It is the job of a critic to keep the discussion about art going. We push art to be better, praise it when it works, and generate the discourse between art-making and its feedback.
This sometimes means setting aside your own biases and recognizing when good art has been made, even if you’re a cheeky little Atheist.
Aronofsky’s new film Noah is good art.
The film is provocative, as good art is. It caused a stir, predictably, among believers.
I grew up in church. I know the book of Genesis. Aronofsky has taken a few creative liberties in his retelling of the classic Christian creation myth.
I confess, I went into the theater automatically biased. I love Aronofksy and his filmmaking (he has directed some of my favorite films), but I wasn’t sure why he decided to make a Bible story. Haven’t Bible story movies come and gone from cinema?
Aronofsky went against form. He decided not to market his new movie as a dark indie, but instead as a sweeping, CGI-heavy epic, which was a bit upsettling. The latter approach appeals to conservative audiences, which surely aren’t Aronofsky’s fan base. After all these years of loyal support from us, the violent snobs of the indie world (we who fell in love with him via Requiem For A Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan) it was jolting to see him pander to big Hollywood, a branch of the film industry that unabashedly caters to conservatives.
But marketing is a clever trick. Branding Noah as a Christian epic brought audiences into the film only to be surprised to find that Noah is still an Aronofsky movie.
With that opening narrative sequence, the fish evolving into an ape, I knew we were being led by someone who doesn’t play by the rules.
Russell Crowe plays a deeply flawed, brutally human Noah, a character who proves to embody the angry, obstinate, and ultimately self-destructive believer with an uncompromising and violent faith in god. His performance is matched by Jennifer Connelly, who plays his wife. Connelly shines in the latter half and delivers one of her best.
The film may also be one of Aronofsky’s best, so long as you view it and its source material as a problematic, titanic fable. If you’re looking for an exact rendition of the Bible story, you’re going to be disappointed and possibly angered. There are no giant rock monsters in Genesis.
Aronofsky knew his film would cause discussion. Again, art is meant to provoke, not instruct. But just to be safe, he added a disclaimer at the end of the theatrical trailer after vocal Christians expressed early outrage.
Religion is the enemy of art. It stifles it and casts out its creators. Millions of people all over the world will not appreciate the film. Their faith blinds them. They will see Noah, like the story it pays tribute to, as an offering of truth.