One of the most haunting images in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah concerns a mountain peak that has not yet fully submerged. People cling to the peak, desperate to survive, and cry out for help from the Ark that drifts by in the background — but no help comes. Instead, a giant wave crashes against them all.
When I first saw the film, I remarked to the publicist who saw it with me that the image had reminded me of a painting, though I couldn’t put my figure on who or what it had reminded me of, specifically. The publicist suggested Hieronymus Bosch, a Dutch painter from the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
But it turns out the inspiration for that shot was much more recent than that. My Patheos colleague Rebecca Cusey just posted her own interview with Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel, and in it they reveal that the shot was inspired by the French artist Gustave Doré, who published his illustrated Bible in 1866:
Patheos: You took it down off the nursery wall, which I think needed to be done How much did you go back to older versions of the story. In the scene where the water first comes and they’re all on that rock of that reminded me of
Patheos: Is that the woodcutting?
DA: Yes, exactly, that’s good you’re the first person to pick up on that.
DA: That’s called the Doré shot, actually, it’s named after, that’s what we called it.
Here is The Deluge by Doré:
And here is a frame from the shot in question: