Noah: Making Movies of Disasters
by Abe Novick
Sandwiched between the Super Typhoon Haiyan last week and the devastation from tornadoes in Illinois a few days ago, I caught a first glimpse of the film trailer for “Noah,” set to hit theaters next spring.
Over the past decade (as I’ve written about), movies about either an oncoming apocalypse or a post-apocalyptic world have been on a constant loop. Having now drained the pool of every conceivable storyline, I suppose Paramount Pictures figured, why not go back to the very first Armageddon with next year’s “Noah.”
In the trailer, Noah, played by Russel Crowe, utters the words, “I saw water, death by water. And I saw new life.” Ironic how theaters are being flooded by apocalyptic disaster movies right when all these storms are hitting theaters!
There were some 81 reported tornadoes due to powerful storms across three states including central Illinois this weekend where six people died. Far worse is the destruction in the Philippines where there are some 2,275 confirmed deaths and another 3,665 hurt according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The pain and suffering felt by the victims of these disasters is as real as it comes. (And of course Israel is one of the first responders to any and all such tragedies.)
Yet there’s something in the way the thin veneer of a movie has of transforming real carnage into something manufactured out of celluloid.
Take for example the movie “Noah” being directed by Darren Aronofsky, a director with a knack for dancing the fine line between fantasy and reality and telling stories about characters who, depending on your take, hear voices in their head or are simply paranoid. Add a cocktail of drugs into the mix and voila, we have an Aronofsky fest.
This was the case in 2010’s “Black Swan,” where Natalie Portman’s Nina descended into a nightmare state, with a dose of ecstasy, over the pressures she had to endure to take on the role of the Swan Queen.
Likewise, in his “Requiem For a Dream”, he portrays hallucinations with drugs and bakes it into a psycho kiln of electroconvulsive therapy to create a movie about several characters’ delusions. He caps it off in the illusory hue of television’s carnival-like mirror when in Sara’s dream (played by Ellen Burstyn) she’s catapulted into TV land, winning the grand prize on a game show.
And in one of his earliest successes, “Pi”, he has number theorist Max Cohen, suffer cluster headaches, paranoia, and social anxiety disorder spliced onto a story that intertwines the Gematria and stock picks.
I’m guessing there will be a similar theme when our Noah, played by Crowe, is hearing G-d’s voice telling him to build an ark because a flood is coming and the audience will be made to wonder, as will most of his neighbors, if at age 600 he’s nuts or for real.
One can also assume Hollywood is going to graft a 21st century environmental theme onto the Biblical story—maybe even play Dylan’s “Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” or the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” as the credits role.
Written around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, some thought Dylan’s song referred to nuclear fallout (the cause célÃ¨bre of that day). However Dylan himself said that it wasn’t any specific reference and in a radio interview with Studs Terkel in ’63, responded,
“No, it’s not atomic rain, it’s just a hard rain. It isn’t the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that’s just gotta happen … In the last verse, when I say, ‘the pellets of poison are flooding the waters’, that means all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers.”
Indeed, when movies try to replicate disasters making them so palpable they practically become real – right as the news media is reporting on actual horrors – and turning them into spectacles, we can start to feel like we’re in an Aronofsky film.
This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post.