It is the job of the critic to put aside one’s private prejudices and recognize when good art has been made. Darren Aronofsky’s new Bible epic Noah — I can’t believe I’m saying this — is good art.
The film is provocative, elegant, bold, and beautifully directed. And, as predicted, it caused a stir among those who believe the film is about true events.
I’m not a Christian, so I cannot speak much about the controversy the film has generated, but after watching it, I have a pretty fair idea of what their objections might be. I know the book of Genesis and don’t remember any giant rock creatures helping Noah build the ark.
I confess that I went into the theater biased. I love Aronofksy and his filmmaking (he has directed some of my favorites), but I wasn’t sure why he decided to make a big-budget Bible story. Haven’t Bible story movies come and gone from popular cinema?
Aronofsky went against form. He decided not to market his new movie as a dark indie, but instead as a sweeping, CGI-heavy epic, which was a little upsetting. The latter approach appeals to conservative audiences, which can’t be Aronofsky’s fan base. After years of loyal support from us, the indie world snobs who fell in love with masterpieces like Requiem For A Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan, it was jolting to see him pander to Christian Hollywood.
But maybe it wasn’t pandering. Branding Noah as a Christian epic brought audiences to who were surprised to see that, from the opening credits, Noah is — thank god — an Aronofsky movie.
The opening sequences show a fish evolving into an ape. Russell Crowe plays a deeply flawed, brutally human, vegetarian Noah, a character who proves to embody the angry, obstinate, and ultimately self-destructive believer with uncompromising, violent faith. His performance is matched by Jennifer Connelly, his wife.
The film may be one of Aronofsky’s best, so long as you view it and its source material as a titanic fable. If you’re looking for an exact rendition of the Bible story, you’re going to be disappointed and probably angered.
Aronofsky knew his film would cause some heat. Good art is meant to provoke, not instruct, but try telling that to Rick Warren and the rest of the Bible brigade. To be safe, he added a disclaimer at the end of the theatrical trailer after vocal Christians expressed early outrage.
Religion is the enemy of art. It stifles its creation and casts out its creators. Millions of people all over the world will not appreciate the film because of their faith. They will see Noah, like the story it pays tribute to, as an offering of truth. In doing so, they will fail to see what it is: a dark, action-packed thriller led by powerful performances and gorgeous cinematography, a fable of human cruelty, a codified animal-rights polemic, and an epic about the complicated and poisonous relationship between God and man.