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Noah - Post-apocalyptic Genesis

Grid Modorcea, USA 

 

Great artists create parables of humanity, metaphors of history that tell us more than any political treaties and religious interpretations. So is Darren Aronofsky whose film Noah (2014) aroused a storm of insults towards the filmmaker, towards his film. Including from the Romanians. Many would crucify him, for they are far from grasping its meaning. The filmmaker has created a Spring world, a vision of Genesis through the post-apocalyptic reality, but finally having a beneficial message, a plea for life; but the church, respectively the Vatican, condemned that the film would distort the Bible, that the vision would be inconsistent with the biblical data. 

Well, sure it is, because Aronofsky said that his film is not an illustration of the myth of Noah, it is not a filmic version of the Flood, but a personal vision of the world, culturally interpreting biblical myths, the history as told in the Genesis. How can something that does not aim to interpret the Bible, the religion, be a blasphemy? In fact, he started from the graphic novel Noah: For the Cruelty of Men, the English version of the French book Noé: Pour the cruauté des hommes (2011). That is to say a Noah given to the cruelty of men. Which results in a very strong conflict between Noah, seen as a good man, a new Abel, and Tubal, a descendant of Cain, and his men, who follow him, who want to take his Ark that Noah builds with the help of the damned angels. 

We are far from the biblical text of Genesis. Traces exist, but these biblical traces take a very different connotation. Thus, beyond the image of Abel’s murder by Cain overlaps the history seen as a conflict between people where a soldier kills another, suggesting the antiquity, the Middle Ages until the world wars of the 20th century when a soldier with bayonet kills another soldier on the ground. And it often suggests modern warfare trenches. Here's an ascertaining fact: The history of mankind as continuous violence.

The very story of Noah has this connotation, because the image's leitmotif is the blood, the bloody land on which the hero treads. It's a flood of blood, just like the crowd attacking Noah is a Flood, an infinite shedding of bodies.  

Surely, these apocalyptic visions would have been impossible without digital technology and one can say that Noah is a film created and processed on the computer. A digital film with actors. With a 125 million dollars budget. A very difficult-to-make film with a sophisticated decor, adapted to a primary reality, but with science fiction elements, with amazing naiveties, as the vision upon the giants, computerized creatures, some lumps still unpolished, but endowed with thinking and understanding of things, evidence that they offer themselves to help Noah build the ark. They are Biblical golems, those Nephilim from the Garden of Eden. What is the Ark? A maze bunk, like a skyscraper, a huge raft that can hold thousands of animals, as it happens when all the wild animals of earth are coming in, from reptiles to elephants, and fill up the ark. Of course that this view does not resemble the biblical Genesis that says that Noah took one pair of all animals and birds into the ark. Here, there are thousands of pairs, it is the earth itself saved by Noah.

The only picture that resembles Genesis perfectly is the dove that comes in with the olive branch held in its beak to announce that the shore is near. And the ending, after exiting the flood’s tunnel from the prehistory, is the normal beginning of mankind, when the foundation of the world stands for life, for the birth, when Noah rejoices at his son’s twins, when he starts working the land side by side with his wife, when the birds feed their chicks just hatched, when the doe protects her cub... 

The film abounds in naiveties served by the science fiction language of the American film, overlaid by mythical and mystical symbols, such as those taken from the primitive magic. So is the character Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, endowed with magical powers. He has the power to give life, just as he does when he gives Noah a grain from which a source of spring will gush out, a large stream will be born which will nourish the earth. Or when he puts his hand on Ila’s barren womb and makes it fruitful. Significant is also the sign that appears to Noah at the beginning of his Calvary: the drop that falls from the sky and turns into a flower. The Flower is actually the symbol of life and of human beauty. 

Obviously, the principal dimension of the film is given by the dialogue between Noah and the Creator. He is not called God. There are signs that appear to Noah in his dreams that the Creator, fed up with the miseries from earth, has decided to destroy man from across the world, to destroy life. And He chose Noah to serve this idea. He is a vindictive Creator that seeks revenge on man, as if not satisfied with His creation. But maybe He is not. Here's the big stake, the Creator wants to destroy life and Noah defends it and will reinstate it on earth, after the exit from the Flood. Which resembles a maze. The exit from the maze. After the Flood, the man himself begins to be his own master, the dependence on an angry creator, hostile to the creation of the man that He would have created, disappearing. But He had created the man ugly, as an irrational beast. That is how the beginning of the world in which Noah lives is. A Dystopian world, as the world is represented during its post-apocalyptic stage, after the end of the world. The film’s synopsis itself gives us this picture. 

