Thursday, May 11, 2006
Antediluvian: Part II
Yesterday, I talked about current films which propose that our, and our children's generation -- due to global warming -- may soon be referred to as antediluvian. So, I wanted to take a quick look back at how films throughout the years -- both documentaries and fictional -- have addressed the flood which gave birth to the word antediluvian -- Noah's Flood. It has always amazed me how one of the most violent stories in the Bible -- a story in which God is so angry He wishes to destroy His entire creation, by drowning it -- became such a beloved children's fable. Hundreds upon hundreds of children's books and children's Bibles are dedicated to the story of Noah's Flood. Not just books, but baby blankets, mobiles, crib sheets, lamps and curtains are sold the world over with the Noah imagery. The story has also been the inspiration for animal shelters, coin-operated arcade games, comic strips, decorative dishes, magnets and puzzles. Live stage productions of the story are performed regularly in Christian theaters across the country, and the story was recently adapted into an off-Broadway musical called The Ark. Notable attempts to address the Noah story on screen have included Michael Curtiz's 1929 silent version Noah's Ark, and director John Huston's telling (in which he himself plays Noah) in The Bible...In the Beginning. Walt Disney created two animated shorts about Noah's Ark -- the first in 1933 called Father Noah's Ark, and the second, in 1959 (its first stop-motion production) called simply, Noah's Ark. (The latter version was nominated for an Oscar). Modern versions of the story on film, such as The Last Flight of Noah's Ark and the TV movie Noah (starring Tony Danza!), did not make much of an impact. The below average 1999 miniseries Noah's Ark, with Jon Voight as Noah, holds a sentimental place in my heart only because it was the last film I ever saw with my father (as he lay in his hospital bed in CCU). The simple act of our watching a film together made me think, for a moment, everything would be ok. (I was wrong.) Somewhat of a curiosity when it was released theatrically in 1976, In Search of Noah's Ark, was a documentary which attempted to prove the authenticity of the Biblical account of the Noah story. (The success of this film led to the release -- a few years later -- of In Search of Historic Jesus.) It also spawned The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark, a 1993 TV documentary which claimed to have authentic photos of the legendary ship, only to be proven a hoax. (The Noah legend would also show up on TV in such series as Unsolved Mysteries and Biography.) A less sensational documentary on Noah's Flood was the National Geographic production entitled The Quest for Noah's Flood. Rather than attempt to prove the existence of a ship high atop a mountain, or a worldwide flood, this engrossing film follows the Black Sea expedition of Robert Ballard -- the man who discovered the Titanic -- as he attempts to help prove the theory of respected geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman, that Noah's Flood was a local flood of great magnitude which ultimately created the Black Sea as we know it today. I will admit to an ongoing fascination with the Noah story -- afterall, it has survived 10,000 years! But, I have long since stopped believing that Noah's Flood was a worldwide event. Rather than wonder about a boat on a mountain, I have become more fascinated with discovering (with as much accuracy as possible) what the historical event which became the Noah story, actually was. I think film could help to illuminate this as well. The documentary that has yet to be (but should be) made is one based on Robert M. Best's theory that the Noah Flood was a local river flood which lasted six days in what is now southern Iraq. Noah escaped, at the last minute, on a commercial river barge, with a handful of his farm animals and his family, and floated in the Persian Gulf for a while, before grounding and meeting other survivors of the flood. All religious implications aside, a film that could shed light on the actual historical event which created a story that has lasted 10,000 years would be fascinating!