An Archetypical Disaster Story

The Deluge
R and D Unknown. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1911
Print: Prelinger Archives San Francisco

“The biblical flood is an archetypical disaster story that exists in various renditions throughout world cultures and artwork including film (…). These Bible-based stories make audio-visually explicit what was sometimes only implicit (or missing) within Holy Writ by intermingling biblical stories with (sometimes incredulous) poetic license and other plot extrapolations for dramaturgical effect. (…) For example, The Deluge (Vitagraph 1911) was America’s first pictorial presentation of the great flood. Set in 3317 B.C., God decides to destroy human wickedness, except for Noah and family who build an ark, load two of every living creature onboard, and survive a forty-day wordwide inundation. Beached upon Mount Ararat, Noah builds an altar and gives thanks, whereupon God’s rainbow physicalizes his convenant to never again destroy the world with water.”
Anton Karl Kozlovic: Noah and the Flood: a Cinematic Deluge. In: Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch (ed.): The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG 2016, p. 35


“Catholic and Protestant leaders participated actively in the production of the censorship codes that would regulate the content of Hollywood films from the late 1920s through the 1960s. At the same time, some Protestant and Catholic leaders advocated the use of religiously themed movies as a way of enhancing and modernizing worship or of supplementing traditional religious education. Some even produced their own films for religious audiences. (…) From the earliest years of filmmaking in America, the wide range of films that audiences attended included films that told Bible stories. The Life of Moses (Vitagraph 1909), The Deluge (Vitagraph 1911), and From the Manger to the Cross (Kalem 1912) were among the first Bible films made for release in the United States. Almost twenty others followed in the silent film period and into the sound years of the late 1920s. In addition, Americans had access to religious films produced in Europe, and these were widely exhibited in theaters, synagogues, and churches.”
Gary Laderman, Luis León: Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO 2014, p. 516


>>> Arthur Melbourne Cooper’s Tale of the Ark