Sweeping cinematography, stunning visual graphics, brilliant editing, powerful acting, and anthropomorphic rock creatures??? Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” is an adaptation of the Biblical account of the flood as recorded in the book of Genesis. Or is it?
Knowing that the Biblical account is not very lengthy, in order to make a 2+ hour movie out of it, it is necessary to elaborate on the story in order to develop a movie around it. The way an adaptation, cinematically speaking, should be conducted, is starting with the most visual elements and going from there. After all, a movie is mostly visually driven, where as a play is dialog driven, and a book is internally driven. A successful adaptation keeps the skeleton of the story in tact and creates a visual story around it. Very little of the Biblical account remains in the movie, except for the main event. Whether or not you believe the story is history or a legend, you can easily assess that Aronofsky essentially made up his own version of what happened–ignoring most of what little there is, to begin with, in the account in Genesis–and opted for a world of fantasy.
Visually, the movie is fantastic! The beautiful cinematography is enhanced with the spectacular visual effects; combine that with a moving score, and you have the makings of a great movie. Right? Well, maybe. It’s almost as though Aronofsky never even read the story he is adapting for the screen. Regardless if he believes the story or not, he still should have stuck more closely to the text. Not for reasons of proselytizing or preaching the Bible, but for the sake of the integrity of the story. It’s like taking Shakespeare’s works and adapting them into stories so far removed from the original text, that Shakespeare would roll over in his grave. Respect of the source material should be key when adapting a story. Even within the realm Aronnofsky created, elements do not make sense. For instance, the anamorphic rock creatures known as the “Watchers” were defined as fallen angels that cared for Cain following the murder of his brother. According to the widely accepted definition, fallen angels are demons. So, why would fallen angels help mankind? That doesn’t make any sense. And since when is Mesopotamia, where the Biblical account takes place (as well as the “Epic of Gilgamesh”), a barren wasteland? And furthermore, where does Methuselah get his powers? There is much that goes unexplained in the movie. Ignoring the Biblical text all together and simply evaluating the movie in and of itself, there are still problems with the narrative. But, he did show the rain from the sky and water bursting from the earth in a powerful sequence that is closer than other movies have been with the same event.
Now, you may argue that Aronofsky did nothing more than what James Cameron did with “Titanic.” And, most everyone loves or loves to hate the 1997 blockbuster. These are two stories that are easily compared. We don’t know much about the sinking of Titanic, except what is recorded in survivor’s testemonies. And even then, no one will ever know exactly what happened on board or even how the ship split into two pieces. We certainly have no idea if there were a “pair of star-crossed lovers” on board. BUT, there certainly could have been. It is not so difficult to believe that a shipboard romance could have blossomed. After all, shipboard romances blossom on modern-day cruises. Cameron creates a story that is entirely possible, maybe unlikely, but possible. Aronofsky created a story that abandon’s most of the source material and draws radical conclusions of the drama that transpired that do not even make sense within his story. Women don’t become pregnant with the touch of an old man, rocks don’t come to life, and an entire forest does not pop up like a daisy in snow. On the plus side, Aronofsky shatters the idea that the animals came aboard the Ark in a nice orderly fashion 2×2. His depiction of the animals entering the ark is more likely what happened. And, I appreciate that he showed Noah’s family as one that had struggles like any other and probably dealt with fears and apprehensions during the process.
Now, Aronofsky did stick to the text in his sequences about creation, original sin, and the wickedness of man prior to the flood. So, if he could stick to the text with the more controversial issues (creation theories, origin of man, and original sin), how come he could not even come closer to the original text in terms of the story of Noah (which never describes Noah as going all homicidal)? There may not be much there, but what little is there could have easily been included. What we have here is a technical masterpiece of Aronofsky’s account of what he feel may have happened. It’s a visually beautiful story that leaves the audience empty at the end. The plot is like a bucket with holes that cannot hold water. But, the bucket is stunning to behold.