• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Friday, July 13, 2007

    Noah's Ark (1959)

    I'm seeing Evan Almighty on Wednesday so I figured it was about time I made some more entries in my Films About Noah series.

    Noah's Ark is the 2nd of Disney's three takes on this story (the others being Father Noah's Ark (1933) and the "Pomp and Circumstance" sequence from Fantasia 2000 (1999), and with a running time of around 20 minutes it's the most extensive of the three. In contrast to the other two films it's made with stop motion animation using every objects such as pipe cleaners, corks and thimbles as well as the fabrics that predominate.

    It has a number of things in common with one or both of those other films. Firstly, there is a great deal of humour in all three films. Here we see the usual slapstick escapades from Noah and his sons as they construct the ark. There are also jokes based on the distinctive characteristics of the various animals again. Here we have a penguin wearing a morning coat, and minks dressed in mink.

    Another similarity is that film is also largely accompanied by music, the music here is perhaps the most "kidsy", with simple harmonies and a modernish feel. Some of the music here is used to provide entertainment whilst on board the ark. In this version of the film, unfortunately, this sequence goes off on tangent getting overly concerned with the marital strife between Mr and Mrs Hippo.

    Another way that this short resembles the others is with the way it handles the biblical material. None of the three films really deal with this story as the outworking of God's judgement. The people who are left behind to drown never enter the picture, and whilst all three films delight in the animals who survive the flood there's no mention of those that didn't make it.

    Finally, Shem Ham and Japheth are again present and, as with the first film whilst they all have different coloured hair, they share their colouring with their spouses.

    There are lots of novelties in this film as well, however. For a start the animation itself is resourceful and creative. The use of everyday objects gives it an endearing quality, which draws attention to the medium as well as the story.

    There are a couple of very interesting shots in this film as well. The film starts and ends with God-shots. The first is a fairly conventional movie God shot – an overhead view of the land in which Noah lives – near enough for it to be clear what it is, but far enough away so that it couldn't be the point of view of any other character. This shot is confirmed as being God's point of view when it is reproduced immediately after God has finished giving Noah his mission. The closing God shot is entirely different. It's a view of the whole globe.

    The use of these shots indicate God's presence in this film which is perhaps more prevalent here than in the other two – particularly as we hear God give Noah his mission. There's also a few interesting dissolves, notably during the montage in which the ark is built.

    One of the other strengths of this film are the various backgrounds it uses. These nicely complement the action whilst also emphasising the different locations. The area where Noah lives is mainly shot against a plain blue background, and several of the shots (including the opening ones are shot with blue filters). But once Noah and his sons go out to gather the animals the background become much more diverse and interesting.

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