An unnerving look at humanity in Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’
(MA15) Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Stunned, mouth agape and sunken into the seat, as eerily music plays while the credits roll. This is a picture of you having just watched Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan, Noah) latest offering mother! When the cinemas lights finally turn on, you might snap out of the trance but you won’t forget what you just witnessed and that’s when you realise that whatever it was, it was something profound.
mother! is an assault on the senses. Its clever, subtle at times and has an exceptional cast. But what’s most impressive, is that it gets you questioning how you view yourself, each other, the world and your faith.
From the introduction of Jennifer Lawrence’s character known simply as Her and then Javier Bardem’s character known as Him, we are taken into their, at first, quiet lives in this secluded home surrounded by forests. Her, is restoring their home that was once burnt down. As she paints and cleans each room she is breathing life into it, to create what she describes as a paradise. And it is all for Him. Him— the poet who is struggling to create and find that inspiration to finish his latest work.
Then the first Guests arrive. The first stranger a doctor (Ed Harris) walks through the door followed by his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and then later their two sons. It’s not hard to draw parallels this early on in the film to the story of Adam and Eve, the forbidden fruit and then Cain and Abel. You know the story and this is not the end of the overt biblical references throughout the film. It’s played out vividly with a modern take but just as violent, as the story progresses and more Guests arrive. And that’s one thing that needs to be understood about this film: it is a raw, visceral experience and the violence is at times unprecedented. So be cautious if you do decide to see it.
But it is the rawness that holds your attention and Aronofsky holds nothing back. The script allowed Jennifer Lawrence to exceed in her performance. She doesn’t speak much throughout the film but the way she moves and her expressions captured each emotion hauntingly from her nurturing presence, her excruciating pain, joy and heartache.
As for the Guests that entered the transformed house and take advantage of their hosts’ hospitality. With greed and disrespect they deface the home without a care.
*Minor spoilers below *
See it was an analogy of God the creator, Mother Earth, the world (a home we are guests in) and how we mistreat the environment and each other. It displays the worst of humanity and asks where is our redemption?
It felt more powerful than most documentaries that warn about the way we treat the earth and the way we treat each other. Why? Maybe because there was truth in it, maybe because there was scripture in it.
The film had a unique look into religion and how we search for hope and inspiration, that as Christians we find in Jesus.
mother! questions, how much are we willing to destroy in order to leave our mark in the world and just how much warning do we need? It showed that we are here temporarily and that we may very well be the cause of our own demise.
This visual interpretation of God, the world and our place in it, can be unnerving, but it’s a thought provoking challenge that is part of our faith discernment journey and that is always unnerving.
And unnerving perfectly describes mother!