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Steve Carrell and Morgan Freeman in 'Evan Almighty' (2007)

Steve Carrell and Morgan Freeman in 'Evan Almighty' (2007)

In addition to films that depict the biblical story itself, there have also been a few that modernize the story by imagining what would happen if God asked someone to build an Ark today. The Disney TV-movie Noah (1998), starring Tony Danza, and the big-budget comedy Evan Almighty (2007), starring Steve Carell, are both examples of this.

Neither of those films takes a remotely serious approach to the story. Instead, both films play the story for laughs, and are far more concerned with dads learning to spend more time with their kids than they are with anything resembling themes of divine judgment. The floods in both films are very local, and in Evan Almighty it is caused not by God but by land developers who cut corners when building a new dam.

One interesting development lately has been the way some filmmakers have turned the story of Creation into a tradition that Noah passes on to his family while they are aboard the Ark. This has the effect of underscoring the relationship between the original sin and the sins for which Noah's contemporaries are punished, and also the role that the Flood played in essentially un-doing Creation.

The earliest example of this story device that I am aware of is in the Noah-themed episode of Testament: The Bible in Animation (1996), an excellent British-Russian series of Old Testament stories that was made by the same team that went on to make the equally excellent stop-motion life-of-Jesus film The Miracle Maker (2000).

This episode uses a conventional form of hand-drawn animation for the Noah sequences and a more elaborate style involving digitally-manipulated pictures for the Creation sequence—but when Adam and Eve sin, they are suddenly rendered in the more conventional hand-drawn format. This becomes an interesting way to suggest, artistically, what it might have been like for them to suddenly realize that they are naked.

A scene from 'Noah' (2014)Image: Paramount Pictures

A scene from 'Noah' (2014)

Something similar happens in Darren Aronofsky's Noah. To explain to his children why God is punishing mankind, Noah tells the story of Creation and the Fall—and this time, we see Adam and Eve rendered as beings who glow with the light of their unfallenness (similar, perhaps, to how Moses glowed after he met with God on Sinai, or how Jesus glowed at his Transfiguration). It is only after Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit that humanity assumes its current, duller form.

The Creation sequence isn't the only nod to other parts of the Bible in Aronofsky's film. There is also a striking moment in which Tubal-Cain—a descendant of Cain mentioned very briefly in Genesis 4, who is depicted here as a sort of early warlord—rallies his troops by shouting, "Men united are invincible!" This clearly echoes what God says about the descendants of Noah who build the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. By alluding to the Babel story, the film acknowledges that, to the extent that God was merciful to Noah and his family, it was with the knowledge that humanity would continue to go on sinning.

In addition, Aronofsky borrows heavily from Jewish traditions that are not exactly part of the canonical Bible, but are sometimes alluded to in the Bible. One key background text for Aronofsky's film, because it gives the name "Watchers" to the fallen angels who share forbidden knowledge with the descendants of Adam and Eve, is the Book of Enoch, which is cited and even directly quoted in the epistles of Peter and Jude.

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