mother! is director Darren Aronofsky’s unsubtle metaphor, and frequently disturbingly visual, of the book of Genesis and so if you’re of a particularly religious leaning, or your pregnant, I can’t recommend this as part of your movie night but if you’re ready for an utterly unique and, certainly, distressing allegory for the limits that the mind can be pushed to, then come on in… and let’s talk about it…
While it’s usually apt to offer a description of events, it would do mother! an injustice because although it is about a couple and how their relationship is tested after uninvited guests turn up, it’s actually a deeper journey with endless questions, unsettling imagery and outstanding performances from leads Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. What I can try to do is break it down and share my process of thought but, much like the film, it may lose track every now and then but I’m hopeful it’ll also raise questions and answers of its own.
Lawrence, as Mother, gives us an astounding performance. We observe her personal demons, the questioning of her own existence and the need, and desire, of love and companionship. She’s fantastic in every sense. Overall mother! follows the point-of-view of Lawrence’s character, we’re close in and the focus pulls us inside her paranoia of always making sure ‘Him’ (Bardem) is okay, she’s obviously devoted to his life and success ahead of her own. When events happen, we witness them from Mother’s perspective so every jump, or surprise, comes as exactly that but it’s so smoothly achieved that you don’t realise it until you feel the anxiety that she does.
Bardem plays Him, a writer of sorts who’s struggling to find his inspiration – He’s both compelling and commanding but intriguingly as time moves forward, he’s also pathetically impressed by his supporters and – yet – equally always a partner of Mother and they somehow do ‘love’ each other. This is a complex relationship, that much is clear, but they’re devoted to the life they’ve built and will find their own personal happiness by whatever means possible.
However once you hit the latter stages and the downward spiral, everything you see really hits hard. The twisting insanity of faith is a clear ‘point’ though and how beyond rationality things can get but, for me, that’s okay. It symbolises the obsession and is specific with its suggestion of mob culture, and of the world’s overbearing desire for an answer, but it also says that a lot of the time there isn’t one. Life is just an endless cycle of everything, and nothing, all the time. Right?
Mother! isn’t afraid to point out the often-forgotten cannibalism of Christianity, alongside the shock and horror of how far people will go to be part of something they believe is important. It’s here that the film becomes a true, extreme experience with a driven narrative that rips right through the mind and soul, taking no prisoners and offering no easy involvement. It’s one hell of a unique vision, despite its fucked-up nature and apocalyptic set-pieces.
Aronofsky’s film is a brutal, deep-rooted allegory for the fixation of faith and the levels of absurdity that pushes the mind beyond certainty, but oddly, it’s also utterly compelling and absorbing even in its batshit crazy moments. To conclude: This is not a film you’ll forget.
NB: Watching the special features, you also get the understanding that even the producers, cinematographer and director delve into their own description of what they’ve made and that, my friends, makes something special. There’s no classic spiel and breakdown of what’s going on, there’s an entire base and the rest is down to you, and how you react. It’s insightful, especially depending on how you react.