Noah vs Cain

 

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

 

I became a fan of Jose Saramago after reading his dystopian novel, Blindness. And then I saw the movie version which was equally gritty and tense.

After completing my reading of Saramago’s controversial Cain I felt numb. But I was impressed with the translation from Saramago’s original Portuguese to Margaret Jull Costa’s English.

In Cain, published by Harvill Secker, the narrative questions God’s creation and His moral code. The protagonist challenges God’s logic and opposes His cruelty. While Saramago’s prose does foreground a debate over the existence of God, it fails to cast doubt in the reading believer’s mind, because doubt is central to Satan’s (not God’s) plan to monopolise the reading market.

What is not doubted among believers and non-believers is the creation of an ark. Most historical scholars point their pens in the direction of physical evidence of such a construction. The question is asked whether the young Darren Aronofsky, who created masterpieces such as Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain and Black Swan, can be regarded as a creative scholar. In Noah, Aronofsky, a self-proclaimed atheist, does not offer his audience any new philosophical debates on the myth of Noah. Instead, he entertains.

floods 1

By default, this film’s strength lies in the casting of Russell Crowe in the lead role. Crowe is famous for his heroic roles in movies such as Robin Hood, American Gangster and Gladiator – all successful enterprises from Scott Free productions. Then there is also Crowe’s version of Jor-El, the father of Superman, in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant production of Man of Steel.

Ray Winstone is expertly cast as the malevolent and cowardly antagonist to Noah, King Tubal-Cain. His character is woven into the story to showcase the legend of Cain’s sin against God and his subsequent punishment.

Unlike the popular Bible and Q’Ran texts, Noah is in continuous conflict with his human emotions and obedience to God. This is an honest interpretation of man’s relationship with God. It is alleged by Aronofsky that Noah is commanded by God to murder members of his own family when they disobey His commands. Fortunately, Love – God’s most important commandment – conquers all and Noah and most of his family are saved.

Aronofsky’s fanciful accusations against “God” are similar to those raised in Saramago’s Cain.

The film’s cinematography is a visual feast which strengthens the director’s mission to re-interpret and re-imagine Biblical history through art.

floods 2

The timing of Noah’s modern-day arrival couldn’t have been worse. I am always fascinated with film’s portrayals of natural and man-made calamities. Today such interpretations are no longer based on the imagination, but on reality. Ten years ago a massive tsunami devastated the South East Asian coastline and other areas. More than 200,000 people died.

Four years ago a strong earthquake destroyed Haiti and snatched away more than 200,000 lives which were already impoverished before the earthquake struck. Not because of the earthquake’s force, but through man’s own inhumanity and reluctance to help others.

2012 came and went. So too, Roland Emmerich’s 2012 two years earlier.

The debate and interest in the ancient Mayan prophecies waned.

Watching Noah, I could not help being reminded of Emmerich’s global spectacle of the end of the “world as we know it” that never came. Contrary to all the critical reviews of this movie, Emmerich’s special effects and his imaginative pastiche of earth’s doom delighted me. It was more of a twenty-first century re-interpretation of the ancient Noah story than anything else. In this film the hero’s young son is named Noah.

haiti eathquake 1

The Noah-like roles are given to two characters. Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) is the new world’s utopian writer, while Adrian Helmsley (Chewetel Ejiofor) is the ethical scientist (he predicts that everything is going to go to shit) who attempts to save as many lives as possible. The role of chief doubter is given to the new world’s de facto commander-in-chief, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt).

A personal highlight for me was Woody Harrelson’s entertaining part as the radio shock-jock, conspiracy theorist and uber-mad prophet of doom, Charlie Frost.

There are some who believe that humankind’s birth began around the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa. South African writer, Andre Brink re-imagines the Cape of Storms in the short, translated literary text, The First Life of Adamastor. The late Dalene Matthee probed the legend of Eve in her lengthy tome, Pieternella, Daughter of Eva.

So, after all hell broke loose during 2012, the flood waters subsided and giant twenty-first century arks – made and launched in China – sailed to the Cape of Good Hope.

cape of good hope 1

Cynical critics panned Emmerich’s movie. I enjoyed it. They were gracious, generous and biased in their critique’s of Aronofsky’s creation. I felt numb.

The story of Cain, both fictionalised and believed, is ironic in today’s context. Abel, Cain’s murdered brother, offers sumptuous barbecued animal flesh as his sacrifice to God. Cain offers Him fruit. Natural disasters, human famines and diseases – it has been scientifically proven – are caused by man’s greedy consumption of earth’s natural resources and not by nature. Or God.

nuclear explosion 1

The disasters alluded to in Roland Emmerich’s 2012 are still possible. Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reminded the Western World that he has a large arsenal of nuclear weapons at his disposal. So too, his enemies. After recently re-reviewing An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore reminded his audience of Winston Churchill’s sombre warning;

The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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