Nothing ignites controversy quite like religion in films. The stakes are often so high and the beliefs so deeply held for the religious viewers, that conflict and disagreement over artistic license is almost inevitable. So when I heard that there was a bit of an uproar over the upcoming film Noah, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
Based on the Biblical figure of the same name, Noah was directed and co-written by Darren Aronofsky, a director famous for his work on such films as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan (for which he received a Best Director nomination at the 2010 Academy Awards). His films are known for their powerful storytelling and dynamic visuals. When his involvement with a movie adaptation of the biblical story of Noah was announced, I was a little confused. There was a time when biblical epics were commonplace, but it was long ago. Darren Aronofsky seemed like a strange fit for the well-known tale of Noah, the worldwide flood, and the ark. I was vaguely skeptical, but reserved judgment.
The first trailers hit the internet and I became very excited. The story seemed as though it will be full of interesting twists (supported by Aronofsky’s characteristic visual eloquence) and the scope seemed epic. The stellar cast including Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins (as Methuselah!) was also impressive. I was fully pumped and ready to go once I saw the trailer.
But it seems that not everyone was so thrilled. As with any movie based on part of the Bible, controversy erupts over deviations from the text. This is to be expected, particularly since there are many people who hold the literal words of the Old Testament accounts to be sacred. For those people, any alterations could be considered sacrilegious, disrespectful, and, most importantly for the film studios, unwatchable. A survey conducted by Faith Driven Consumer (FDC), in which 98 percent of Christians surveyed indicated that they would not see a movie based on Noah’s story that was not based on the Bible, seems to indicate this sort of mindset. Paramount, the studio releasing Noah, decided to address the controversy by releasing an explanatory statement regarding their version of the ancient biblical tale. The statement, which is to be attached to the film’s marketing materials, is as follows:
“The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”
Response seems positive to the studio’s efforts at clarification. Dr. Jerry Johnson, the president of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) and the man who originally requested such a disclaimer from Paramount Pictures, had this to say: “We are grateful that Paramount is striving, with this disclaimer, to strike a proper balance between artistic creativity, character development, and honoring the sacred Scripture.”
I am very glad to see potential controversy averted by civil and courteous discussions and considerate resolutions. Films can be such an amazing method of storytelling, and I love to see such ancient, weighty tales adapted for the screen – especially with someone like Mr. Aronofsky at the helm. This film has such potential to be a grand and moving story and spectacle, and I can’t wait to see it. In their efforts to make the movie accessible to everyone, whether they are avid readers of the Bible or not, Paramount has behaved admirably, in my view. Hopefully they will have a success on their hands when the movie releases. The story is one with great thematic power for believers and non-believers alike, and, like any such story, it deserves to be told.
Noah will be released on March 28th, 2014.