The Noah

Director: Daniel Boura   
Robert Strauss

When I was young, even back then I had an active brain inside of my head. Whenever I had a free moment, I would take the opportunity to think about things deeply and carefully. For example, there were several times when I would wonder about the stuff I observed in the television show Knight Rider. Why, for instance, did KITT seem to have a new ability added to its already numerous abilities each week? How was the organization that hosted KITT ("The Foundation For Law And Government" I believe it was called) able to exist with a total employment count that was even less than what you would consider a skeleton crew? Why on earth, when half the time Michael Knight pressed the "Turbo Boost" button on his dashboard, KITT would then suddenly gain a great deal of speed, while the other half of the time that same button was pressed, KITT would suddenly leap from the ground into a great distance in the air? And during the "reunion" made-for-TV movie that aired several years after the show was cancelled, why did the production choose to humiliate KITT by installing his vital microchips into a "classic" car? Were all the writers that created all of the above stuff thinking that their audience was incredibly stupid? That's what I eventually concluded after a great deal of thought, but after coming up with that conclusion I did not dare speak it aloud to any of my peers. In fact, there was a lot of other stuff that I felt not wise to mention to anyone - opinions, observations, etc. That's because a few times, when I did speak out loud what I was thinking, I found out that my schoolmates simply didn't think on the same wavelength.

As a result, I was considered a kind of oddball by people my age all through school. For the most part, I simply didn't get along with my peers. It made for some very lonely times in school, that is, when they weren't giving me the kind of attention that would be considered very negative in nature. And as a result of this, at a young age I didn't have a very good opinion on mankind. What could you think of a supposed advanced species of animal that would not accept a viewpoint that was different, whether it was something insignificant or something that could shake things up? It got to a point when I started to wonder if having others around me was a good idea. I think I first got the idea when my third grade teacher read us one of the books in The Boxcar Children series (I think the book's title was The Yellow House Mystery.) One of the characters in the book was a hermit - the first time I had heard of a hermit and what kind of lifestyle they lived. The idea intrigued me - a person who really got away from it all, especially from nasty people. Soon I started to imagine myself in an environment without any other people. First I started to imagine myself in the wilderness like that hermit my teacher read to us. But it didn't take too long to abandon thoughts on that kind of isolated life. I would have to work my butt off to gather enough food each day so I could live. There would be no electricity, so there would be no hot water, no watching movies on TV. But most of all, even though I would not miss people like the individuals who went to my school, there would be a few individuals I would miss - my family. They always accepted me, and I would miss their support.

Despite these obvious problems living a life completely alone, there were still times I would try to escape the pressures of life by imagining myself without people, though not in the wilderness like a hermit. I started to imagine myself in a situation where mankind had been wiped out except for myself. A world-wide plague was the situation I thought of mostly. There would be plenty of canned and dried food at supermarkets, which would solve the food problem. And I could find plenty of stuff to entertain me - books, and electrical-powered items I could get a generator for. But I think that even with all of those comforts, I would have gone crazy after a time. Like it or not, I realized I needed people - as a visible safety net if something should go wrong in my life, but most of all bringing that kind of magic that human contact brings. I started to think of all this again recently when I was watching The Noah. I wondered that if I was in the situation the title character was in, if my mind would go the way his did. Let me set the scene: The movie begins on an ocean, and on it we see a rubber raft floating on the waves. In the raft there is an American soldier (Strauss, The Man With The Golden Arm). It doesn't take him long to spot land, an island to be exact that has the remains of a Chinese military outpost on it. The soldier makes himself at home, and a good amount of time goes by, with no sense he'll be rescued soon. One day, the soldier hears a voice coming out of nowhere. The voice is friendly, and the soldier quickly befriends this "invisible" companion, naming him "Friday". As the days go on, the soldier has endless conversations with his new friend. Eventually, the soldier soon finds he has another "invisible" companion, this new voice being female. Everything seems fine... but the solider soon finds out that his new society will not be without problems.

