Film Reviews

MOTHER!

By • Sep 25th, 2017 •

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What sustains and nurtures creativity? Aronofsky understands the cruelty of genius.

I have read two critics reviews of MOTHER! with no attempt at interpreting what Aronofsky is saying. So, not to cheat my readers, here is my explanation of MOTHER!

Writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s MOTHER! stars Jennifer Lawrence as “Mother”, a much younger woman married to an older man, “Him” (Javier Bardem). They live in an isolated mansion that has been gravely neglected. She has spent Her time since they brought the house working on restoring it.

He is a well-known poet struggling to write. Its not identified, but it is popularly still known as “writer’s block.” While She toils without His assistance and resents it, He is frustrated with His inability to write anything. His office is His sanctuary.

She feels a proprietary bond to the house. While She wants to return it to its Victorian architecture, She could be creating Her own womb-like world, for Him, Her and their future child. And the fact that they are still childless seems to be a point of unhappiness between them.

He is feeling the pressure of being a celebrated, famous poet. Poets are held in higher artistic esteem than writers. There are plenty of writers, but so few genuinely talented poets. Can He deliver a book of poetry that will supersede His previous work and establish Him as a poet laureate? He feels He deserves that recognition.

Is He feeling suffocated by Her creating an isolated world for them? Is He feeling trapped? Is this the reason He is not being productive? How much idolatry, praise, fame, and being recognized as a superior mind does He require to satisfy His Oedipus crisis?

He married a young, fertile woman but cannot have sex with Her. Without Him, She cannot become a mother in Her personally constructed world.

None of the characters have names. Aronofsky named his film MOTHER! And without personal names, they are all constructs representing, symbolically, as every “He”, “Him”, “Man” and “Woman”.

We find out how desperate He is for idolatry when a “Man” (Ed Harris) suddenly appears at their front door. She is shocked and uneasy about having a stranger in their home. He welcomes the Man, treats Him like an honored guest and invites the Man to stay – as long as the Man wants.

He and the Man begin drinking heavily and He is thrilled to be intellectually simulated by someone. He cares for the Man when he gets violently sick. When a “Woman”, the Man’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), turns up unannounced, He is thrilled. The Woman stays, but quickly turns arrogant and shows distain for Mother. It is strangely inappropriate behavior. The Woman is intrusive and quickly sizes up the sexual problem between Him and Her.

Mother wants them to leave but He refuses to consider it. We watch as the Man and Woman disregard the house and treat it without respect – leaving clothes on the floor and a dirty kitchen.

He is thriving on their attention.

The arrival of the guests’ two surly Brothers (Domhnall Glesson and Brian Gleeson) immediately creates a violent argument. Furniture gets broken and a confrontation between the Brothers turns the already out-of-control situation into a train speeding through a tunnel without breaks.

Mother, who has moments of disconnect from reality accompanied by severe pain, uses a powder dissolved in water to alleviate the problem. Her frail mental state has been wrapped up in Her creation – and there is no room for other people in the womb She is constructing.

Finally, He throws the dangerous Man, Woman and Brothers out. His masculine scaffolding restored, He has sex with Mother.

Time passes and now Mother is ready to give birth and His book is a wild success. He begins getting fans at his door. He is gracious and welcoming. His words, now seen by His fans as a new gospel. People are overwhelmed by His words. He is finally recognized for his god-like power over people. As a crowd begins to form, She becomes hysterical. Begging Him to make them leave, He refuses. They are creating life in Him. He allows them to come into the house and slowly they start taking mementos of the things He has touched.

What is important is not objects but His glorification. He is feeding on their desire for Him. What significance do objects, walls, furniture, clothes have? They are used and then discarded. New ones replace the old ones. Things have no meaning.

The Mob grows, and understanding the group-think, start taking apart the house to memorialize Him. Do gods have houses? Do things create the god or does the god create?

The iconic dress Marilyn Monroe wore to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy was sold for a record breaking $4.8 million, making it the most expensive dress to be sold at auction.

A fan of Justin Timberlake’s paid $1,025 for the two remaining slices of signed French Toast that the singer left behind when He had breakfast at a radio station interview.

Relics of saints and mystics are believed to hold something powerful. Since the practice of relics – pieces of bone or something the saint has touched (called a “second class” relic) is historical in all religions, there must be something to it.

Aronofsky’s MOTHER! is a highly personal film and therefore, open to individual interpretations. He showers Lawrence with beautiful close-ups. He films her like Renaissance artists represented the very young Virgin Mary. Bardem is – as usual – terrific. He’s not traditionally movie star handsome but when the film calls for passionate love, menace, or a megalomaniac, he delivers. A film is always interesting when Bardem is in it.

Harris and Pfeiffer are engrossing. Pfeiffer, an enduring movie star, could have stopped acting after SCARFACE and still be considered an iconic movie star. Having years gaps in acting, she is now everywhere with the TV movie THE WIZARD OF LIES and 2017 films MOTHER! and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Will we see Pfeiffer get old, fat and barely recognizable (like Cathy Moriarty in PATTY CAKE$)?

Its a shame that one role could become so memorable and then you find that they were paid $25,000 for the role. They have to keeping working.

The finale of MOTHER! is devastating and brilliantly filmed. It is chaos that nurtures creativity – but what if that “creativity” is meant for something greater than life itself, but is something that can change people’s ideas? What would you sacrifice for that?

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

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  3. I want to thank these two commenters. I’m shocked. I never get comments like this. I was concerned how my view of the film would be received when I started reading – after I submitted my review to FIR – that the director was pressured by the press to explain his film. And he did by saying it was about climate change.

    Climate change?

    Well, then, I certainly worked way to hard deciphering what I thought was a highly personal work by Aronofsky. The fact that the film ends with another woman taking MOTHER’s place, indicates to me, that creativity needs constant replenishing.

    Or, taking the film as a work about climate change, that Mother Earth renews itself no matter what man does to destroy it through his own indulgences? Huh? And for those critics who saw all the Biblical references, yeah, I know, no one like Aronofsky’s NOAH and it was an insult to his interpretation and I got the Cain and Abel reference, but it still doesn’t come together for me.

    Do gods need followers? Well, I’ve been all over the world visiting ancient temples and gods and goddesses are still very important to world tourism. Money is being spent on idols and postcards. Don’t be fooled. If you visit an ancient temple, you are giving that god or goddess your energy, renewing their power.

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