Posts Tagged ‘Darren Aaronofsky’

NOAH: 3 STARS. “thought-provoking take on a story that will keep you guessing.”

Russell-Crowe-noah-trailer“Noah” is not your father’s biblical movie.  It’s an art house epic that filters the story through director Darren “Black Swan” Aronofsky’s impressionistic style.

The best way I can describe “Noah” is emotionally ambitious. It takes a familiar tale and shines a new light on it by highlighting Noah’s spiritual quandary. In the film—which takes liberties with the biblical story—he’s a vegan prophet who grapples with doing God’s will while balancing the needs of all of humanity, particularly his family. The meaning of faith and the consequences of adhering to that faith are the film’s main thrust, but as interesting as that is, the movie feels like one thing when it is addressing the spiritual and quite another—possibly a “Lord of the Rings” flick—when it is in action movie mode.

The movie starts at the beginning. Literally.

After a quick recap of Old Testament highlights—the Creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and Cain vs Abel—we meet Noah, the last descendent of Adam and Eve’s good hearted son Seth. The world he lives in is a dangerous place, ruled by Cain’s bloodthirsty bloodline but Noah (Russell Crowe) and family (Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Leo McHugh Carroll) live peacefully as nature loving, proto hippies. That is, until Noah has a disturbing apocalyptic dream. Consulting with his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) he determines The Creator wants him to build an ark and laden it with two of every creature on earth in advance of a great flood that will destroy mankind and the violence they perpetrate. It’s ultimate Mulligan—a do over for the planet—but Noah will have to make some troubling decisions to fulfill God’s will.

Some may criticize the movie for not being reverent enough, but Aronofsky treats the story as a living breathing thing and not an artifact from another time. The addition of a spectacular creation of the world sequence, as narrated by Noah, may annoy Creationists, but is a moving and beautiful retelling of the biblical story.

Aronofsky may play fast and loose with Noah’s story, but underlines the spirituality that is at the very heart of the tale as evidenced by the Seven Days of Creation scene.

He’s also aided by a terrific performance from Crowe.

Crowe’s been in a bit of a slump in recent years. The dangerous, complex actor of movies like “Gladiator” and “A Beautiful Mind” seemed to have taken a backseat to the performer who thought making “The Man with the Iron Fists” was a good idea. “Noah” is a nice reminder of Crowe’s delicate mix of fearsome masculinity and subtle sensitivity and his tortured performance hits Noah’s zealotry square on the head.

But having said that, Aronofsky moves in mysterious ways. He shot the epic almost entirely in close up and the flood scene could have used a bit more Cecil B. DeMille. Aronofsky means this to be a personal story of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but it is still an end of the world movie. Despite the occasional Peter Jackson flourish—like the stone giants The Watchers and sweeping crane shots—“Noah” doesn’t feel as big as it should. It has big ideas, but the expected sweeping visuals aren’t there.

“Noah” is a thought-provoking take on a familiar story that will keep you guessing until the end credits roll.

Metro In Focus for March 26, 2014: “the first apocalypse story.”

Russell CroweBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

According to Genesis God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.”

Noah, a righteous man, was commanded to build an ark and stock it with “two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.”

For forty days and forty nights Noah, his family and precious cargo withstood a flood so severe it submerged the tops of mountains until “every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out.”

Once the flooding stopped and the Earth dried, God commanded Noah to come out of the ark and release the animals, “so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

The story of Noah’s Ark and the flood is one of mankind’s most famous tales and Hollywood has retold it a number of times.

This weekend Russell Crowe plays the title role in Noah, co-starring with Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson. Director Darren Aronofsky says he has been obsessed with the story since he was thirteen, calling it “the first apocalypse story.” Nonetheless, he has added his own spin to the tale.

“When we first started working on the project, we were very clear not to have sandals and robes and long white beards,” he told Rolling Stone. “The first thing I said to Russell Crowe was, ‘I’ll never shoot you on a houseboat with two giraffes standing behind you.’”

More traditional are two Disney short films. Father Noah’s Ark is a 1933 “Silly Symphony” for children that tells the narrative in song. Lively animation shows how the animals may have helped build the ship and why skunks almost didn’t make it on board.

In 1959 Disney released the twenty-minute Noah’s Ark, their first stop motion animated film. A jazzy score accompanies equally jazzy animation as pencils, pipe cleaners and other household items are inventively used to create the animals.

Shooting the flood scene in the 1928 version of Noah’s Ark endangered the life of a future Hollywood icon. John Wayne was a swimmer in the famous scene, and emerged unhurt, but other weren’t so lucky. Three extras drowned and a dozen others suffered broken limbs.

Finally, a 1977 documentary claims to shed some light on the real story. In Search of Noah’s Ark is an investigation into the speculation that Turkey’s Mt. Ararat in is the landing place of Noah’s Ark. “This may be the most incredible film you will ever see,” says narrator Brad Crandall, “but the facts that will be presented are true.”


2006_the_fountain_038The public’s reaction to The Fountain was formed months before the movie even had a release date. Director Darren Aaronofsky premiered the movie at the Venice Film Festival where it was met with a chorus of boos. The bad reaction was widely reported in the press and really shaped people’s ideas about the film. What didn’t get reported as much was that on the second night it received a standing ovation. The perceived festival snub is the public relations battle The Fountain has been fighting since Venice.

The Fountain is a difficult movie that will confound some viewers and entrance others. A love story that spans several centuries, it jumps around with wild abandon from the present day where a young doctor struggles to find a cure for his wife’s terminal illness, to 16th century France where the same couple, now a conquistador and queen search for the Fountain of Youth to the future where the doctor, now bald, floats through space in a large bubble, grappling with the vagaries of life.

This is a movie that isn’t afraid to be ponderous and pretentious, but in an era when Hollywood doesn’t try to make thoughtful movies, just successful ones, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Aaronofsky’s metaphysical story is almost incomprehensible, but has a lot of emotion and for the adventurous viewer should appeal to the head as well as the heart.