Film Idling the other evening between Commonwealth Games events I typed "opening ceremony" into Youtube. As well as discovering the Olympics channels archives whole matches and sessions from the London games after clicking on full coverage of the Danny Boyle spectacular, I found a wealth of similar events from across the world both on their own associative channels and the less official. I expect if you're the kind of person I am, you could become quite addicted to discovering the introductory evening of the Asian Games in Doha in 2006 or Barcelona 1992.
Presumably this was a valuable resource for Boyle and co and for David Zolkwer, the creative director of the Glasgow 2014 ceremony (who's primary decision must have been "How early do with deploy Barrowman?"). Having seen enough of them live, there's clearly going to be a genre-like aspect to them, similar themes and ideas which appear in all of them beyond the necessary. Many is the history of the nation we've seen inscribed through modern dance, the legendary rock singer making a cameo appearance. Boyle and Zolkwer included these elements but with a twist. Wonder what we'll get tomorrow night.
Running with Scissors
As Charlie "Ultraculture" Lyne's otherwise exemplary review of the dvd in today's Guardian demonstrates, like Bee Season, The Juror and August Rush before it, Noah is one of those films which if you're tasked with describing it to a friend who hasn't had the pleasure makes you sound completely mad. I've tried. I got as far as "there are these angels which have been banished to Earth and become Rock Lords" before I realised that I was beginning to disbelieve exactly what I'd seen, even though I had in fact seen it. But unlike those three spectaculars, but like Darren Aronofsky's equally bonkers The Fountain, it's a film I want to see again.
Partly it's because for all its run time and epic scale, it's a fairly simplistic story that looks backwards to the biblical epics of old. Man is tasked by his God to build what must be a dimensionally transcendental boat in order to save all of nature from flood which is about the wash the smear of the humanity from the Earth, The smear doesn't like the idea and wants in, but the flood comes before they can do much about it. Then Noah's handed a series of choices which challenge his faith in the Father, his family and a few other fs and if you paid attention in RE at school you know the rest.
The photography is remarkable. Pulling everything from renaissance paintings to Ralph Bakshi animations to indeed the London 2012 opening ceremony there are moments of both transcendental beauty and horror. Next time I see a Andrew Graham Dixon figure who may even be Andrew Graham Dixon remarking on how cinematic a Hieronymus Bosch painting is, I'll be able to nod sagely because now I've seen it filmed. Probably a bit spoilery but the shot of the last vestiges of humanity clinging to a rock are imprinted now. I don't think I've seen anything quite so beautiful and hopeless in film before.
What's also gratifying is the how the film bothers to take a view on God within the narrative. All too often biblical epics in an attempt to provide inclusivity prevaricate on the existence of a creator, often undermining the narrative. Noah's quite clear on this. Within this setting God exists. It's source material says so, and so the film does too. This frees Aronofsky up to explore the nature of faith and see above. When the various miracles happen, when the flood comes, there's no doubt as to the cause. Given the amount of religion there is in the film, I'm astonished as to why anyone with faith could object.
Where Aronofsky cleverly leaves some ambiguity is as to when or where this is happening. There are sequences which could imply that what we're seeing is happening in the far future or some alternative reality or the kind of realm of legends inhabited by Camelot, Star Wars, Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. He also embraces the theological theory that physics and natural selection could be the tools with which God created the heavens and the earth, that the seven days are as much about poetry and storytelling as the literal truth of the kind which leads to "museums" about creationism. Perhaps that's why.