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Non-Review Review: Noah

Noah is very hard to process. It’s very much an adaptation of its source material – very clearly a biblical epic that draws from The Book of Genesis in terms of tone and mood and imagery. It’s a story that is harrowing and horrifying, couched in allegory and metaphor and built around an idea of divinity that is difficult to comprehend.

At points, Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic seems to move in dream-time; the imagery is abstract, the scope almost impossible to comprehend; time and scale are conveyed through disjointed slideshows that invite the viewer to composite them together, creating a sense that this is more abstract than conventional storytelling.

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Like The Fountain before its, Noah is a story that seems to exist without place and time. Witnessing the devastation that mankind has done to the world around it, it seems like our protagonists have stumbled into a post-apocalyptic wasteland with burnt trolleys and abandoned pipes scattered across scorched Earth.

Past, present and future co-mingle, creating a sense that this is a world without time as we might conventionally understand it. After all, this isn’t the real world. This is a story. The internal logic is prone to shift like uncertain ground, the viewer never quite sure if they’ve properly found their footing. Aronofsky’s vision is at times frustratingly oblique, but more than occasionally brilliant.

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It captures a lot more of The Book of Genesis than most of its critics would concede – in mood and tone as much as literal interpretation. At the same time, it makes a pretty compelling example of why big crowd-pleasing biblical epics don’t tend to draw from The Book of Genesis, favouring later – less difficult and polarising – biblical material.

It’s very hard to imagine Noah as a commercial exercise – to recognise a group that will respond to a story that is willing to be so bold in tackling its subject material. And yet, at the same time, it is an absolutely intriguing piece of cinema.

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