An Ongoing Tradition: Aronofsky’s Noah as 21st-Century Rewritten Scripture
AuthorsCollins, Matthew A.
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractDescribed by its director, Darren Aronofsky, as “the least biblical biblical film ever made,” Noah (2014) generated a huge amount of controversy among some Christian groups for its perceived radical departure from the biblical text. This article argues (i) that the departure is not in fact so great as some have claimed (with many apparent innovations grounded in pseudepigraphal and rabbinic literature), and (ii) that the strategies employed by the filmmakers reflect a retelling of the story which is in fact very much in line with the motivation and literary techniques of an expanded ancient tradition. It begins by noting the origins and development of the Israelite flood narrative, from its ancient Near Eastern roots through to the biblical account, before examining its continuing evolution through extrabiblical Second Temple and rabbinic literature (e.g., Jubilees, the Genesis Apocryphon, Genesis Rabbah, etc.) as part of an ongoing process of elaboration, clarification, interpretation, explanation, and harmonization. Through a close examination of the “innovative” material in Aronofsky’s film, the aims, techniques, and execution of the biblical epic in general, and Noah in particular, are shown to be thoroughly in line with those of so-called rewritten scripture, such that the film sits comfortably on a spectrum/continuum of “rewriting” the flood narrative that stretches back to the biblical text itself and beyond. Accordingly, this article considers what it means for a film to be “biblical”, arguing with regard to Noah that instances of departure from the text are in fact anticipated in, and/or entirely consistent with, an expanded “biblical” tradition, effectively rendering the film an example of 21st-century rewritten scripture.
CitationCollins, M. A. (2017). An ongoing tradition: Aronofsky’s Noah as 21st-Century rewritten scripture. In R. Burnette-Bletsch & J. Morgan (eds.) Noah as Antihero: Darren Aronofsky’s Cinematic Deluge (pp. 8-33). New York, NY: Routledge.
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