Noah may have been a summer blockbuster but it was still the work of an auteur and Aronofsky's Evolution of Obsession

Darren Aronofsky is one of my favorite modern auteurs. And there is no doubt that he is an auteur. Aronofsky’s films have reached across wide ranging topics and genres but at the core of each story Aronofsky has always had his authorial stamp present. He is able to dig into each story and find his theme and bring it to the surface. This is the theme of obsession and Noah was the beginning of Aronofsky's evolution of obsession.

aronofsky, darren aronofsky, black swan, mother, the wrestler, requiem for a dream, Aronofsky's Evolution of Obsession
Requiem For A Dream (2000) The Wrestler (2008) Black Swan (2010) mother! (2017)

Obsession comes in many forms and can generate multiple outcomes. From Requiem For A Dream’s addiction angle on obsession, to The Wrestler’s obsession with his fame and image Aronofsky has found ways to make each of his stories relatable by keeping this theme present. Aronofsky himself has an obsessive personality. This is how he approaches his films and his passions: by going fully into them with an obsessive quality that threatens to destroy him.

His 2014 film Noah is his highest grossing film yet and possibly his most divisive. Many people have had their takes on the film including the ill-conceived idea that this film is Aronofsky as more of a work for hire director. I find this idea patently false. With Noah, Aronofsky took the Biblical story of Noah’s Arc and infused it with his newest obsession as an environmentalist. He finds in the Jewish texts of Noah grounds to believably put Noah in the role of early environmentalist so that Aronofsky can push his Eco-message. However, he also brings about his auteurist theme of obsession to make this film truly have his personal stamp and squash any complaint of it not being a true Aronofsky film.

Aronofsky's Evolution of Obsession, Noah
Noah (2014)

What was Noah's Obsession?

Noah begins the film following God’s commandments. He lives off the Earth and nourishes the Earth to continue the cycle. God has told his family to continue to take care of the Earth and he does just this. He rejects the children of Cain’s brutality and murderous, selfish ways. When God speaks to Noah and instructs him to build an Arc because He will soon destroy the Earth and all of it inhabitants, Noah latches onto the fire and brimstone message. He is not only obsessed with building the arc but also the idea that man is truly evil and must be eradicated.

Through the film he is confronted with choices that he must make. This includes bringing an outsider onto the Arc so that his son Hamm will have a wife and the reality that his eldest son and his wife are now pregnant with their first child. He latches so desperately to the fire and brimstone message that he condemns innocent people to death with no remorse. He even moves to the point where he decides to commit infanticide. The line of Man ends here he determines. He was God’s tool only to save the animals of the Earth and Man must end with him. This becomes Noah’s main obsession and the driving force of the second half of the film.

Noah (2014) Creation Sequence

Because of this obsession with being God’s wielder of Fate he begins to destroy his family. His children now fear him and his wife distrusts him. One of his children finds himself tempted by the one surviving member of the Children of Cain and sees his father’s path as an ill path. His faith is thrown into question. Noah sees what is happening to his family. He hears their pleas but he only digs his heels in deeper. There’s no way he could have misinterpreted God’s message.

He is strong in his convictions and fails to see that his convictions have become obsession. He fails to see that there’s are other paths. He fails to see that he has Free Will and the choice to choose his family’s fate. He is lost down this dark path. In the second half of the film we follow Noah into this extremely dark territory and are given arguments for his sanity and insanity, for his right and his wrong. What would we do if we were in his position? Would we be much different?

The Evolution of Aronofsky's Obsession

Through his common use of the obsession theme, Aronofsky is able to open up the film to new heights that a blind retelling of the Christian Bible’s story of Noah would have not left room for. He makes us see into the characters and question everything we see and hear. Noah’s obsession can destroy his world. But unlike Aronofsky’s other films, the obsession does not seal Noah’s fate. He shows us for the first time that obsession can be overcome and that love is the tool. It is a new phase in Aronofsky’s authorship that leads right into his next film mother! and boy oh boy does he continue down the new path of his auteur themes and individual voice by integrating environmentalism, religious allegory, and…yes, obsession.

cherry, Aronofsky's Evolution of Obsession
Photographer: Jonas Zürcher

About the Author:

Chris has been writing about stories from all mediums for over ten years. This has ranged from Film to Anime, Manga, Comics, and Music. He formally wrote reviews for The Fandom Post and is now digging back into his study of film. On the topic of Aronofsky's film Noah, he wrote an essay/review analyzing the various components and influences that crafted the film.