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Cinematographer Matthew Libatique Talks Ark and Arcs in 'Noah'

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood March 28, 2014 at 2:05PM

Darren Aronofsky has always been drawn to the mystical, and "Noah" is even ballsier than "Pi" or "The Fountain." Of course, it's divisive as environmental allegory and the conflict between religion and science. But I think it's a powerful evocation of creation and destruction, love and beauty, and the difficulty of raising a family. Talk about survival and rebirth: It's the ultimate road movie, according to cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who's shot every Aronofsky movie but "The Wrestler" because of a temporary rift.
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Noah

Darren Aronofsky has always been drawn to the mystical, and "Noah" is even ballsier than "Pi" or "The Fountain." Of course, it's divisive as environmental allegory and the conflict between religion and science. But I think it's a powerful evocation of creation and destruction, love and beauty, and the difficulty of raising a family. Talk about survival and rebirth: It's the ultimate road movie, according to cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who's shot every Aronofsky movie but "The Wrestler" because of a temporary rift.

Noah

In terms of lighting, though, there can be no doubt that "Noah" is a gorgeous, if eccentric, work with its desert vistas and lush, geothermal forests (shot on film and mostly in Iceland). It's extremely painterly.

"Darren and I have evolved visually and after 'The Fountain' he gravitated toward naturalism," Libatique suggests. "We kept that motif with 'Black Swan' and now with 'Noah.' Each section is rooted in naturalism, including the fantastical elements. But I like to think that the CG elements in the film [including the deluge and the rock creatures known as The Watchers from Industrial Light & Magic] are motivated by the live-action and that the live-action is inspired by naturalism. I think that's where it integrates well."

But for the first time, Libatique had little reference material to draw on aesthetically. Sure, they studied "The Zohar" (the mystical Jewish commentary on creation known as "The Kabbalah"), and when it came to the crucial lighting of the Ark, he relied heavily on atmosphere and common sense.

This article is related to: Noah, Darren Aronofsky, Cinematography, Immersed In Movies


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.