Friday, 4 April 2014

NOAH (2014)

With biopics, there is a tendency to use a title with a single, evocative word, usually the name of the protagonist.* If you're famous, it'll be your surname. If you're really famous, it'll be your first name. If you're really, really famous, you'll only have had one name to choose from in the first place. Such is the case with Darren Aronofsky's new movie Noah, about a man whose story is one of the most famous in the best-selling book of all time. So yes, really really famous. But it would be a mistake to call this a biopic. Even if you're one of the folks who believe in the biblical tale of Noah and the Ark, the liberties Aronofsky has taken with what it says in the Bible is similar to if Richard Attenborough had made Gandhi fight off a wormhole invasion of intergalactic velociraptors with a rusty machete.

I'd like to establish that I was never planning to go and see Noah. I didn't really see myself as the target audience, seeing as I don't particularly believe most of the stories in the Old or the New Testaments, and I wouldn't be particularly shocked if one day it turned out God isn't real. That doesn't mean I don't find the whole idea fascinating, and I was interested in how Aronofsky would put his trademark dark twist on a story that ends with the invention of the rainbow, but it never quite intrigued me enough to make me get off the seat in my living room to sit down in one with a popcorn holder to the side. What happened was I got the opportunity to attend the Scottish premiere of the film at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. Russell Crowe was going to be there, as was Douglas Booth, and they would both be strutting about outside in front of the peanut-crunching crowd, all straining to have a look at their well-known facial layouts and have them scribble on a sheet of paper. I'd never experienced a premiere before, and I was curious enough to let that persuade me.

So I met up in town with my filmy friend Bronwyn who had got a hold of the tickets, and we waited outside in a queue for the arrival of the Kiwi Beard. After a while, he turned up with an entourage of kilted Scots with facial hair to rival his, and we all sighed gratefully and went inside to the cinema, where it was warmer. Russell stepped up on stage and delivered a short introduction to the film before running out to catch a plane to Cardiff for the Welsh premiere, happening the same day. The place went dark and we got comfortable.

We start with a quick recounting of the story of creation from Genesis, and how mankind came to be such a bunch of total arseholes through their ancestry, leading all the way back through the centuries to the very first arsehole, Adam's. I spent a lot of the film imagining how mind-blowing all this would be if Aronofsky had come up with the original idea himself. However, in retrospect, it probably seems as though he relied heavily on the fact that most people know the story of Noah. If most of the folk watching didn't already have the preconception that Noah was altogether a decent guy, they would have gone off him pretty quick. Aronofsky's Noah just doesn't quite work as a protagonist people can like, especially at the point where he is lurching around the ark with a knife, searching for his newborn twin granddaughters so he can kill them both, like an Iron Age Jack Torrance. This is amplified for folk who don't believe in a God, who will see his homocidal rampage as the result of his own choice rather than a challenge of faith from the creator. This isn't a guy we want kids to draw and stick on the walls in Sunday School.

So Noah isn't that great a guy, and the rest of the characters are either the intended villains of the movie (the folk who don't interpret the word of God correctly) or the folk who are constantly yelling at Noah to stop ruining everyone's lives over his (apparently correct) interpretation of the word of God. I don't know where I should be. And using Anthony Hopkins' Methuselah as the comic relief of the film is just bad. I suppose I've learnt my lesson now: biblical epics are not my sort of film. And don't go for biopics of folk without a bio.

*See: Alexander, Ali, Amadeus, Bugsy, Capote, Casanova, Chaplin, Cleopatra, Diana, Elizabeth, Evita, Frida, Gandhi, Hamlet, Hitchcock, Iris, Jobs, Lincoln, Macbeth, Milk, Nixon, Patton, Pocahontas, Ray, Spartacus, Sylvia and Wilde

Post script - Need someone to build an ark? I Noah guy. Haha.

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