From Noah to Climate Change Is a Leap, Director Says

But filmmaker Darren Aronofsky acknowledges his movie has an ecological message.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky participates in a panel discussion at the New York Times Cities for Tomorrow Conference on April 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York Times)
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
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Christopher Snow Hopkins
April 27, 2014, 8 a.m.

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.”

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