MOTHER OF GREAT INVENTION
WOMEN give, men take and the Old Testament crashes into modern anxiety in director Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!
It is an audacious, bold and fascinating fever dream of a film. It’s an allegory for, well, everything (the environment, marriage, art, spirituality, you name it!), that will challenge, distress and edify anyone who chooses to submit themselves to this creation for two hours.
Like many Aronofsky endeavours, Mother! doesn’t fit neatly into one genre. It starts out as a sort of psychological thriller and chamber drama about a couple living in a stately and remote home, and devolves gradually and then very suddenly into jaw-dropping chaos that almost seems to be testing the viewer.
How much of Jennifer Lawrence’s suffering can you take before covering your eyes? Or storming out of the theatre?
This film begs for a viewing unencumbered by lengthy summarisation. It’s not that it defies explanation, what happens is fairly straightforward as far as nightmare logic is concerned. But the less you know the better.
The setting is a grand Victorian home. There lives a married couple (Lawrence and Javier Bardem), and it is peaceful and bright.
Then one night, a strange man (Ed Harris) comes to the door. Bardem’s character, a famous poet suffering extreme writer’s block, invites him in, and the paradise Mother has so painstakingly created begins to crumble. The next day, the man’s wife (a wickedly funny Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up too. Mother, while trying to be polite and a good hostess, is bewildered by the sudden changes and her own husband’s apparent disinterest in her objections to these strangers occupying their home.
This section is really quite funny, as Mother grapples with her absent husband and rude house guests who drink their liquor, break their valuables and ask invasive questions about why she doesn’t yet have children.
It is a host’s worst nightmare, and it gets worse for poor Mother – the only sane person around, who of course is predestined to be driven crazy by everyone else.
Aronofsky has a special appreciation for hyperbolic depictions of female madness and suffering, whether it’s an ageing woman looking to lose a few kilos in Requiem for a Dream, a ballerina striving for perfection in Black Swan, or a wife just looking to make an impeccable home for the person she loves in Mother!
It is a tense and exciting film, one of Aronofsky’s best, and Lawrence has never been better. Hers is a truly stunning performance full of beauty, empathy and rage at her own powerlessness, and the greed and apathy spiralling out of control around her.
Mother! demands to be seen more than once, and afterwards discussed and dissected. I’d also recommend watching the credits for the names of the other characters who come into their lives.
My heart has not stopped its anxious pounding, nor my head from spinning since seeing this film.
Mother, may I have a Xanax? – AP
DISTURBING: Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem