Darren Aronofsky is a pretty good director. The Fountain is one of my favorites, Noah is rather under appreciated, and I have yet to see Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. It is hard to put my finger on it because I am not expert, but the man knows how to put together a beautiful picture. He has a very well defined visual style in service to his films’ dreamlike atmosphere, regardless if they are fantastical or realistic. Mother! seems like a departure from his previous work, taking place in a small enclosed space with a strong feeling of claustrophobia. Was this a good change of pace or should you watch The Fountain again?
While trying to settle into their tranquil life, Him and Mother are visited by a mysterious couple looking for a place to stay at their home in the wilderness. It does not take long for the situation to spiral out of control as more and more guests come to the house.
Mother! is not a logical movie by any means, following Aronofsky’s dreamlike aesthetic from start to finish. You have to suspend your disbelief the whole way through because everything from the acting to the set is symbolic. Nitpickers will lose their mind in Lovecraftian insanity trying to understand this film with a logic that does not exist.
I will say, before I get into spoilers, that Mother! is a rare gem of horror. It touches a part of you that no jump-scare or creepy monster can ever hope to. It is something that pokes at your psyche, that awakens a fear and anxiety that most movies cannot, especially those of today. It is a deeply disturbing film and I recommend it completely, but get ready because it goes from one to HOLY SHIT very quickly.
Now onto spoilers:
The story is a retelling of the Bible. It starts at Genesis, then Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, the Flood, Crucifixion (you have no idea), and ends with Armageddon. It skips over certain details and I may have missed some things, but each character represents a key player in those stories with an interesting twist. Following the trend set in Noah, Aronofsky combines environmentalism and Abrahamic spirituality into one.
Javier Bardem plays God and he lives in a house, the World, built by Mother (Earth), played by Jennifer Lawrence. The house is Eden with everything the two of them could want. When God lets in Man and Woman, played Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, the house and Mother slowly deteriorate both physically and mentally. It is only after Man and Woman are cast out that things begin to improve, Mother becoming pregnant with His child, Jesus. Before the child is born, Him becomes more popular among new people, and they start to worship him.
That is as far as I will get with the narrative. You really have to experience first hand the horror and anxiety of the situation that follows and how Aronofsky interprets the latter events of the Bible.
Mother! is as much an art-piece as it is a think-piece. The way it is shot, the visuals, and acting lend themselves to the study of the relationship between God, the world, and humanity. When the worshipers come into the house, they destroy, and steal things without regard for Mother’s pleas. They abuse her environment because Him told them everything is to be shared and he loves them. It gets to a point where the house becomes a war-zone as soldiers, an allegory for the Romans (apt), kill the worshipers until there is relative peace.
I cannot recall the exact line, but when Mother asks why Him let the people destroy her world, his answer has a lot to say on the relationship between Man and God. Why do we exist and why does God need to be worshipped if he can do whatever he wants? Does he enjoy that we destroy everything he gave us in his name? Does he admire our devotion in the face of chaos and terror? Like I said, I cannot remember the line, but when it came up I was struck with questions of Man’s purpose. It is the oldest question in the book and Mother! tries to divine the answer through symbolism.
Then there is a question of spirituality and the world. The term “worldly” refers to things that are only temporary like sex, money, and possessions. Many faiths argue that you need to let go of worldly things to focus on the spiritual in the name of a higher power. When the worshippers destroy Mother’s house, it shows they care more about the spiritual than the environment in which they subsist, devoting their entire being to Him. This idea is striking because many Christians believe we do not need to protect the world or take care of ourselves because Jesus will return in the Second Coming and remake the world after Armageddon.
So far 2017 has been a pretty good year for horror. It Comes at Night, Split, and It have been exceptional in a time when the genre is in dire straits. Mother! takes it a few steps further by making you think while trying to disturb you. Believe the hype, ignore the critics, and buy a ticket.