“It is a world without hope, a world with no rain and no crops, dominated by warlords and their barbarian hordes. In this cruel world, Noah is a good man. A seasoned fighter, mage and healer who only wants peace for him and his family. Yet every night, Noah is beset by visions of an endless flood, symbolizing the destruction of all life. Gradually, he begins to understand the message sent him by the Creator. He has decided to punish the men and kill them until the last. But he gives Noah a last chance to preserve life on Earth…”

In the story there also appear completely new ramifications like the “slice” of Ham, who is ignited by Tubal-Cain to kill his father, to prove that he's a man. Man is only the one who kills, in Tubal’s view, a Cain-like character, as seen in the beginning, when he kills Lamech, Noah’s father, as a young boy (a moment reminiscent of the story of William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart). But Ham fails, and when the Ark gets ashore, he departs, leaving his family, in search of his own way. Who will he be? Wouldn’t it be interesting to have another movie about this new Ham, very expressively played by the actor Logan Lerman? In fact, all the actors in Noah are Oscar worthy, starting with Russell Crowe. Jennifer Connelly is very special in Naameh, Noah's wife, a true tragedienne. And the actor Ray Winstone in Tubal-Cain is the embodiment of treachery and cruelty, while Anthony Hopkins in Methuselah is the King of Magic; Emma Watson plays Ila, a survivor of her tribe killed by Tubal, and saved by Noah.  Shem, the good son, is greatly portrayed by Douglas Booth. All the parts have power and mystery. 

The audience that will be going to see a movie about the well know story of Noah that they learnt in school, from their grandparents or the religion classes, will be totally disappointed. Who enters the film theater with such prejudice, is lost for this film. He/ she will not understand why the characters have knowledge of mining, of processing iron, of using "Puma"-like knives, why Tubal-Cain strikes a hot iron with a welding helmet on his head, how there is a fireplace in a cave or how the heroes are dressed in crocheted clothing and Levi's-like shirts in a story from the beginning of the world. Even the allure of Noah, with his shaved head and short beard, is not in the traditional spirit of the Jews, looking more like the one of a punk. If the Christian audience understands that it is a post-apocalyptic vision upon Genesis, will accept that this film is a fantasy story unrelated to the "reality" described in the Bible. 

Thus, Aronofsky did not propose to give a filmic image of the biblical text, but a new story after a novel written by the Canadian Niko Henrichon, who interpreted the story of Noah, and the script is a work in its own right, created by Aronofsky and Ari Handel with whom he also collaborated on his his last three films. Moreover Aronofsky conceived the movie 3D, with a cargo of shocking visuals. 

In the beginning, the two writers believe, there was no biblical word, it was Nothing - Idea which is to be repeated. Noah and the other people in the film do not pray, do not understand the signs of nature, Noah himself is not a prophet, he is a man who does not understand what is happening, he is sometimes totally lost. He wants to stop life; he believes that this is his mission entrusted to him by the Creator, to kill the life in the womb of Ila. And when she gives birth to two twin girls, he stands in doubt, with a knife over the infants, whether to kill them or not. Did not Abraham proceed this very way, when he did not kill his son Isaac? Noah is not a visionary; he is a man who, when he sees himself on the dry land, discovers the grapes from which he makes wine and gets drunk, and his children see him naked, as in the parable of Lot. Noah embodies the virtues and sins of many biblical heroes. 

Why wouldn’t a creator have the right to be free, to do what he wants, why should he make films according to a priest’s view?! How did Aronofsky slander the Bible? Where is the blasphemy? Who stops Christians from reading the Bible, from rejoicing at the Vision inherited from ancestors? No film will budge the biblical word from its place; no film will replace the Bible. There will perhaps be tens and hundreds of visions upon Genesis. Scholars are always looking for an explanation of the beginning of the world; in order to behold its end. And filmmakers are holding themselves close. 

I do not understand why the enraged bloggers wanted Aronofsky to make a film as they wanted? Why was he was supposed to make a Christian film? Let us not forget that he is of Jewish ethnicity and that he has produced his film. Why are not the complainants or the Vatican give 125 million dollars to make a movie as their heads wish? Mutatis mutandis, it is the very same problem that freaked Ceausescu when he saw the movie Michael the Brave and was not happy with Nicolaescu’s vision upon history or with the fact that he has not found himself in the great Romanian Voivode. And he did not give up until he ordered his own Michael the Brave, communist, as portrayed by Victor Rebengiuc! 

In the film Noah there isn’t the word God. It is not a Christian movie. It's a terrible error from those who comment the film, to see it as a Christian film. And let us only think of the mis-shapened stone giants who are angels cursed by the Creator for having dared to help Cain after he killed his brother. It's pure fantasy, which gave birth to science fiction images that compete with the films with giants. Surely, the giants defended Noah's Ark from men’s invasion, and then they were crushed and restored among the angels. It is a superb science fiction interpretation of the myth of the fallen angels, which became giants after having mated with the daughters of men. It is an ingenuous, naive style of storytelling, art’s most important quality that doesn’t grow us ugly and old, that makes us always stay children. As a standing proof is the fantastic success of the film, which reached, within few months, a gross of over 400 million dollars! News that also satisfy those who are no longer children. And who will have the power to reflect on this terrible vision that the beginning of the world resembles its ending, it is just as dystopian. I wonder why?

 

Grid Modorcea, USA 

 

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