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DC at Night

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Biblical Tale Is Rooted in Ecology, Says Director of Noah

Scenes from Darren Aronofsky's telling of the tale of Noah.
For noted Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky, who describes himself as a not very religious Jew, the Biblical story of Noah has always been about humankind's relationship to ecology and the environment.

"To try to remove the ecological message from the story of Noah is harder than putting it in," Aronofsky, the director of the controversial spring hit movie Noah, says. "Noah is saving these animals."

Aronofsky, on the left, and co-writer Ari Handel
Aronofsky recently appeared on a panel program at the Center for American Progress (CAP) titled Noah and the Nexus of Faith and Environmentalism.

He was joined on the panel by:

  • Ari Handel, the co-writer of the movie
  • Danielle Baussan, the managing director of energy policy at CAP
  • Michael Brunce, executive director of the Sierra Club and
  • Jack Jenkins, a senior writer and researcher of faith and progressive policy at  CAP
Aronofsky said that he maintains a broad view of environmentalism. "I think violence of man against man is an environmental issue. War is an environmental issue. War destroys the planet," he said.

Responding to criticism that his film does not follow Scripture, Aronofsky pointed out that that wasn't the intention of the movie. 

"The mythical power of these early chapters is really inspiring," he said. "It's a question of what can we learn from them."

The director said he wanted to create a film that combined "the poetry of Genesis with the visuals of the movie screen."

"They are equally inspiring," he added. "They are not mutually exclusive. It makes for an incredibly beautiful way to look at what happened. We never questioned the text. We showed full respect for the text."

Aronofsky said he and his co-writer Handel faced many difficult choices in bringing the story to life. "Lots of questions came up. People have been wrestling with these questions for centuries.  For example, there is stewardship - does man have a moral responsibility to take care of the environment?" 

Brunce said the film, although set in early Biblical times, captured "the exact emotions and challenges" that environmental movement is facing today. "It (the destruction of the natural world) is a cause of great despair, but we have a greater awareness and a greater ability than ever to do something about it," he noted.

Baussan said the exposure of the issues raised in the film is a great way to focus more on the relationship between modern man and the environment. "Conversations around art can be a great way to do this," she said.

Aronofsky said that one of his goals was to restore the Noah tale to its original intent. "For a very long time, it has been turned into a children's story. But it was the first Apocalypse story. God had a question in his mind - does man have the right to continue. God is judging man," he said.

"I think I always related to the fact that I wouldn't have been good enough to get on the boat. For me, it was scary and traumatic," he added.

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