Wednesday 5 February 2014

Floods in films

Floods played a crucial role in creating the disaster movie. One of the first examples was the 1933 film Deluge. It opens with a tsunami heading towards New York City. Skyscrapers collapse and people run for their lives. Then a huge wave bashes against the shore.
To modern viewers, the flood sequence looks a bit amateurish, with the buildings obviously models, but it became famous, and was plundered for re-use in later films. Seventy years after it was made, it demonstrated its resonance by influencing one of the most successful motion pictures of all time, Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow.
This time, it’s climate change that brings a dreadful flood to New York City, which sees a ghost ship sailing along Fifth Avenue, and a few human survivors taking refuge in the Public Library. Typically, until the last minute, the politicians try to deny there’s anything wrong.
When it was made in 1995, the futuristic Waterworld, was the most expensive movie ever. It features a world that has been completely submerged because of some dreadful act by humans many years before.  Kevin Costner (pictured) plays ‘the Mariner’ a lone hi-tech yachtsman who sails around trying to live like a decent fellow – not easy when most of the other remaining people are thoroughly ghastly.
For the full story, see my new book, Flood: Nature and Culture (Reaktion Books ISBN 978 1 78023 196 9) which also includes chapters on how floods have been portrayed in literature and art, on history’s deadliest floods, on how flood myths appear in religions all over the world, on how some of the most ambitious structures ever built by humans have been erected to protect against flooding, and on the impact that climate change may have on humanity’s attempts to combat floods in the future.
*This is me being interviewed about the floods on BBC Radio Kent -


  1. Am enjoying reading your book. It is much more compelling than most of the movies I have seen featuring floods

  2. you are too kind. some v good pics in the book, esp one of a flash flood warning sign in the desert and one of a huge Dutch dyle