Screenwriter, director, and producer Darren Aronofsky is known for dark, edgy independent films that center on characters with obsessive and self-destructive personalities: the drug addicts in Requiem for a Dream, for example, or the ballet dancer in Black Swan, the latter of which earned Aronofsky an Oscar nomination (and an actual win for the film's star, Natalie Portman).
But Aronofsky has also explored religious themes in films like Pi and The Fountain, which played on Jewish mysticism and Edenic imagery, respectively. Now the director, who was raised culturally Jewish, has made a full-fledged biblical epic with Noah, a $125 million-budget film that puts an unorthodox spin on one of the most familiar stories from Scripture. While Noah and the animals on the Ark have often been played for laughs on the big screen (e.g. Evan Almighty), Aronofsky considers the Flood "the first apocalypse story," and his film underscores the psychological toll it takes on Noah (played by Russell Crowe) and his family (Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins, among others). Aronofsky sees his interpretation of the Genesis story as part of the midrash tradition, in which Jewish teachers create stories meant to explain the deeper truths of the Tanakh.
Aronofsky and co-writer and -producer Ari Handel spoke with Christianity Today at a screening room in New York City a few weeks before the film's release date. The following is an edited version of their conversation with Peter Chattaway, who has a forthcoming CT print essay on 2014 Bible movies.
I was struck by how your film addresses justice and mercy.
Darren Aronofsky: That was a big part of the movie for us. When Ari and I started working on the project ...