First, a word of apology for my long and unannounced absence from the network. I was in China for a month for personal reasons, suddenly and not exactly for pleasure, though it turned into an excellent trip. And now I’m back….
….just in time for the release of one of the big cinematic epics of the year, to which I’ve been looking forward for some time, with mixed feelings. Noah! The Ark! A biblical saga with fab CGI and the strangely compelling Russell Crowe, in a beard that is well on its way to being patriarchal. I have a soft spot for biblical epics, mostly because they are often earnest enough to be unintentionally hilarious. This one could hardly be worse than the 1999 miniseries with Jon Voight as the great shipbuilder-cum-zookeeper, but I’m hoping it will be at least as funny.
I cannot review it until I’ve seen it, but I have already been entertained by some of the reactions. It has been banned in a selection of Muslim countries because Noah is one of the prophets, and depicting the face of a prophet is a grave no-no. A selection of Christians don’t like it, either, because – and here the hilarity kicks off – it is historically inaccurate. Imagine that: a Hollywood movie based on a particularly deranged folktale about something that never happened to a mythical figure most likely based on much older folk heroes, who never existed either… But as far as I can tell, the objectors are not carping at the archaeological or cultural details, the accuracy of the costuming or the settings; they are upset because the story line does not follow Genesis closely enough.
That is to say, it sounds like Hollywood has taken some liberties with the source material. Big surprise. The author of Genesis (God, Moses, Anonymous, whoever) can spin in his or her grave alongside Austen, Thackeray, Dickens, and a thousand others whose books have been loosely “adapted” to the big screen. And, odd as it may sound, and much as it pains me to be in even partial agreement with Ray Comfort, I have some sympathy with that Christian position.
I have been livid with purist fury at some of the screen adaptations of my best-loved novels. The abysmal Vanity Fair (2004), where Becky Sharp was turned into a plucky little protofeminist just trying to make her way in the world, rather than the calculating psychopath we love to hate. Blasphemy!
The execrable Pride and Prejudice (2005), where pigs roamed free in Longbourne and Lizzie was a cheeky teenager who spent too much time in the rain. Blasphemy!
The unspeakable Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), justifiably disowned by Tom Wolfe himself. Blasphemy!
The outrageous Mansfield Park (1999), which turned shy Fanny into a bumptious hoyden, and tacked on homoerotic elements that were plain silly. Blasphemy! The list goes on, but I won’t.
I suspect that Aronofsky has done to Genesis what Peter Jackson is doing to The Hobbit: padding out a perfectly good (if rather meagre) narrative with reams of extraneous material to provide openings for lots of cool CGI, a love story, an edgy modern subtext, and long, juicy battle scenes. Which means I may well be yearning for a fast-forward button when I hit the cinema tomorrow…