son’s wife has a baby girl, Noah announces that he will take that life to prevent the human race from continuing. Later, with Noah’s knife raised over twin daughters, suddenly the myths get busted and there are two of them, Noah and Abraham, conflicted and close to losing reason. No wonder he turned to drink.
It’s fictional. It’s a movie. References to Gnostic thinking, whispers of Kabbala notwithstanding, it’s just Hollywood and it will no more bring people closer to God than the next incarnation of X-men. The Icelandic landscapes are satisfyingly primitive and the special effects remarkable. We briefly wonder where all the wood is going to come from in a barren volcanic wasteland until the miraculous growth of a forest, the “fountains of the great deep” explosively funnel water upwards as the deluge pours down, but the best
characterization is a wily old Anthony Hopkins, suitably wizened by great age, as Noah’s grandfather Methuselah, with magical powers, a fondness for berries and a nice touch in fertility. Six (or maybe even seven) out of ten.