Friday, November 19, 2010

The Noah (1975)

What a strange little movie. Robert Strauss plays The Noah, an ageing soldier and the last survivor of a nuclear holocaust that has claimed the earth. The film begins with Noah's dingy washing ashore on a deserted Pacific island, where he quickly goes about the task of exploring and making the island and it's deserted buildings his own. But soon isolation and boredom kick in, and something in Noah cracks. He creates an imaginary friend for himself, conversing in his head with this man he's invented named Friday, and then he creates a woman too, named Friday-Anne - inevitably Friday and Anne couple, and Noah in a fit of rage banishes them from his house (and his mind). Stinging with betrayal, he then creates a child, something innocent and pure that can't hurt him the way his imagined adults did, and eventually a whole school class that he can mould in his image. He holds classes and eventually a graduation, where he sends his children out to re-populate the earth. For a while, things seem great as Noah lauds himself as the venerable leader of the community that has sprung up and taken over the island - but the children recreate human society on the island all to perfectly, complete with all it's squabbles and ugliness, which leads Noah to lay down commandments, Moses style, in an effort to force his subjects to behave. When this doesn't work, he turns away from his society back to the rigid command structure of the military, envisioning his own soldiers to look after and keep in line - but when the voices of war (Stalin, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Churchill, etc.) supersede his authority, he retreats into himself and succumbs to the bitterness that so tainted his community, his soldiers turning against him as he argues with the government about his pension pay. Noah fights his soldiers, running about with his rifle in the rain, and when he wakes in the morning he finds that the radioactive warning tag attached to his uniform has turned black; the rain was radioactive, and all that's left is for Noah to await death. Despite having the means, he chooses not to take his life, instead deciding to stoically await his fate and keep watch for the rescue he knows will never arrive.

As I said, The Noah is a very strange film, chock full of allegory and biblical references, the whole thing played out by one man and a series of voices and archive recordings (presumably dredged from Noah's subconsciousness) - but it's ultimately a commentary on humanity, about a man trying to create a new world in his own image, but finding that he's just as flawed as any other human being and that his society and it's flaws all too closely mirror our own. All Noah gets from his efforts is disappointment and death, and one has to conclude that the message of the film is that you can't change nature, and that the only change you can affect comes from within.

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