Back in October, I posted a series of screencaps demonstrating the visual and thematic links between Noah and Darren Aronofsky’s earlier films. One of these days, if I ever familiarize myself with video editing software, I might do something similar in video form. In the meantime, “supercuts” that chart the visual links between Aronofsky’s films — up to and including Noah — have begun to surface. You can check out two of them below the jump, and I will add more to this post if any come along.
For one thing, they have generally been made by the same creative team, including composer Clint Mansell (who has scored all six of Aronofsky’s films), cinematographer Matthew Libatique (who has shot all of Aronofsky’s films except for The Wrestler) and a number of recurring actors (such as Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn and especially Mark Margolis).
But the films also have some thematic overlaps. As I mentioned in my review of Noah for Books & Culture, Aronofsky films often dwell on the notion that it is impossible to touch perfection and survive. They also tend to revolve around characters who are obsessed with something, often to the characters’ detriment. And more often than not, they tend to make references to the Bible, some more pronounced than others.
And that brings us to Noah. When the film came out, a number of critics (such as The Playlist’s Drew Taylor) noted that it had some striking things in common with The Fountain in particular. But Noah actually harks back — visually and thematically — to pretty much all of Aronofsky’s earlier films to one degree or another.
Darren Aronofsky makes movies about obsessive people. To be the protagonist in an Aronofsky film is to be a mathematician who studies the stock market looking for hidden or even mystical patterns, or a middle-aged woman who takes drastic measures to lose weight because she thinks she will be on television soon, or a scientist who neglects his wife because he’s trying to cure her terminal illness, or a wrestler or ballet dancer who would literally rather die than miss an opportunity to give the performance of a lifetime.
I already have “interview round-ups” for director Darren Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel, so hey, why not one for cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who actually shot the images without which a film like Noah couldn’t exist?
Libatique went to film school with Aronofsky and has shot all but one of his feature films (the exception being 2008’s The Wrestler). Libatique even shot a couple of Aronofsky’s early short films!
Libatique has also worked multiple times with filmmakers like Spike Lee (She Hate Me, Inside Man, Miracle at St. Anna), Joel Schumacher (Tigerland, Phone Booth, The Number 23) and Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens).
Thanks to a lengthy blog post by Brian Mattson, a theologian with the the Center for Cultural Leadership in California, the latest meme to work its way into public discussion of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is that the film is somehow Gnostic, and that it presents a worldview in which God is really Satan and vice versa.
Is there anything to Mattson’s claims? Not really, and here’s why.
It’s tempting to say that Darren Aronofsky’s Noah has brought back the Bible epic. It’s certainly the first major live-action Bible movie to be produced by a Hollywood studio in decades. But the fascinating thing about this film is how utterly different it is from the Bible movies that came before it. Aronofsky has not revived the genre so much as he has utterly transformed it.
Unlike most Bible films, which take place within decidedly historical contexts, Noah is based on the earliest, most “mythic” chapters of Genesis, as well as some of the Jewish legends that have grown up around those chapters. Building on the ancient otherworldliness of these stories, Aronofsky has created a grounded yet somewhat fantastical environment that is, at times, strikingly reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies.
But the core biblical themes — of temptation, wickedness and punishment — are still there, and Aronofsky infuses the genre with his own personal style, not least in his use of haunting dream sequences and in his focus on a morally ambiguous protagonist.
Put it all together and you’ve got something quite unique.