Darren Aronofsky has tweeted the first set pic of construction for his upcoming film “Noah,” he of Ark-building fame. If completed on schedule, it’s on-track to be the first of a potential wave of Biblical epics – elsewhere, Steven Spielberg is circling an update of “The Ten Commandments.”
I’m kind of psyched about the prospects of this.
From a strictly literary perspective, Bible Stories are among those rare cases were visually/narratively bizzare material also happens to be material that a plurality of the mainstream audience is not only familiar with but takes as… well, gospel, for lack of a better word. It’s the only genre where you can pack the screen with devils, demons, flaming swords and guys splitting oceans with magic staffs and still sell tickets to people who’d never turn out for, say, “Lord of The Rings.” But Aronofsky’s plans for “Noah” look to push that to acceptance to the breaking point…
The version of Noah’s Ark that most present-day religious people (it’s my understanding that despite being part of the “Old” Testament, Noah’s Ark is more “popular” in a retelling sense among Christians than Jews, though Jewish readers are enthusiastically welcome to correct me on that) are familiar with is highly sanitized, coming from (comparitively, given that the events described are – literally – pre-historic) recent translations that specifically worked to tone-down the more “mythological-sounding” elements from Genesis (giants, monsters, dragons, etc) and other pre-Exodus Biblical texts. The meat of the story is always the same – the world has become hopelessly corrupt, God aims to wipe out said corruption with an apocalyptic flood, Noah is warned by God and tasked with building a massive ship that will whether the storm – allowing Noah, his family and a cargo of mated-pairs of every known animal to survive and repopulate the planet. Because strikingly-similar “flood stories” occur in hundreds of other disparate religions, the story is a fixture of pantheist/monomyth theories as well.
In most modern tellings, the “corruption” the invites the flood is just the traditional post-Exodus understanding of sin; but as Noah’s adventures pre-date Exodus by millenia, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that the pre-cleanup versions (there’s never just one with stuff this ancient) were a little more… “complicated:” Mankind’s corruption (“mankind,” incidentally, being a race of long-lived superhuman’s having descended directly from Adam and Eve in some variations) was incited by a sect of Angels called Watchers (yes, “the guys from Dogma”) who migrated to Earth in order to seduce human women. The children of these unions were giants (or sometimes just really, really bad guys) called Nephilim, and it was the havoc they caused (and other sundry violations caused by forbidden knowledge given to man by the meddling Angels) that despoiled the Earth and necessitated the flood. Depending on which version you consult, figures like Enoch, Gog and even Lucifer turn up.
It’s this more mythic, creature-featuring and (with no offense meant to my religious readers) “high fantasy”-flavored version that allegedly informs Aronofsky’s take on the material. While much of it is being kept under wraps for now, it is known that The Watchers are onhand, and that the depiction of them and other Angels is described in-line with their “original” conception; i.e. less “guys with wings” and more “bio-mechanical horrors with multiple eyes, wings, limbs, etc.”
How will religiously-devout moviegoers respond to a Bible Movie that’s less Cecil B. DeMille and more Guillermo Del Toro? We’ll see…