The ‘least biblical film about Noah ever made’ faces a deluge of criticism from religious groups

Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already banned the film with Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait expected to follow suit

Noah, the $125m blockbuster starring Russell Crowe described by its director as the “least biblical biblical film ever made”, is having to navigate choppy waters as religious groups raise opposition to the adaptation while some countries have already banned it. 

The epic retelling of the biblical flood story was a gruelling shoot, with filming having to be postponed when the set was threatened by Hurricane Sandy. Director Darren Aronofsky also had to battle with studio heads over the final cut.

Now it faces further issues as Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have banned the film with Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait expected to follow suit. The Muslim countries are furious over the movie’s portrayal of a prophet, saying it “contradicts the teachings of Islam”. The Egyptian Sunni Muslim institute Al-Azhar said it prohibited the screening of movies showing such figures and said the film would antagonise the “feelings of the faithful”.

While studio Paramount Pictures might have hoped for support from Christians in America ahead of the film’s release, it appears to have been mistaken. A series of religious conservative groups criticised the portrayal for not following the Bible story closely enough, with some complaining that the character of Noah was “too dark” after seeing early screenings.

The complaints prompted the studio to put a disclaimer on its marketing materials saying the film was “inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is the cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide”.

Russell Crowe as Noah: the first environmentalist, according to the film’s director (Allstar/Paramount) Russell Crowe as Noah: the first environmentalist, according to the film’s director (Allstar/Paramount)
There have also been reports of clashes between the director and the studio, which feared the film would inflame conservative Christians. Paramount, which had final cut approval, made a series of re-edits of the finished film to make sure it would appeal to religious viewers.

While Aronofsky’s version came in at two hours long, the studio later tested an 86-minute alternative version featuring a montage of religious figures at the beginning and a Christian rock song at the end. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this version did not test well and the studio later returned to Aronofsky’s vision. “They tried what they wanted to try and eventually they came back,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “I was upset of course.”

The director added: “ Noah is the least biblical biblical film ever made. I don’t give a f*** about the test scores.”

Aronofsky, whose films include Black Swan and The Wrestler, has wanted to make the film for 15 years, and said he would use it to address environmentalist themes, claiming that Noah was “the first environmentalist”.

The director said the film was made for “believers and non-believers”, telling Variety: “I’m more concerned about getting non-believers into the theatre or people who are less religious.” The film co-stars Jennifer Connelly and some British talent, including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone and Emma Watson.

It opens in the UK on 4 April but had its world premiere in Mexico City this week. Aronofsky told the audience: “Anything you’r e expecting, you’re f***ing wrong.” The studio has placed a strict embargo on the reviews until the US release later this month.

It is hardly the first religious film to incite criticism. The Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorsese, faced a wave of protests and boycotts in the US and was banned in countries including Mexico and Turkey when it was released in 1988. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004) was also controversial due to its graphic portrayal of torture and crucifixion, but it went on to become a global box office hit, taking $612m.

This year is to see a slew of religious films open in the US including Son of God, Heaven is for Real, starring Greg Kinnear, and Exodus, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale as Moses.  

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen