Deluge & Delusion

Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah'

Hot on the heels of the impersonal and saccharine Son of God comes the daringly idiosyncratic and totally depressing Noah by writer-director Darren Aronofsky, a cinematic connoisseur of psychic and physical self-destruction (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan). With this latest entry he may seem to be breaking into a new genre, the biblical spectacle. But rest assured: this master of misery is very much in his element as he envisions the sinful self-destruction of nearly the whole damned human race. Though there is much to censure in this movie, critics have taken aim at the one thing that should be most praised: the liberties the filmmaker has dared to take with the four-page biblical account. Why shouldn’t Aronofsky, like any self-respecting artist, supplement, abridge, and transform his source material to make it reflect his own vision of life? Do we attack Paradise Lost because Milton invented a backstory for Satan so vivid that (as Bernard Shaw pointed out) people actually believe it’s in the Bible? The real questions to be asked are: What sort of narrative does the adaptor evolve out of the original? Is it true to itself? Does it shed light on the human condition?

Scripture tells us that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” Aronofsky, perhaps with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in mind or even TV’s The Walking Dead, uses Icelandic locations as landscapes of sterility and...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.