• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Monday, July 16, 2007

    Noah's Ark (1999)

    The next of the films about Noah that I'd like to look at it Noah's Ark (1999), which, at almost three hours, is the longest screen treatment of the story of the flood. That said, it feels much, much longer. In fact, the three hours pass so slowly that you begin to wonder if the 40 days of rain may have actually passed far more quickly.

    As a TV film it was unlikely ever to be a classic, but the movie's current 3.6 rating on the IMDb is, perhaps, not even as damning as it deserves.

    The film's sole strength seems to be that it's willing to take risks, be innovative and creative and that it's free to deviate from the original story. Unfortunately, these liberties also form the film's biggest weaknesses. The start of the story sees Noah spending time with Lot (his great, great grandson according to Genesis) in Sodom and Gomorrah. They and their families narrowly escape getting buried in burning sulphur as God opts for a piping hot appetizer to accompany his revenge (which is, of course, best served cold - ba dum cha!).

    Unfortunately, things don't quite work out as God's planned them. We never discover whether the flood was localised or global, but it seems even a number of Noah's neighbours manage to escape. Did I mention that they have become proto-techno-pirates? To borrow from my comments elsewhere about this monstrosity...
    Its attempt to weave futuristic elements into a pre-historic myth backfires more spectacularly than a seventies Robin Reliant. The bizarre futuristic elements evoke Kevin Costner’s mega flop Waterworld. Had that film been a success, this, at least, could be called a "cheap cash in". But as Waterworld was actually a complete commercial disaster, so even that cannot have been the driving factor. Similarly terrible is a ludicrous attempt to pass off an idiotic amalgamation of the stories of Lot and Noah with the ridiculous off-hand comment that “by the time they finish the story of Sodom and Gomorrah they will probably say we weren't even there."
    Whilst none of the cast are major stars, Jon Voight, F. Murray Abraham and James Coburn are all well known actors with reasonably good reputations. So what, on earth, possessed them to get on board with this stinker? As it happens they are unable to rise above the dross that surrounds them. The only plus point which they'll have been able to take away from the experience is that at least they were not as irritating as the actors playing Shem Ham, Japheth and their wives.

    So all in all, if you're looking for a film about Noah that has even one of the qualities of being interesting, inspiring, challenging, biblically faithful, well acted, deftly scripted, humorous, beautiful, complex, entertaining, or even just plain watchable, then you're strongly advised to skip this one. And if all you're after is a tediously long, tacky, overblown film about a big boat, a lot of water and a terrible disaster then you'd probably be better off re-watching Titanic.



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