Aronofsky’s latest is worth seeing – once

Aronofsky’s latest is worth seeing – once

First things first. This is not a horror film in the true sense of the genre. It’s masquerading as a horror movie because it defies any kind of traditional category other than “carnival ride.” I haven’t had this kind of “WTH” response to a movie since Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” which in the end, I decided, was an elaborate practical joke executed purely by the filmmaker for his own pleasure.

And here again, another extremely subjective auteur, Darren Aronofsky, has crafted what can only be described as a very personal allegorical movie where dialog and scenes are laden with meaning. The question is this: What is Aronofsky’s intention? I have my own thoughts, and if you choose to see this, you will as well. It’s that kind of movie.

There seem to be two main themes at work here — overt biblical and environmental or ecological themes are the most obvious. The two main characters, Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem), live in an octagonal farm house surrounded by forest. Aerial shots used throughout the movie reveal that no roads lead to it.

He is a poet with a severe case of writer’s block, and she is a homemaker and the architect behind the home’s restoration from a previous fire. At one point, she describes their home as a kind of “paradise.” But this idyllic reverie is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a man (Ed Harris) who claims first to be a surgeon, then a fan of the poet. His wife (Michele Pfeiffer) appears the next day and moves into the guest room with her husband, much to the dismay of Mother, who cannot understand why her husband is tolerating this invasion of privacy. He’s eager for new company, it seems.

No long after, the two sons (real life brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleason) of the couple appear, leading to a family argument about the man’s will. The sons engage in a physical altercation and one dies — one of the few fairly obvious biblical references, this time to Cain and Abel. This sets off the arrival of a horde of guests come to comfort the grieving couple. Now Mother is just mad, as the rowdy group wrecks the house by leaving a mess and a broken water pipe, which floods the kitchen.

And on Aronofsky goes, until Mother becomes pregnant, sending the movie into a hyper overdrive where a village of the poet’s admirers invade the house and refuse to leave as he basks in their cult-like fandom, and everything begins to descend into chaos. From here, to reveal more would not only not make much sense, but would also reveal some of the movie’s more difficult themes that are presented in a most disturbing and graphic way. If there is any horror to this, it comes at this point and is bound to create some controversy.

So here’s my take: Mother is Mother Nature and the invasion of her pristine, lovingly cared-for home is our callous disregard for her world. There are floods, fires and every possible assault on her creation — her home — by those that visit it. Bardem, as it becomes more obvious toward the end of the movie, is God — a creator, both adored and feared.

The visiting couple are a kind of twisted Adam and Eve. He even reveals a seeping maw of a wound on his side — from the removal of a rib, perhaps? They become the impetus for all that follows, both good and bad.

Aronofsky has obviously used this work to make a statement about things that are particular to him, including the creative process in general. Every scene has so many references, it’s hard to keep track — there are other filmmakers, artists, literary works hinted at so heavily I lost track. His attention to detail is immaculate, from the earthy colors used throughout in wardrobe and set design to the lack of musical score that intensifies the claustrophobic feeling from the many close ups and uses of short perspective. The octagon is a purposeful design on his part so there are few right angles in the movie and trailing the characters around and around the rooms creates a dizzy feeling of discombobulation.

I can tell you this: For a horror movie, I probably laughed more than I should have. Aronofsky has a truly wicked sense of humor, and there is genius in his work, particularly in the way he obsesses about our darkest fears. But with “Mother!” I feel the way I do about most of his movies like “Requiem for a Dream” and “Black Swan” — I appreciate them, but I don’t desire to see them again.

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