Unlike the majority of the movies I have reviewed on this web site, The Noah is a movie that has some messages buried in its narrative, messages about society, both modern and traditional. One of the most obvious of these lessons is one that has been expressed in a number of other movies, and that is warfare in this day and age. To be more exact, nuclear warfare. The movie illustrates that there will be no escape if this happens. You can get far away, you can try to reorganize after it happens, but there will be an inevitable, deadly end to everyone. When the movie's story starts after the opening credits, a nuclear war has already happened and Strauss' solder character (from the limited evidence given in this first part of the movie) is apparently the last person on earth. Nobody will win a nuclear war. This message is a pretty obvious and well-known one after years of nuclear war depicted on TV and in movies, but The Noah goes further, and goes to explain why a nuclear war may happen, and also why it may be inevitable that such a war will happen and completely wipe out mankind. This is because, as the movie illustrates, human beings are flawed, and because of this bad decisions and the need to fulfill various human desires (many of them being darker in nature according to the society we currently live in) are bound to happen even if there is a great effort to enforce goodness in a society. The movie tells us that this has always happened, reminding us of this from the very beginning by scrolling on the screen selected Bible passages from the Noah story in the Bible's Genesis chapter (human beings had become wicked, despite being God's creation, and God decided to destroy mankind.)

Much of The Noah is fascinating because of its illustrations of how mankind is flawed, how it can be corrupted, and the consequences. Strauss' character has clearly lost a few marbles; his making of imaginary companions to conquer his isolation goes much farther than what Tom Hanks did in Castaway (reportedly - I already mentioned in an earlier review that I can't stand Tom Hanks.) He creates in his mind characters with their own personalities that eventually break from his hold and rebel from what he considers to be sacred rules. These characters become real - we see they have their own desires, and we see how Noah's efforts (or anyone else's) to make a utopian society is doomed from the start. Besides its showing the effects of the dark side of mankind, there are other things to admire about the movie. The first of these things is evident right from the start - the movie is shot in black and white. Trying to depict the end of the world on a tropical island in full blazing color would have been, in my opinion, a disastrous decision. Many of the most effective end-of-the-world movies I have seen (Five, On The Beach, The World, The Flesh, And The Devil) were shot in black and white, and this lack of color gave these films (and this one) an appropriately bleak look. Shooting in black and white may have been a budgetary issue, but I'm glad it was shot this way. Speaking of the budget, it may have been low, but there is no apparent sign of cost-cutting anywhere else in the movie. The abandoned and rotting Chinese outpost is surprisingly detailed, from the rusting wrecks of trucks outside to the Chinese language propaganda posters plastered inside the buildings.

There's a lot to admire about The Noah - I don't think I've already said that this end-of-the-world vision can be considered an original one. But despite all the things I liked about it, at the same time I know I must point out several problems I had with the movie. Some of these are minor nitpicks, such as how it is never explained just how the soldier gets his hands on English-language books several times, or why he is shown to have a bag of golf clubs in his rubber raft at the beginning of the movie. There are also a few technical goofs as well, most of them consisting of abrupt editing, but also including a very embarrassing moment when the soldier is speaking at length and the audio clearly is not matching his lips. But the main problem I had with the movie was that, at one hundred and seven minutes, it was too long. There are a number of times in the movie where nothing new happens for long stretches of time, having stuff like the soldier having endless conversations with his imaginary companions. Even worse is the section late in the movie during the nighttime tropical storm, where the soldier wanders around while vintage radio broadcasts (not all of them in English) play on the soundtrack. This sequence goes on forever, when all that it accomplishes could have simply been edited down to run less than a minute. If the movie was edited down considerably, it would work a lot better, even if the editing made the movie run less than an hour. That's because the idea for this movie feels more like one for a short, not a feature-length movie. Although I didn't use it while watching The Noah, I could see how the fast-forward button on your DVD remote could significantly improve parts of your viewing experience of this movie.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Idaho Transfer, Survivor, World Without End