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In Which Darren Aronofsky Jumps a Shark, an Elephant and a Kangaroo.,
This review is from: Noah [DVD] (DVD)
Darren Aronofsky directed Pi, Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. These are really good, unique, imaginative, unsettling films and I don't recall the audience sniggering during them. They feature extraordinary performances, notably from women of a certain type: small, bird-like creatures with dark eyes who are strung with piano wire: Natalie Portman and Jennifer Connelly being fine examples.
Aronofsky has made a new film: Noah. It is a Biblical epic. He has struck the tone a long way towards the Peter Jackson end of a spectrum which didn't exist before Peter Jackson invented it. He has taken large liberties with some aspects of the Genesis story, inventing rock-encrusted fallen angels and a Kingdom of brutish descendants of Cain, but he has kept faithful to others a modern fellow might have jettisoned: how much more fascinating an examination of the human and divine it might have been were some of those who perished noble and good. The general view is that this is some kind of environmentalist parable. It's a poor parable that chooses for its standard-bearer a glum misanthropic monomaniac.
Connelly (for whom many men my age have a soft spot, having fallen in love at first sight of her in Labyrinth when we were twelve) has signed up, so too have the redoubtable Anthony Hopkins, Hermione Granger (another moody, compact and tensely-strung brunette of Aronofsky's type) and, well, Ray Winstone. They've all agreed to stand behind Russell Crowe, a man who has demonstrated great charisma and masculinity throughout a long Hollywood career, but never much of an inclination to act. Then again, given the films he's chosen to appear in, he's rarely needed one. And nor does he here.
Things proceed disappointingly. The first spot of rain takes an hour and a quarter to fall. The birds and beasts arrive with a great digital flourish, but are swiftly sedated and play no further part in the film. Connelly (who has form for playing Russell Crowe's wife) is obliged to over-emote at every turn. She looks haggard and careworn, possibly from the effort. Hermione also emotes wilfully. Crowe mumbles portentously into his beard and stumps grumpily around the ark believing, upon scant grounds, that doing God's will involves ensuring the annihilation of his own family. I don't remember that from Sunday School. Villainous Ray Winstone is, oddly the one left to advance the point that Noah's is not an especially constructive outlook. The only one listening is Ham.
We are left with a kitchen sink melodrama wherein Noah contemplates the almighty, Hermione wants to keep her baby, Shem and Japeth keep up the numbers (for all the effect that have they may as well have been sedated with the giraffes) and Ham simpers about wishing there was a chick left on God's wet earth he wasn't related to. Ray Winstone lasts longer than the Bible mentions, perhaps so someone is around to present a humanist perspective but we all know what must happen in the end. It's not especially edifying: on the Biblical view, there must have been quite a few unspeakable acts for any of his descendants to have made it as far as the theatre to hear the lessons of this primordial eco-warrior.