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.
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.