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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts

Cinema in Focus

Cinema in Focus: ‘Noah’

By Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman | @CinemaInFocus |

1 Star — Disturbing

Darren Aronofsky's Noah should begin with the honest statement, "Based only loosely on a true story." Instead, those who do not know the biblical Noah might think that this Noah of Aronofsky's creation is similar to the biblical man of that name assigned by God to protect his family and the animals through a devastating flood, but he is not.

At his core, Aronofsky's Noah is a disturbed creature who denies his sons wives and decides that humanity should not continue. This is the opposite of the biblical Noah. However, that is only one of the many distortions of the original account of Noah in this film.

In Aronofsky's tale, there are "fallen angels" who came to assist fallen humanity and were punished by "The Creator" by being transformed into walking rocks called "Watchers," as well as a tribal battle between the sons of Adam, with Noah as a descendant of Seth and the others as descendants of Cain. This portrays Noah's call as coming not for his righteousness (as stated clearly in the Bible) but due to his lineage.

Since the film is so antithetical to the biblical account, it is difficult to review it on other bases. Though Aronofsky's tale is filled with theological, moral and ideological contradictions, the pathos of the characters and plight of all creation are gripping. As shown in his film Black Swan, Aronofsky understands internal spiritual and psychological struggles and knows how to portray them on the screen. But he misses the point that sin is the cause of their pathos and that the serpent's temptation of Adam and Eve to disobey God and their action to do so is the source of their suffering, and instead he has his characters say that humanity's anger and violence are caused by the silence of the Creator.

Most abhorrent to Jews and Christians who believe the biblical account is that in this film, Noah uses a snake's skin to give a child a blessing and he threatens to murder his own grandchildren, both of which break two of the Ten Commandments, which would later be revealed through Moses but is inherent within humanity's moral compass.

Even more violently wicked are the descendants of Cain, a son of Adam who murdered his brother, and whose descendants are hate-filled creatures bent on destroying one another and their world. This is a world without worship, faith or mercy — or even the hope that they can be found.

Into the silence, there is one to whom "The Creator" speaks, Noah (Russell Crowe). He is the grandson of Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) and the last of the line of Seth. Communicating through a dream, God causes Noah to understand that He is sending a flood to cleanse the Earth of the violent humans. With this impending judgment, Noah informs his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and his sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), of his plan to build an ark and "begin again."

But as the tale progresses, he comes to believe that God wants him to save the animals but not humanity and forbids his sons to have wives who bear them children. This is where this tense tale becomes psychologically flawed as was Black Swan. This flaw reveals far more about Aronofsky as the writer and director of the film rather than simply a fictionalized story or driven by what the plot required.

There is no doubt that the tale of Noah is an epic and disturbing story however it is told. But Aronofsky's film adds so much darkness to this archetypal tale and such a gratuitous exploration of humanity's penchant for violence and destruction that there is no human value nor spiritual redemption offered in this telling of a story only remotely suggestive of the biblical Noah. We are more than disappointed and cannot recommend this film.

Discussion

» The stowaway presence of Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) adds suspense as the last two men of the two surviving descendants of Adam fight for survival. It is difficult to imagine such a moment where the last people alive would try to kill each other. What do you think Aronofsky is trying to communicate about himself and us? Why do you answer as you do? Do you think it was acceptable to add this "plot twist" to the biblical story? Why or why not?

» When Ila (Emma Watson) became able to bear children, it took Noah's obsession about removing humanity from the Earth to the next level of infanticide. Do you believe that humans have deformed the Earth? Do you think the earth would be better without humans? Why do you answer as you do?

» Noah's decision to deny his sons wives is the opposite of the biblical account. In the Bible, the three sons had three wives and replenished the Earth. Why do you think Aronofsky created such a different tale?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.




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