Mother! is equally thrilling and suffocating
Reviews of Darren Aronofsky's Mother! (2017) have been mixed, but with one common feature: shock. And like his The Fountain (2006) it is another one of his deliberate art-house films. In a Q&A after the film, he proclaims that after working with rockstar composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, he scrapped the entire score, and that there were only three shots for the entire film. Aronofsky also went on to admit that he did not storyboard the film. It's not immediately obvious, but after briefly reflecting on the film, one remembers Jennifer Lawrence's disturbed face occupying most of the film, and the rest consisting of her P.O.V. of a crazed, obsessed, and convincing performance by Javier Bardem. One can call the film tense, horrifying, or what have you, but it is actually built entirely on Aronofsky's newfound infatuation with Jennifer Lawerence. "Jenn," as Aronofsky repeatedly referred to Lawrence, has infatuated a variety of hotshot directors and producers; she only recently settled for Aronofsky as a romantic partner. Like all newfound lovebirds, their relationship is suffocating, as is her presence on the screen. Perhaps Aronofsky had to woo her trust to persuade her to endure a brutally abusive scene: Lawrence, beaten and stripped by a mob.
Horrifying, yes, but also tedious—except for those, like Aronofsky, infatuated with Lawrence. Others who live for terror and discomfort in film will also enjoy it. Ultimately, it is a heavy-handed metaphorical film (to say more would be a spoiler), but with some fine-tuned craft. Behind the film's grandiosity and thrill is simply an artist’s auto-critique, similar to Rosemary's Baby (1968). After viewing the film you'll understand that I resisted spoiling that motif of the film. But I do not altogether discourage your sitting through Mother!
Written by William Clark
Photos by Isaac von Hallberg