Genre: Drama, Mystery
Director/Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique
A cause célèbre sprung out of this year’s Lido island, Aronofsky’s MOTHER! has crushed and burned in its homeland’s box office front and precipitated polarized reactions from both critics and audience, which is a usual given to galvanize a cinephile’s interest.
MOTHER! has a disguised threadbare set of components but its construct is vastly ambitious, even errs on the side it. It is set in a single location (an antiquated villa), in an indefinite space (the wilderness) and time (there is a telephone but no signs of cell-phones), score-free, no name is designated to its dramatis personae, (after checking online after), a married couple, Him (Bardem) and mother (Lawrence), is living in his family residence, Him is an acclaimed poet stuck in the writer’s block and mother, decades younger than him, starts to re-decorate the house all by herself.
Their placid domestic facade is disrupted by two interlopers, credited as simply man and woman (Harris and Pfeiffer), him, a gravely ill man with a wound in his rib (in a transient scene one can barely discern the locus of the wound), the signs are all over the place (only it is practically an incomprehensible task for an audience entering the movie with a tabula rasa): the biblical metaphor, which continues when later in the story, the man and woman are evicted by mother for breaking Him’s precious crystal, following by their elder son kills his younger brother in an impulsive rage, now you can feasibly connect them with their unsaid names.
Up to this point, Aronofsky has fervidly contrived a hybrid between a home intruder thriller and a haunted house horror (literally a beating heart within the walls has been presented more than once), and Jennifer Lawrence’s heroine is the undivided cynosure of the story, often in jittery close-ups enclosed by a claustrophobic and dreadful palette. Heralded by the film’s foreboding title card, motherhood is in the offing and Him regains his inspiration but all hell will break loose in the night when their baby is born, topping off with a disorienting, anarchic maelstrom with inarticulate transgressions. It is an ire-fanning third-act jam-packed with cult craze, frenetic editing and smothering pandemonium, until mother incinerates their domicile as the last resort and resets the Garden of Eden to the ground zero, an iteration of the film’s gnomic prologue, displaced with a new mother.
The parable is intentionally to be construed as how mother earth has been slowly encroached and finally destroyed by humanity’s wantonness, but in hindsight, it is more revealing as a cautionary manifesto about a trophy wife, living under the throes of her husband’s authority, habitually being neglected by him and treated like air by others, and her functionality is boiled down to either as a catalyst for his creativity or procreation, nothing more, and in the end of the day, she can be anonymously superseded by another young flesh, is this a feminist agitprop in disguise?
Headlining by a solid star-turn from Jennifer Lawrence going down through an excruciatingly disturbing path of self-demolition and a dastardly Javier Bardem emitting increments of creepiness and venom, plus an eye-catching menacing presence from a barnstorming Ms. Pfeiffer, this masochistic allegory is shunted to a less savory orbit by Aronofsky’s abandon in his well-intentional ideology and a no-holds-barred modality (is that you Kristen Wiig?), when you make God acts like Satan, the ennobled epithet “auteur” is incontrovertibly degraded as “provocateur”, thus, no universal acclaim can be garnered from that stigmatized word.