By Mick Krever, CNN
Is the Noah portrayed in Darren Aronofsky’s new film about Genesis’ great flood an “environmental wacko”?
To listen to the fringe critics, the answer is yes. But Aronofsky – whose film has swept the box office in its first days of release – says he stayed true to the Bible.
“It's in Genesis,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Tuesday. “Noah is saving the animals; he's not out there saving innocent babies, he's saving the animals, he's saving creation.”
“It was very clear to us that there was an environmental message. To pull that message out of it, we think, would have been more of an editing job than just sort of representing what's there.”
Make a film about the Bible, expect controversy.
Make a film about the Bible after a lifetime of directing bleak films about death, drug addicts, and crazed obsessives – expect lots of controversy.
In his perhaps surprising turn to the Bible – he says Noah has been a “patron saint” for him since he wrote a Noah-themed poem at age 13 – Aronofsky has steered well clear of the childhood tales of happy animals living on a ship in harmony.
His flood is dark and deadly, shot in tones of grey and black.
But if there’s a surprise for Aronofosky, it’s how much the biblical epic has been welcomed.
The fact that “only” four countries have banned the film, Aronofsky said, shows a “very small response.”
“Now that people are seeing the movie, the issues are really evaporating. In fact, it's being embraced a lot by all different religious groups, and people are excited by it, because I think we deeply honored the words of Genesis.”
There is preciously little written in the Old Testament about the story of Noah, and Aronofsky – who co-wrote the script – “studied every word.”
It is “the first cautionary tale,” he told Amanpour. “If you are wicked, if you fill the world with wickedness, you will get punished.”
“And if you look at what's happening right now, the fact that here we are today and that U.N. report came out – you know, it's very powerful.”
A report released by the United Nations this week says that far from an abstract problem, climate change is affecting the world today, in enormous ways.
“The water is rising, and we already saw it once,” Aronofsky said. “We are living the second chance that was given to Noah.”
Aronofosky’s films have a way of putting his audiences in uncomfortable situations, and in that sense ‘Noah’ may be no different.
The New York Times’ film critic, A.O. Scott, said, “The riskiest thing about this movie is its sincerity.”
“I guess I'm – I'm kind of earnest,” Aronofsky said. “But I feel like the situation is a bit dire on the planet right now, and it's time to…you know, make entertaining films. And at the bottom line, "Noah" is…entertainment.”
“It's a very thrilling, exciting film, but if you can sort of actually connect to the cautionary message that's in the Bible, that's great.”
The “creator” – as he is called in the film – of “Noah” is a malevolent being, punishing wrongdoing and killing wrongdoers.
“That, to me, was the core of this film: To start off with someone who understands the wickedness of the world and wants justice, and then finds a place of mercy and forgiveness and a second chance.”
“Believe it or not, mythic or not, we are living that second chance right now – and what are we going to do about it?”