Is “mother!” Causing Confusion or Contemplation?
By Yanit Mehta
Let’s get some things about the reception of this movie out of the way before actually delving into the mess of metaphors and symbolism that is the film “mother!” With a 20-page long press release and a premiere followed by Twitter battles between everyone in the film industry, Aronofsky’s creation has managed to get everyone riled up to say the least. With a 67 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (6.6 average rating), the movie clearly has its audience split. However, before discarding Aronofsky as a snob, I would implore movie-goers to appreciate this film for all the things it’s trying to say.
On the surface, Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” is a horror film about a poet plagued with writer’s block while his wife is building a perfect home for them away from society, only to have her paradise shattered by uninvited guests who keep showing up for inexplicable reasons. However, in reality, it’s a film about so much more. “mother!” manages to make several statements about today’s society through an ingenious, never-before-seen narrative. Aronofsky has crafted a plot that is more or less a retelling of the story of Creation but this time from the perspective of Mother Earth. The film references the Bible quite directly, addressing Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and religion’s influence on people. The plot wraps these references around the idea that God’s dream of always trying to make humans happy while ignoring their abuse of Mother Earth in the process is crazed. This narrative, along with the great team behind it, has managed to produce a film for the public to talk about for the months to come.
Now, Darren Aronofsky is an eccentric director at the top of his game (stress on the eccentric), bringing everything he’s got to the table. Coupled with great performances across the board from an extremely talented cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris and some other big names, the movie achieved what it set out to do.
Yes, the movie does get overwhelming at times, and yes, it is a lot to take on for casual viewers who just want to leave their brain outside the theatre, but in today’s world ridden with climate change deniers, the alt-left and alt-right and people using religion to achieve despicable personal goals, I would urge people to go watch a movie that somehow manages to address all of those issues and more. I applaud every member of this heavyweight cast to have taken on this controversial project.
Speaking of the cast, Jennifer Lawrence, brings her A-game. Aronofsky demands this of her in the film. The movie is dominated by over-the-shoulder shots and close-ups, with the camera almost always following Lawrence as the audience members are supposed to see things from her perspective. We can only see what she sees and the camera movement quite literally makes us embody Lawrence’s character’s psyche. We feel all her turmoil and happiness because we are right there with her in all her struggles. Matthew Libatique, the cinematographer, also does a great job of establishing the feel of this film. Even when everything seems to be going just fine for our protagonist, the eerie vibe of the story never leaves. The film plays with colors (keep an eye out for all the yellows) and lighting as well in ways that have not been seen in mainstream cinema for a while now.
“mother!” is a complex, puzzling and thrilling film that will keep its viewers constantly on their toes, perplexed, guessing and wondering, “What the heck does any of this even mean?” However, “mother!” makes its audience think critically, and that’s something we lack today. It doesn’t talk down to its audience but expects them to understand and take in everything they can possibly fathom and still have something left to think about for weeks on end. In a cinematic era dominated by Marvel movies, (which I have no problems with), an original, infuriatingly complex and ambitiously thought-provoking film like “mother!” deserves all the appreciation it can get because that’s what great art is supposed to do. Kudos to Paramount for taking the chance on this controversial, theological, rage-filled piece of art.