Mother! is a Cinematic Symphony Of Maniacal Proportions
Review by Aaron Haughton
Mother! is a psychological thriller from writer/director Darren Aronofsky that is well deserving of its exclamation point. Ripe with biblical allegory and surrealist flourishes, the story is designed to breed a multitude of interpretations, but on the most basic surface level, it's the tale about a tortured artist and his muse. With subtle notes of Rosemary's Baby and Buñuel's Exterminating Angel, it's far and away Aronofsky's most insane cinematic symphony.
The story centers around a poet and his muse (played by Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence). The couple has built something of an Eden for themselves in the secluded countryside which quickly gets encroached on by a man and his wife (played by Ed Harris and Michele Pfeiffer). As more and more uninvited guests arrive to their home, disrupting their tranquil existence, the couple's relationship is tested in increasingly intense and bizarre ways.
Despite the many angles and interpretations to the film, Aronofsky himself commented that it's an allegory for Mother Earth. “It was the strangest thing," Aronofsky told The Hollywood Reporter. "It came out of living on this planet and sort of seeing what’s happening around us and not being able to do anything. I just had a lot of rage and anger and I just wanted to channel it into one emotion, one feeling.” It's very easy to see the film through this lens, especially when it's explicitly stated by the filmmaker; however, there's something intensely personal that undulates under the surface in Mother!, which seems to transcend the Mother Earth allegory.
The film opens with a woman who looks eerily like Rachel Weisz burning on fire, followed by Bardem's ashen fingers as he places a beautiful quartz-like crystal into its frame, which transforms the burnt shell of a house to its true form before starting the story proper. Aronofsky dated Weisz for nine years before moving on to Lawrence, who stars in the film and undergoes her own form of torture stemming from the artist in the story and behind the camera. It's hard not to wonder in the back of your mind if there's anything deeper to that when the film takes on an artist vs. muse theme, particularly once it winds to a close.
Interpretations aside, the film is kinetic and dizzying, and it's the epitome of all parts functioning for the greater of the whole. The sound design is incredible and effectively creates the atmosphe the camerawork and direction reinforce. Paula Fairfield constructs an audible labyrinth, consisting of subtle creaks and groans of the doors and floorboards of the house. Aronofsky's direction is at it's apex, using the handheld camera in the most effective ways we've seen all year; placing us in perspective, always keeping the performance in center focus, but also knowing when to quiet to a still. Matthew Libatique, who did cinematography on all of Aronofsky's films except for The Wrestler, captures the madness with controlled bravado. The performances are fantastic all around, but Michele Pfeiffer burns up the screen, delivering her best performance in years.
However, the true star is Aronofsky himself, who assaults the viewer at all fronts, continually upping the ante until the roof blows off. The last act of the film is the most chaotic and insane thing you'll likely see all year, and it's showcased in haunting surrealist virtuoso flair. I definitely recommend this film over anything playing at cinemaplex this weekend. It takes bold risks, which won't be everyone's cup of tea, but will no doubt prove to be a singular experience that you won't soon forget.
Rating: 4.5 lightbulbs filled with blood outta 5.
What do you think? Does Aronofsky's Mother Earth allegory pacify you, or are there more interesting interpretations that interested you? Is the last act the most insane thing you've witnessed all year? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!