Mother! (2017)

Review #1,493

Director:  Darren Aronofsky
Cast:  Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Plot:  A couple's relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

Genre:  Drama / Mystery
Awards:  Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
Runtime:  121 mins
Rating:  NC16 for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language
Distributor:  United International Pictures

“God help you.”

The singular Darren Aronofsky is back with another batshit film—Mother!, a film shrouded in secrecy for the entire time, and marketed with panache with a series of attention-grabbing posters and a tantalising trailer.

It is a cause for celebration because it is one of those rare auteur-driven films that comes with the far-reaching backing of a major distributor—Paramount Pictures.  By planting his star (and muse), Jennifer Lawrence, in the center of the film, Aronofsky has effectively sold his vision through star power, and for devoted fans of his, himself as the visionary.

And my word, Mother! is certainly a work of a filmmaker with total control of his craft, from the performances to cinematography to sound design, the latter of which brings the film sonically to another level, particularly in its second half.  If only audiences had the wherewithal to appreciate it—poor word-of-mouth means an abysmal run at the box-office.

Shot in 16mm (one could feel the grainy texture of each shot), with the camera often circling around Lawrence’s character in claustrophobic medium close-ups, the film charts the psychological descent of a woman who is confused by the things that are happening around her.

You see, her husband (Javier Bardem) is a renowned poet suffering from a severe writer’s block.  They lead a tranquil life, until the arrival of a man (Ed Harris), and later, a woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) one night.

Masquerading as a psychological horror-mystery, a ground that is no stranger to the director whose Black Swan (2010) remains to be one of his most compelling creations, Mother! transcends its genre underpinnings into a surreal phantasmagoria of astonishing and shocking scenes.

To say that the film is very dark and plunges you into the deep depths of despair is an understatement. Aronofsky holds you captive as a mental prisoner from the first to the last shot—and you may find your acumen for rationality momentarily eroded as you experience the film.

I think the best way to come out of it, sanity intact and all, is to read the film as a positive religious allegory—a story about spiritual atonement, of the (turbulent) symbiosis between God and Man, in which one entity has to figure out the other.

In this regard, I would even propose seeing Mother! as the third of Aronofsky’s “Trilogy of Faith”, together with The Fountain (2006) and Noah (2014).  Because any other reading—of gender subjugation, of Satan-worshipping, of Man’s self-destruction etc., would be—and soberingly—a reading of our very reality.

Verdict:  Holy mother of… vision by the one and only Aronofsky in this insane allegorical whirlwind masquerading as a psychological horror-mystery.  




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