Darren Aronofsky has described his upcoming blockbuster Noah as "the least biblical biblical film ever made", and dismissed criticism that it strays too far from the Old Testament text.
Based on the book of Genesis, the film stars Russell Crowe as the titular character with supporting roles from Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, and has cost Paramount over $100 million to make.
Featuring at the beginning of Hollywood's 'Year of the Bible', debate surrounding the movie has been fraught with contention in recent months, as Christians, Jews and Muslims have lashed out at the way in which it supposedly diverges from the original Scriptures.
Paramount has nonetheless been keen to encourage faith communities to embrace the film, releasing an explanatory message to accompany marketing materials that reads: "While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide."
Aronofsky said in a recent interview with the Damaris Trust that his movie was "completely honouring the text".
However, the New Yorker reports that the director, whose previous credits include Pi, Black Swan and The Wrestler, has defied his critics, declaring proudly that his film is the "least biblical biblical" movie ever made.
Several different cuts of the film were made, some with a more overtly religious message, and were then tested with trial audiences, though Aronofsky has criticised this method.
"I don't give a f*** about the test scores. My films are outside the scores," he told Variety magazine. "I'm more concerned about getting non-believers into the theatre or people who are less religious."
Despite his comments, religious figures and organisations have been keen to encourage believers to see the film, such as Jonathan Snowden, biblical adviser for Noah, who has argued that the movie will be valuable in opening up conversations and reflections on the Biblical narrative, mercy, faith and intimacy with God.
"We can have fun, spirited debates of how you'd do it differently if you had $125 million to make your version of Noah's ark, but let's focus on the opportunity for now and use it as a springboard for holy conversations," he says in an interview with the Christian Post.
The film has so far been banned in several Islamic countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and Qatar, as it is deemed offensive to depict Allah or his prophets in art. It is "important to respect these religion and not show the film", the director of media content at the National Media Centre in the UAE has said.
Other predominantly Muslim are expected to follow suit ahead of the movie's release later this month.