“There were giants in the earth in those days;” – Genesis 6:4
Remember that. It’s straight out of the original King James version of the Bible. It will be important later.
I was always raised to respect the religious beliefs of others. It wasn’t till I hit Junior High School that I was ever fully immersed into Church going, but even then – I was a tourist. I went with various friends and would attend the Church of their family’s choosing. So I experienced Methodist, Zionist, Catholic, Baptist & Presbyterian faiths. I wouldn’t say I got one more than another, but before that time… My primary religious advisor was Hollywood. I loved – and continue to love the religious epics of yore. When they’d be broadcast on Television, I sat down and just took it in. My favorite Jesus became Ming the Merciless. My 2nd Favorite Jesus commanded the Enterprise before Kirk! My Moses became The Omega Man. My Joshua got to begetting with the chick from “10”. My Samson wooed a Million Dollar Mermaid. It wasn’t so much King James that revised the word of God, so much as Cecil B Demille or George Stevens or William Wyler.
Religion is such a personal and subjective medium. Every revision of the Bible is made with an agenda of some kind. I’ve always had a problem with taking the book literally, mainly because the English translations came at the behest of Kings of England like Henry the VIII and King James… Both of whom had their own agendas relevant to their particular time on Earth. More than that though – when I got to reading the Bible the first time, I realized just how quickly stories like Noah were told. They’re talking about a Man that’s living for a good long while. I mean, he didn’t begat Shem, Ham or Japheth till he was in his 500s. But – if you’re adapting the story of Noah out of Genesis… you have a film that could be shot in about 3 minutes. Very brief, not much dialogue. More detail on the dimensions of the Ark, than just about anything other than the breeding history that led to Noah. SO… in the minds of Man, this story has grown – and this particular movie by Darren Aronofsky is something that’s been cooking in his brain since the age of 13. Long before the “liberal media’s climate change agenda” got a hold of Aronofsky. This was him and the story. A boy and the word of God, working it out.
Of course, when talking religion, you’re likely to get folks a bit pissy – and more than anything – we all have our version of the Noah story in our minds. Well, let go of your vision. One of our great filmmakers is going to tell the story as he’s imagined it, for the vast majority of his life.
It is… SPECTACULAR!
Firstly, this is a film that looks like no other. I say that with confidence, because Darren’s visual chops… they’re imaginative on a level that’s a joy and wonder to witness.
Take the sky for example… It doesn’t look like our sky. In the daylight hours, you can see beautiful galactic formations in the sky… this was a long time ago, before the great deluge… Before pollution of the coal burning years, before natural gas and car emissions and spray cans. This sky was untainted by man. A vision to marvel at. For some, this will knock them out of the film, but for me… this was truly a stunning vision for this ancient tale.
Now, in the Bible, they talk about God and Noah talking, but given we don’t know what was actually said… Darren chooses to have God speak to Noah through visions. These visions are cinematic, impressionistic, nightmarish and disturbing. However, they do get the creator’s general impression across. He’s pissed and he’s killing everyone but Noah and a boat of animals.
Darren’s vision of the world of NOAH is very different from the Earth as we know it. It seems to exist in a time of Pangaea – and in addition to the Flood happening, I get the distinct feeling that this story is also showing us the breaking up of the continents and the evolution towards the planet we know today, though we don’t technically see that… we do see pretty cataclysmic visions of destruction beyond mere rain. The earth splits wide as enormous geysers of water explode from the body of the earth itself.
Now – there’s the other side of Noah’s tale… the world that so pissed off God, that he unleashed all of this anger. Darren shows how mankind dares to destroy this paradise on Earth. Cities built on the backs of fallen angel labor. Animals slaughtered for food en masse. The abuse of women. Decadent doesn’t quite cover it. This is that pre-history world that you’d expect Conan to show up in.
I began this write up with a quote from the King James Bible – and I get the idea that Aronofsky’s Harryhausen influenced imagination took that quote and ran with it in a direction that nobody has. There are… Giant Rock Monsters. Except that’s not what they are. Well, they are, but they’re not. These were angels cast down into the muck of the Earth and forced to spend they’re lives embedded in the very rock they were cast down into. They’re called Watchers in the film – and they’ve had a bad time being enslaved by mankind, their kindness taken advantage of. They’ve become a bit despondent and hurt by their punishment. But here’s the thing. They’re completely original creations. However, the effect was accomplished, it felt like stop motion. The way they multi-appendaged rock giants move, the way they’re lit from within. They’re fantastic and they’re with the film from the beginning – although completely missing in Paramount’s marketing of the film.
I imagine that for too many, the giants are too fantastical to be accepted in their Noah story, but… the King James translation says, “There were giants IN THE EARTH in those days,” so while Aronofsky’s vision may be… quite literal… this is what his 13 year old brain gave him… and he hasn’t been able to shake it – and since seeing the film, I’ll be damned if it didn’t latch on strong to my noodles’ neurons. It’s beautiful and emotional animation. Disturbingly alien and helpful – especially if you’re not going to spend centuries with your family building the Ark. Samyaza, of the GRMs, is voiced by Nick Nolte with the perfect gravel to the voice!
Once Russell Crowe’s Noah gets his family to the mountain where his grandpa Methuselah is holed up… we start wondering, where’s he gonna get the wood for the Ark, cuz mankind has used up all those kinds of resources. Then… Anthony Hopkins whips out a “Seed of Eden”!
I have to admit, I love the “Seed of Eden” planting sequence. It is genuinely impressive POWER OF GOD stuff. Suddenly, everything they need is there. Beautiful effects work all backed by yet another great Clint Mansell score for Darren!
I know, we haven’t loaded up the boat, dealt with Ray Winstone’s Tubal-cain character, talked about the actors’ performances which are universally perfect, or even really discussed the rain or the time on the boat.
This isn’t your Sunday School NOAH. This is Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH – and he’s spent the better part of his life figuring it out. Sure at 2 hours and 18 minutes, it is 2 hours longer than it would take you to read the account in the Bible… but what a vision for the story.
Aronofsky peppers some Job-like stress for Noah. The hard angle that Noah sees the Deluge and what it is meant to do, is harsher than most would ever imagine, but then… this is Old Testament stuff – and that’s a whole lotta dying and begetting going on… With NOAH, Darren comes out of the gate with this year’s first Biblical tale. I believe it will be the most imaginative – and most likely controversial. But, it also gives you a lot to discuss. Pretty much the entire second half of the film is really uncovered here.
However, while this is a story everyone knows, there’s something to just letting Aronofsky tell you the story. This was his vision for Noah. If you believe, perhaps you can believe there’s a reason that Aronofsky was able to get this rather unique vision to the screen. This is what he made instead of WOLVERINE or ROBOCOP… Perhaps there really is a higher power at work. This is by far the best use of his talents!
NOAH is more hardcore and bewildering than you’re likely to imagine before going in. Now, let’s do the GILGAMESH version of the story. Right?