Sunday, 27 April 2014
Shadows dance in distinctive shapes in Noah to form nightmares. Representation is something which is never consistent in the film. At times, stories are told with nothing more than moving light and at other times bright animations are thrown in way of the audience. This artistic choice is an unusual one, meaning the film takes stock of a number of cinematic mediums to produce an altogether dark, protruding biblical tale of epic proportions. Upheld by strong performances and stunning visuals, Noah is a bold direction even for Darren Aronofsky, a man who never fails to establish his unique vision of traditional tales.
Noah is a dramatic retelling of the bible story entailing a man who is tasked with the building of an arc to save the innocent before an apocalyptic flood. The film progresses from ambiguous communications from God to Noah, to interpretations, to the full engagement of the task ahead. The challenges that Noah faces are many: he must defend the arc from the sinful (thus being all men), the resistance of his own family and eventually, truly understanding God's intentions for him.
I found the quality of the performances to vary quite drastically throughout. Firstly, audiences were met earlier this year with an incredibly and unexpectedly senile performance from Russell Crowe as a villain in Winter's Tale. He did well in redeeming himself this year however, by supplying a solid performance in Noah. His soft characterisation gave artfully way to one fanatically religious and manically obsessive of his goal. He took the action sequences just as well as his interactions with his reluctant family.
Ray Winstone was deliciously frightening as the arch-nemisis of Noah. Young Logan Lerman faltered not in his role as the rebellious son, desperate for companionship and harbouring a somewhat unhealthy and dangerous growing resentment of his father. It was Jennifer Connelly's performance which intrigued me the most. It was confusingly inconsistent: her accent constantly failed her and her dialogue was often poorly executed. That is until about halfway through the film when her character began questioning her faith in Noah. From there, the Jennifer Connelly we know and love burst forth and lit up the screen. The pain and suffering of the wife of Noah is portrayed so strategically and gracefully.
However, the finest performance in Noah comes from an actress working hard to establish herself away from a franchise that has thus far, defined her: Emma Watson. Her vibrant representation as a baron, adopted daughter of Noah is nothing short of incredible. She is vibrant, believable and strongly affecting.
I want to draw attention to the cinematography of this film. I fear that it may be overlooked due to the flawed nature of the film itself, distracting from the true mastery of cinematographer Matthew Libatique. He is indeed known for his collaborations with Darren Aronfronsky in films such as The Black Swan, The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream. But I can honestly say that I believe his work here to be his best. It was his magic that transformed the film into one you could truly call an "experience". Libatique not only created the eerie beauty of the flood sequences but the also various biblical storytelling ones that are nothing if not memorable.
Noah's greatest virtue is also potentially its greatest flaw. The variance of its storytelling mediums are both distinctive and interesting, but may be conceived as flaws of the film. That is, as a hesitation by the director in failing to move forth in a succinct vision. Whilst we can marvel at the range of cinematic visuals supplied and revel in the acting progress of Emma Watson, Noah does not quite live up to the notion of "epic" in every sense of the word as it so claims to be.
Edit: I believe that I may have failed to address the quality of the film as a whole. Noah introduces new themes and visions into the world of cinema that are somewhat troubling because they are unprecedented. The stand-alone portrayals of the biblical backstories speak for themselves. The real contentious issue in Darren Aronfronsky's latest film is just how well a balance is struck between its faith to a religious story and hard strive for entertainment value in its claim for the "epic". I would say that it wanders too close to the latter, loses its way but eventually finds some material worth in its religious aspect.
I have decided to alter my scoring system. Instead of grades, I will henceforth be giving a numbered score out of 100 for each film that I review.