Wednesday 23 April 2014

Aronofsky's Noah

The general consensus of those with whom I saw Darren Aronofsky's film Noah this week was that it was a turkey. I am less sure but not because I think, in contrast, it was a good film. Rather, I was and remain baffled by the very idea of it, it's governing conception. I am reminded of the suggestion once made to me that one might admire the poetry of William Blake in roughly the way one would admire someone who had built a sports car from vacuum cleaner parts. (Or, "How did he do that?" you ask. "Why?" was more the question that sprang to mind?)

Aside from animated Lord of the Rings monsters (which we had hoped would satisfy our friend Andy), the film seemed to me to be a mash up of two other films: the interesting in basic idea but poor in execution 2012 and one of my favourite ever films, The Sacrifice. From the latter, it inherits what seems an impossible filmic challenge but one which reflects something of our existential predicament: what sense can we make of the idea of entering into a covenant with God, if God never speaks to us? Tarkovsky somehow carries the rational doubt that must surely affect any reasonable faith into the difficulties of a realist subluminary film. Noah is more like Charlton Heston waving a fist at the sky from the beach in Planet of the Apes.

In any case, this is combined with a stone age version of 2012. Now of course, when it comes to matters of plot, this dependence is the other way round. 2012 picks up the the entrenched myth of the Flood. But as an idea of what a 2 hour blockbuster requires for entertainment, it is Noah which is derivative.

But my point in suggesting these two stands in the film is not to say that that makes for a bad idea. If I thought that then at least I'd know what I thought of it. It is rather that I have no grasp of its grounding conception, of what the ground rules for its normative assessment might be. How would the existential investigation fit with the block buster? What are we doing when we simultaneously think through Noah's scorched earth (as it were) approach to even his own family in the face of what he perceives to be exogenous demands made on him whilst also hoping for a fight with Ray Winstone? I don't know what idea emerges from these ingredients. It is like a filmic cry of "Milk me sugar".