Filling the silver screen with the vast array of human emotion, and the consequence of existence, Darren Aronofsky has held nothing back in his latest release Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. Brief glimpses and echoes of his past films are certainly noticeable, capturing the essence of A Requiem For A Dream’s uncomfortable environment.
Rich full of metaphors, symbolism, and emotion; the story delves straight into biblical referencing, depicting the fevered war of humanity versus nature, Him versus Her. The film itself sparked some controversy, and it is clear to see why. Mother! urges more into being an experience than it does a film. The harsh, critical view of religion causing some outrage, and the depiction of a disturbing, irrational God (rarely ever seen on the big screen) certainly resulted in mixed opinions when it comes to Aronofsky’s film.
An intense parable of personal psychological horror and severe artistic expression is brought to life through mother (Jennifer Lawrence), and the house she inhabits with her love, Him (Javier Bardem). Although all characters are unnamed in the film, it is quick to assert the roles of Lawrence and Bardem.
He is a famous poet, a writer suffering from frustration, sitting upstairs day in, day out, attempting to finish his masterpiece. While she cooks, cleans, and restores the house, possessing a rooted connection with it, as if it were a living presence. Upon the arrival of a stranger, claiming to be a surgeon who mistook their house for a bed and breakfast, a strong sense of anxiety is created. Overjoyed at the possibility of fresh inspiration, Him invites the stranger to stay the night, disregarding his wife’s subtle but clear discomfort. The next day brings the appearance of the stranger’s wife, who is greeted with open arms by Him, insisting to mother that they let them stay. Increasingly discomforted, mother is subjected to scrutiny and teasing from the stranger’s wife, probing into the couple’s lack of children and sex lives. What follows is nothing short of chaos, fuelled by the writer’s constant desire for love, fickle forgiveness, worship and personal growth. Him allows the chaos to unfold. More and more strangers begin to disrupt the sanctity Lawrence’s character provided. Him refuses to acknowledge his wife as anything more than his muse, never seeing her as something other than a vessel built to love him without question.
The camera, following only Mother, in a series of follow shots and 16mm close-ups (designed to capture and replicate the characters stress), forces the position of mother, the role of mother nature, on to the viewer, as we are merely able to witness Lawrence’s struggle, unable to act or help. Aronofsky throws emotion at the audience, forcing you entirely to feel how she feels and live what she is living.
The narrative itself can be read into from a thousand different perspectives, even as simple as the sad and slow story of a marital breakdown. Carried and executed perfectly by the cast, especially Lawrence, who pours emotion onto the screen. This film is not a viewing experience for everyone, and is certainly more Art House than Hollywood. Described as a psychological horror, do not expect the cliché scares or predictable moments that come with the genre. Mother! is insanity, and sets out to unnerve you, not scare you. It begs you for self-reflection. An extreme artistic approach to storytelling which has been touched upon through the likes of other horrors, such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017).
This film, without a doubt, will leave you angry. It will invade your personal space, holding back nothing, even the gruesome, twisted violence of humanity. It will make you stressed, anxious, annoyed, frustrated as the silent observer. The emotional rollercoaster that is Aronofsky’s Mother! will leave an impression that’ll last a life time. It is purely a brutal portrayal of every strand of female suffering. A reaction to and product of religion, war, society and the silent suffering of women.