The Flood: Myth and Reality by Angela Caldin

Flood-Man-on-RoofTamaki Drive in Auckland is flooding this morning as I write. Cars are at a standstill, wheelie bins are floating around like pieces of flotsam and the sea, swollen by heavy rain, is lashing wildly at anything in its path. There’s no denying the destructive power of water when it’s in the wrong place and this idea is melodramatically portrayed in Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah where humans and animals are wiped out in a mighty deluge leaving only Noah and his family on board the ark with a massive CG menagerie of pairs of creatures ready to repopulate the world once the waters subside.

Anachronism

There were four trailers for future films on the night I saw Noah and each one concerned a violent and terrifying futuristic world heavily populated with huge transformers who bashed and socked their way around the place crushing all before them. My friends and I were shell-shocked by these images, agreeing that there was no way we would want to see any of the films advertised, at the same time giving thanks that there would be no such brutal creatures in Noah. Imagine our dismay therefore, when, early on in the film, as Noah and his ragged family struggle over a barren landscape, a huge transformer type creature rises up and terrifies the living daylights out of all concerned. There are loads of them, bright fallen angels called Watchers, their light imprisoned in ungainly lumbering stone structures. They do a great deal of bashing and socking, but happily they use their power to help Noah build the ark and fend off huge hordes of desperate attackers.

Invention

The stone transformers are one of the many clues that Aronofsky has not stuck rigidly to the bible story, nor to any other version of the myth of the flood come to think of it. In fact, a large part of the film concentrates on the human drama on board the ark. A young woman called Ila, rescued by Noah and his family from the scene of some dreadful massacre, gives birth to twin daughters fathered by Noah’s son Shem. How fortuitous, I thought, that means there’ll eventually be a woman each for Ham and Japheth so they can go forth and multiply. I mentioned this to one of the friends we were with, who, as it happened, had the whole of Genesis at his fingertips on his iPhone. He pointed out that in the bible, all three sons are married already:  ‘And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him, went into the ark, to escape the waters of the flood.’

The film has some amazing scenes: just as you are wondering how Noah is going to build an ark with no suitable materials to hand, whole forests of trees spring out of the ground and come to maturity in seconds. I was reminded of the astounding scene in Black Swan when tiny buds sprout from the ballerina’s arm and speedily grow into lush black feathers. The deluge which swamps the earth comes with just such alarming speed, sweeping all before it – the image of desperate bodies clinging to the top of a high mountain recalls the footage we see on TV of people after floods frantically waving for help, clinging on to any roof or tree available.

Present Day Echoes

There have been a number of floods recently, in the UK, in USA, in the Solomon Islands. In each case the destruction and suffering continues long after the camera crews have left and people’s attention has been caught by new disasters. Rebuilding, restarting, recovering all take time and there is often little support from governments, insurance companies and the like. In this respect Noah fared quite well: it was startling to see that he had a mini-vineyard in production while his twin granddaughters were still babes in arms.

I thought it was a stunning film, by the way, outrageous, ridiculous and compelling in equal measure, so that its two and a quarter hours flew by. The events in Noah came as a result of the creator’s decision to start the world afresh because of the mess humans had made of it. The barren landscapes and grim destruction portrayed in the film echo the over exploitation and ugliness we can see so often today. Climate change, carbon emissions, pollution, abuse of the earth’s resources – the cleansing flood, if there was one, doesn’t seem to have made much difference. The ice is melting, the waters are slowly rising and the land is threatened. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/rising-seas/if-ice-melted-map

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