The movie Noah, featuring Russell Crowe as the biblical character who rescues Earth's animals from an apocalyptic flood, has generated its own flood of debate since arriving in theaters late last month.
Some environmentalists embrace the film as a call for action on climate change, while some conservatives have attacked it as misanthropic. "If you're looking for a biblical movie, this is definitely not it," said one of the apostles of the far Right, commentator Glenn Beck. "I don't think it's an environmental thing as much as it's just so pro-animal and antihuman."
To Noah's writer and director, Darren Aronofsky, the truth lies somewhere in between. The film — produced for an estimated $125 million, according to the IMDB website — might have an environmental message, but it's mostly just a good show, Aronofsky said last week at a panel discussion sponsored the Center for American Progress.
"I was enamored by this story, like most kids are," Aronofsky said at the event. "I related always to knowing that I probably wasn't good enough to get on the boat. For me, it was a scary story."
Ultimately, Aronofsky conceded, Noah is neither a call to arms nor a political commentary. "We are just trying to make entertainment," he said. Aronofsky also directed Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, and Black Swan, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.
When he was a teenager in Brooklyn, Aronofsky wrote a poem about Noah that almost reads like a treatment for his future film. "Evil was in the world," the poem begins. "The laughing crowd left the foolish man and his ark filled with animals when the rain began to fall."¦ [Noah] knew evil could not be kept away for evil and war could not be destroyed but neither was it possible to destroy peace."
Shortly after that, in 1986, Aronofsky was a 17-year-old kayaking on Alaska's Prince William Sound when he accidentally dropped a granola-bar wrapper into the sapphire waters. "It just killed me that I was the first person to pollute in Prince William Sound," he said at the Center for American Progress event. "When I was a kid, there were places on the planet that were pretty untouched."
Three years later, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, spilling more than 250,000 barrels of crude oil. The pristine body of water that had captivated Aronofsky was known thereafter as the site of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. He likened the Exxon Valdez spill to the wholesale destruction of Earth in Noah.
Aronofsky said that Noah also was informed by recent environmental calamities like Hurricane Sandy, which shut down production for a week when it struck the East Coast in October 2012. He said he was astonished by "how quickly things fell apart in New York"¦. The producer of our movie was housing like eight families."
Aronofsky maintained that the ecological message of Noah is consistent with Scripture.
"To try to remove an ecological message from the story of Noah is a bigger edit job than to emphasize it," he said. "[Noah]'s saving the animals. He's not looking for innocent babies. It's not the story of Abraham going to Sodom to find seven innocent men. It's about saving the animals, so there is clearly an ecological message in there."