We saw Darren Aronofsky‘s Mother! well over a week ago now, and yet it still only now we can form enough coherent thoughts to deliver our verdict. If that alone doesn’t sum up our state of mind upon sitting through this metaphorical horror from the master of the surreal and the disturbing, then frankly we’re stumped.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as the unnamed Mother, married to an older man (Him, played by Javier Bardem), a successful poet suffering from a terrible bout of writer’s block. Living together in a secluded country house, her idyllic lifestyle is turned upside down with the arrival of an elderly couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), who turn out to be admirers of Him’s work.
From there, the film takes a strange and unsettling turn, one that plays out in ways completely unexpected. The metaphors fly fast and hard, delivering moments that chill as much as they perplex. There’s multiple meanings layered throughout every tiny moment, whilst the character interactions create a deep sense of discomfort and awkwardness that verges on creepy, much in the same way Get Out achieved earlier this year.
The events that unfold border on nonsensical in the manner of a warped dream. Aronofsky poses questions through his visuals and his story, yet offers very little answers – interpretations and opinions about the true nature off the film will differ across the board. Is it a film about the artist’s inevitable god complex that stems from a creator and muse relationship? Is it a film about the cult of fandom and the admirer’s sense of ownership of art and culture? Or is it a film about how fame and appreciation inevitably destroys and rots?
Any of these interpretations could be correct, yet they could just as easily be wrong. Aronofsky has clearly set out to create a film with the distinct intention of igniting debate as to it’s themes and intentions. No matter your opinion on the film itself, you can certainly agree that in this respect, the director has succeeded in terms of what he wanted to achieve.
It’s a frustrating watch though – the performances are small but effective when it counts, whilst the dark, haunting visuals and general atmosphere of uncomfortable weirdness that pervades throughout are striking enough to keep the audience alert. But the lack of clarity isn’t as compelling or effective as it should be – at times the film feels more like a patchwork quilt of ideas, stitched together but barely matching up. The air of pretentiousness also ensures that any effective moments of horror are rendered inert.
Mother! may fail to find favour with mainstream audiences, but for those who truly live for discussing and deconstructing film and its layers of meaning and visual shorthand; it’s a gift that keep on giving. Through stunning but unsettling visuals and some truly horrifying yet domestic moments of horror, Aronofsky‘s latest puzzle will certainly be discussed and debated for years to come.