Regular readers will know that I recently reviewed Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! and favourably spoke of it when doing so but I also wanted to take the opportunity to speak about it at greater legnth, addressing its messages and the response it has received from those that have seen it. There will be spoilers in this piece so if you haven’t seen Mother! yet or don’t mind reading a little about it beforehand, read on.
Last year, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! Was released to widely divergent response. Critically it scored well but cinema-goers unleashed an ire the like I haven’t seen in a long time upon the film. People were actually angry, angry at its content, angry at its chaotic dream-like delivery but they were mostly angry that they just plain didn’t understand it. There was a contingent who just straight up didn’t like the film, no shitting of beds, they understood what it was saying but just didn’t dig it, they are people I can at least have some respect for, but when you come at a film with a vehemence usually reserved for a convicted criminal, then I have issues with you. Whether you like it or not, this is art, challenging, uncompromising and open to personal interpretation, hell, straight up inviting it, to lash out for not understanding and then taking offence that anyone could possibly find merit in it is a very backward way to look at a serious attempt at artfully crafting something more than your standard popcorn fare.
Mother! is a film that revels in its ability to shock you but make you think at the same time. Heavily steeped in metaphor, the film acts as an allegory for the destruction of the natural world by humanities own selfishness but also acts as a meditation on the destructive influence of religion and the deifying of figureheads such as God. Lawrence’s character represents Mother Nature, a pure, creative force of nurturing good, creating he own paradise in the home she shares with her husband, Bardem’s writer, who represents an admittedly low approximation of God, vain, egotistical and preoccupied by the love of others. When Ed Harris’s ill fan and Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife turn up, they are most certainly approximations of Adam & Eve and their two warring sons are that of Cain & Able. To continue the religious connotations we have original sin in the form of Eve breaking the “forbidden fruit” of the gem that Bardem coverts which he promptly casts them out of paradise for. Their warring sons fight over their fathers inheritance with one killing the other, just like Cain kills Able in the good book. Soon others come to see the writer to praise him for his work, humanities adoption of fanatical worship growing more and more aggressive and surreal as the film progresses, eventually turning into full on conflict that destroys the “paradise” Lawrence has created. The final and most shocking parallel comes in the birth of their son, a son the writer wants to share with the assembled masses who promptly kill him and feast on his flesh, a horrifying Christ metaphor utilised to shockingly powerful effect. This is all delivered in an increasingly chaotic, dreamlike and surreal presentation that leaves the brain reeling as the film careens off the rails with abandon off its predictive course, more than likely one of the many bugbears that people had with the film, I believe it to be one of the most original and thoughtful dramas of last year.
Mother! opened to above average critical reviews yet was met with more than a small amount of incredulity from the general cinema-going public. I understand this isn’t going to be for everyone and for some it may be too much to take and too abstract to comprehend when viewed casually but the vehemence reserved for this film on the likes of Rotten Tomatoes and even more so on its own Facebook page felt both unfair & gratuitous in its negativity, ranging from unconstructive anger at the strength of its content to just flat out flaming every aspect of its production. Aronofsky is no stranger to creating provocative works, this being possibly his least accessible mainstream release even when it has been subversively marketed otherwise but that doesn’t rob it completely of any artistic worth despite what some corners of the online community would want you to think. With Mother! he has created a stark, thought-provoking, dizzying fever-dream of a film that deliberately wants to push the buttons of it audience but also demands of them to contemplate its messages, the destruction of nature by thoughtless, destructive human nature at its basest, most careless and most selfish. If you haven’t seen Mother!, I would certainly advise you do so, particularly if you are a fan of Aronofsky’s, but I would ask you do so without distraction, with upmost attention and an open mind as only then will you reap its rewards from its powerful messages which feel all too relevant in this day and age.