Charlie Kenney | Thursday, October 5, 2017
Darren Aronofsky makes films about the obsessed.
His debut feature, “Pi,” deals with a man obsessed with finding the equation for life. “Requiem for a Dream” deals with a heroin addict obsessed with getting that next high. “The Wrestler” deals with a professional athlete obsessed and consumed by his trade. And his box-office hit, “Black Swan,” deals with a ballerina obsessed with perfection and pleasing those around her. Upon hearing about the release of his most recent feature, “mother!,” I naturally assumed it would fall into the same category — a mother obsessed with her children, her husband or whatever Aronofsky so desired.
I was wrong.
“mother!” has hints of obsession — just as every good film does — but by no means is the film dominated by a protagonist and his or her single desire. It’s a film about — if anything — human ignorance, environmental issues, religious fanaticism, individualism and trust. It’s 100 lessons that Aronofsky wants to teach — a task that he completes in a beautiful, although sometimes confusing manner.
The lessons the film teaches, however, don’t work without the content.
The content of the film is, for the most part, an allegory. Jennifer Lawrence’s character, “mother,” is an embodiment of earth, and Javier Bardem’s character, “him,” is an embodiment of God the Father. The house they live in together, and which the entirety of the movie is set in, is an allegory for the planet Earth and the Garden of Eden.
The plot is essentially the story of the Bible told within the octagonal house and through its inhabitants. For example, the first unwelcomed visitor that knocks on the door and is let in by “him” is a character who only goes by “man” and is meant to portray Adam from Genesis. He was the first man that God created in the Bible, so he is also the first man that Javier Bardem’s character (God) lets into the four-story house that in “mother!” is his Garden of Eden.
Aronofsky’s modern interpretations of biblical stories persist throughout the entire movie — building a narrative that not only portrays the story of the Bible in a completely unique way, but also portrays the destruction of the Earth by ignorant men and women. This makes the often distant destruction of the Earth incredibly humanized — something that the avid environmentalist Aronofksy desperately wanted to achieve.
It’s an allegory that demands a second watching to fully understand and appreciate. Every event that occurs has significance, just as every word in the Bible has significance for Christians. A scar on an old man’s back visible while he pukes is a symbol for the rib that was taken from Adam to create Eve; a frog that jumps out from underneath an oil barrel for a split second is one of several allusions to the Egyptian plagues from Exodus; and a casual sexual encounter between two seemingly non-important characters after a rule is broken is indicative of the creation of original sin. It’s a film that needs to be watched, re-winded and re-watched with painstaking attention to detail if one truly wishes to catch everything Aronofsky wants you to see.
In regards to the script of “mother!,” it is one that took Aronofsky five days to compose — a period of time in incredibly stark contrast to the years that his other scripts took to write. It makes sense that it only took him five days, however. All he needed to write it was a little bit of focus and a lot of creativity; he had a blueprint for the plot in front of him the entire time — the Bible.
Thankfully, despite the unique blending of fiction, religion and social commentary, the film is incredibly well done.
Aronofsky’s primary quartet of Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris all put on performances worthy of praise, with each one respectively portraying God the Father, Mother Earth and sinful humans, all demonstrating intricacies and feelings. Lawrence, however, stands out from the pack. Throughout the entire movie, her character is torn between wanting and not wanting everything that is happening to her and the “Earth,” between forgiveness and anger, between solitude and publicity. Lawrence — an actress who many have written off as a box office heroine lacking any real talent or depth — captures all of these superbly through believable and poignant emoting. In this movie, she’s a continuation of the Oscar-nominated “Silver Lining’s Playbook” Lawrence we got to know in 2012, not the younger, more immature “Hunger Games” version she has become so synonymous with.
The brilliant plot and acting, however, do not make up for the controversy of the film. It’s graphic, it’s gory, it’s offensive and, at times, it’s cringe-worthy. It’s a film that fully deserves the F Cinemascore that it received. It’s not a film that anyone should go see if they want to relax.
But if you have a stomach and a love for good films, critics and scores shouldn’t stop you from seeing it. Sure, it’s no “Black Swan” or “Requiem for a Dream” that will leaving you begging for more pleasing aesthetics. It will leave you begging for something more worthwhile: to watch it a second time.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfieffer
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5