Noah: Aronofsky’s Controversial Take?

“Audiences can expect all the great moments of the Noah story . . . the Ark, the animals, the Nephilim, the first rainbow, the dove. But hopefully they are captured in new and unexpected ways. Instead of repeating what’s been seen before, we looked carefully at what is written in Genesis, and then created a setting on screen where we felt these miracles could take place”–Aronofsky

From the inspirational story of courage, sacrifice, hope and redemption, Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “The Wrestler,” “The Fountain”) brings to the screen “Noah.”  Academy Award® winner Russell Crowe portrays the man chosen by God to undertake a momentous mission of rescue before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world. Never before has the full story been brought to life on screen in a vivid epic – inviting the audience to experience these spectacular events through the eyes and emotions of Noah and his family, as they journey through fear and faith, destruction and triumph, hardship and hope.

The production took the film’s cast and crew on their own unexpected journey as they set out to intensively research Noah’s world, honor the text and board an authentic Ark, hand-built to biblically-detailed specifications.  In every aspect of the film’s performances, action and innovative special-effects, the creative team’s aim was clear:  to forge a contemporary experience of “Noah” that is immediate, vibrant and personal.  The result is the first cinematic portrait of Noah as an imperfect man whose awe-inspiring task grapples with the worst of humanity while affirming our faith in its best.

Noah At The Movies

The entire story of Noah and the Ark he is commanded to build before the earth is flooded takes up just a few pages in the Book of Genesis.  But those few passages have had a profound, lasting impact on billions across the globe, evoking both the very depths of evil and the heights of faith and holding out the hope of redemption after catastrophe.

Nevertheless, since the beginning of film history, the majority of screen depictions of this foundational story have been send-ups, comedies or animated films — echoing a pop culture in which the Ark is most often seen in the toy store.  The story was first brought to motion pictures in 1928’s “Noah’s Ark,” which merged a brief Hollywood re-creation of the biblical flood with a World War I drama. Since then, there have been Disney shorts, cartoons and several variations on a comic theme.  Yet remarkably, the story of Noah has never before been attempted as a full-scale, visual epic that brings the pages of the Bible to life, nor has any filmmaker delved directly into its core motifs of what it is to be human.

“There are comedic versions, there are animated versions, and there was even a Broadway version with Danny Kaye that was a musical,” says “Noah” director and co-writer, Darren Aronofsky.  “Historically, the approach has always veered towards folklore, humor and children’s stories.  But if you look at the story’s place in Genesis, there is so much more to it than just the animals going two-by-two.  It’s the story of ten generations of wickedness of man that eventually climaxes in God coming to a place where he wants to redo it all. For me, it was the very first end-of-the-world story.”

It was also a story he felt could be finally be told viscerally through 21st Century filmmaking techniques, while respecting the indelible power of the biblical text.  He says:  “I didn’t want to add further to the clichéd preconceptions we already have from pop culture … I wanted this Noah to feel fresh, immediate and real.”

Aronofsky’s engagement with Noah’s themes began at the age of 13, when he wrote a prize-winning school poem about Noah. Later, as he began his filmmaking career, he started to envision how this colossal story could live on the modern movie screen.  He knew it would be the greatest challenge of his career, a hugely ambitious motion picture requiring both passion and extreme attention to detail. At the same time, he was deeply drawn to the personal side of the epic story, that of Noah’s family – wanting to explore their very human fears and hopes, their conflicts and search for meaning amidst these extraordinary events.

First Apocalypse

“As the story of the first apocalypse, imagining how a family would survive that was extremely interesting to me,” says the director.

That became the jumping off point for a writing process that would take Aronofsky and co-writer-executive producer Ari Handel deep into the unknown. Since the text of Genesis is brief, contains virtually no dialogue, and offers little to suggest Noah’s internal feelings about the impending flood, they poured through a wide span of religious, historical and scholarly sources to better understand Noah’s times and the significance of his actions. Though they did not aim for line-by-line adherence to scripture, they focused on dramatizing the authentic themes of the Noah story and exploring the questions posed by the biblical narrative.

Paramount and Regency Present a Protozoa Pictures Production of “Noah,” directed by Darren Aronofsky from a screenplay written by Aronofsky & Ari Handel (“The Fountain”).

The producers are Scott Franklin (“Black Swan,” “The Wrestler”), Mary Parent (“Pacific Rim”), and Arnon Milchan, Ari Handel and Chris Brigham (“Inception,” “Shutter Island”) are executive producers.

Joining Crowe (“Gladiator,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Les Misérables”) in the cast are Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Requiem for a Dream”), Ray Winstone (“The Departed,” “Hugo”), Emma Watson (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” “My Week With Marilyn”), Logan Lerman (“Percy Jackson & the Olympians”), Douglas Booth (TV’s “Great Expectations,” the upcoming “Romeo and Juliet”), Dakota Goyo (“Thor”) and Anthony Hopkins (“The Silence of the Lambs”).

The film’s crew includes the brilliant director of photography Matthew Libatique (“Black Swan,” “Iron Man”), production designer Mark Friedberg (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Synecdoche, New York”), costume designer Michael Wilkinson (“Man of Steel”, “American Hustle”) and composer Clint Mansell (“Black Swan,” “The Wrestler”).