By Matthew Beinart
Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, Noah, a portrayal of the Biblical Genesis story starring Russell Crowe, has been met with controversy from Christian and Muslim leaders despite grossing over $292 million worldwide.
The film, released in late March, is now banned in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia for violating Islamic law and also inspired a response documentary, Noah and the Last Days, from creationist Ray Comfort.
While some have praised the film for it’s cinematic value regardless of its Biblical source material, a number of religious critics have cited flaws in its interpretation.
Aronofsky incorporated not only the Biblical story, but also other traditional ancient Jewish texts, including Genesis Apocryphon and the book of Jubilees, according to Jewish Studies Professor Maxine Grossman.
“These texts are not part of the canonical Jewish Bible, but they were written by Jews and probably enjoyed significant popularity in their day,” Grossman said. “I think that a version of the Noah story that takes these other texts into account is going to be more interesting and more richly textured.”
The film takes several artistic liberties by deviating from the original story, including having Noah’s wife portrayed as a central character whereas she doesn’t speak in the Biblical version.
“When you’re dealing with something like Noah where everything is a miracle… as soon as you start to interpret it, when you cast Russell Crowe, it’s an interpretation,” Aronofsky said in a recent interview with ABC News regarding the controversy. “But, it’s about the spirit.”
“I can’t think of any reason that a screenwriter has to be any more faithful to a biblical story than to a Greek myth or a medieval Christian legend,” associate professor of Jewish History Bernard Cooperman said.
Cooperman compared the reaction to the film to “Life of Brian” and “Passion of the Christ,” two other examples in which the filmmakers took a creative license and received backlash for their portrayal of biblical texts.
While the film garnered a polarizing response from religious critics and film reviews, Noah has elicited more a passive reaction from students.
“I’m not too excited about seeing it and I probably won’t,” sophomore community health major Max Katz said. “I wasn’t excited about bible stories in Hebrew school when I was forced to learn them and I can’t say I’ve changed much.”