When people saw the trailers for the latest Darren Aronofsky film mother!, many people expected that the filmmaker was going to make a return to the horror genre, similar to The Black Swan. It certainly sold me on it’s claustrophobic and unnerving imagery that made me curious. I, along with a lot of people, walked out of the theater wondering what exactly we just witnessed. I’ll say upfront that the movie taps into the surreal, experimental kind of style, that I haven’t seen since Terrence Malicks The Tree of Life or Charlie Kaufmans Synecdoche, New York. All these films are artist’s dreams, but can be polarizing the mainstream audiences.
Darren Aronofsky has been known to explore into experimental areas before with Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and even Black Swan. This ranges from out of order storytelling, camera focus on odd objects, and especially cinematography He uses a lot of these tactics to separate the films world from our own, accomplishing his goal of making his work feel more unnerving then the typical blockbuster. Audience members may argue that they wanted something more logical, but often don’t consider enough just what logic was even established, if any. Let’s see if mother! pushes once too much for it’s audience to think.
In a paradise-like country home that’s separated from society, a young women, only known as Mother (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is focused on renovating the house, making it clean and well built desiring to making it heaven for her and her husband. Only known as Him (played by Javier Bardem), he’s a famous poet with writer’s block whose hoping that the home their building will inspire him once more. As she’s painting or spackling, she starts to see visions of a heartbeat that seems to slow down as the film progresses.
One day, a Man (played by Ed Harris) visits, looking for a place to stay. Though Mother is suspicious of the stranger, Him insists that he stay for the night. The next morning, Man’s wife, Woman (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) comes to find her husband and stays too. The two enjoy conversing with Him, but Mother is wondering when their going to leave. Things become more complicated when Man’s two sons arrive, cause some trouble, and results in even more people arriving at the house.
I have to stop there, as the third act of mother! gets insane from there. This is the point that is going to polarize the audience. I will understand if people like or hate the movie, though I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I had to ponder on where I stood, as I was impressed with the ambition that Aronofsky wanted to portray. It was written well and allowed the story (or lack of…) to keep my attention all they way to the end. But at the same time. I could get exactly what this movie was going for: humanized representations of the early days of the bible. What do I mean with this?
Javier Bardem is supposed to be God, Jennifer Lawrence is mother earth, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are Adam and Eve, and I could go on with what was supposed to be represented. The problem is that I think it comes around as too obvious and could have benefited from being more vague, something more in tune to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ironically, much of the noise in the background tries to say so much about everything and that came off as overly pretentious. Maybe I’m supposed to be reading it as something else, but Aronofsky tried to bite more then he could chew.
I’ll give this three crystal rocks out of five. I give the movie points for ambition, but it may be the most unfocused Aronofsky story of all. I can’t say it was bad from beginning to end, but the second half could have used both less, but more vagueness. It’s to put down on paper, but I’d still suggest Pi and Rosemary’s Baby as an example of what mother! needs to be. I’d still encourage film buffs to check it out to make their own conclusions, but their probably going to expect more.