By midlandsmovies, Sep 21 2017 02:31PM
Mother! (2017) Dir. Darren Aronofsky
The history of haunting, or haunted, “mother” horror movies is a long one ranging from Mama (2013) to Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (Regan’s bed-bouncing screams of “mother” still linger from 1973) but the eclectic Aronofsky was never going to provide an audience with the expected. In his horror house, he places Jennifer Lawrence squarely as Mother Nature herself as his story develops from a chilling but calculated cliché to a surprise sermon in just 2 hours.
Lawrence plays the put-upon partner of Javier Bardem’s author who is ridden with writer’s block as she attempts to build a house from the ashes in order to create their own personal Eden together. The first hour contains many horror tropes – a new couple, a mysterious house, a scary cellar, the strange phenomenon in the walls etc – and sets up a film where Lawrence’s mother tries increasingly futile attempts to maintain her paradise, lost as it is to many unwarranted guests. A brilliant Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer arrive (in the script as “Man” and “Woman”) to disturb the sanctuary in their utter rudeness and contempt of Lawrence.
Here we begin to see Aronofsky’s allegory as we soon witness their children arrive (*obvious klaxon* ‘Cain and Abel’) whose Old Testament fights sees blood spattering as mother’s “guests” continue on a downward spiral of debauchery, violence and carnage.
Personally, it felt a film of two halves and I enjoyed the themes the director brings attention to but in fairness to viewers, I do think Hollywood needs to work on their trailers. Knowing Aronofsky I was surprised to see what was advertised as a haunted house chiller in the film’s promotional material which has since prompted film company Paramount to issue a statement about taking creative risks. If only the advertising was more honest about its intentions I think audiences would respect them and the film a lot more. There’s nothing in the heady themes of the film that a mainstream crowd would not “get” yet hiding it under a mask of Blumhouse-esque trailer scares does it more than a disservice.
That said, with a few dark moments of comedy in the first half, Lawrence’s patience is pushed to the limit and I was laughing along with the movie a fair bit. However, once her character became pregnant the director launches into a mother-metaphor so blatant I began laughing sporadically AT it. More of a dissertation – an unwanted lecture at times – the film’s focus shift to the dangers or war, religion, false idols and even the birth of a sacrificial “chosen one” was a bit too on the nose.
However, Mother is brilliantly filmed in grainy greys and browns and the bursts of red colour and the surrounding green nature are fleeting but all the more powerful. The lack of score maintains the stark and unsettling mood whilst the final anarchy and chaos in the house towards the film’s conclusion is a striking example of the director’s technical vision.
But was it enjoyable? Well, it’s certainly a class product and although audiences have been polarised with its efforts (part of which I maintain is a ‘marketing’ issue) the film itself contains a full-house of interesting scriptural and environmental themes which I was still picking apart way after the film had finished.
My own initial interpretation was one that the film was simply “time” itself. The “big bang” fiery opening was followed by a period of cooling earth tones before (metaphorical) dinosaurs Harris and Pfeiffer arrived. A frog jumping from the ooze onto land appeared an evolutionary nod whilst a directorial ‘god-shot’ high above the house seemed celestial in its nature with Earth (the house) at its centre. And it wasn’t until the arrival of Bardem’s “fan-fiction” (Bible) did we see the ultimate destruction of “mother” (nature).
However, it is very open to interpretation and it is that which is far and away the best thing about it but at times I was hoping to get the beginning of a film that the ending hadn’t set up or even find an ending for the more traditional horror film promised initially. But like the Bible, it is ultimately a film of two halves (Testaments) which combine into an intricate whole. This will satisfy some but others will find the bait-and-switch as awful as the violent fundamentalism that manifests in the finale. Your ultimate decision may be swayed by whether you feel humans are already a bunch of selfish shits – or want to be told that is the case just one more time but in a slightly pretentious way.
Midlands Movies Mike