The film’s opening shot gives the viewer a glimpse into what they’re getting themselves into. It serves as a forewarning that watching “Mother!” is not going to be easy, not in the slightest. Darren Aronofsky’s previous films, including “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan,” are child’s play in comparison to his latest creation.
Aronofsky’s “Mother!” has been shrouded in secrecy for nearly a year, with an eerie premise of a couple’s relationship being tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home. The premise is indeed true, but only describes the first five minutes of the film.
The couple lives in a desolate Victorian-era house that is encircled by nothing but tall grass and trees (there are literally no points of access and no driveway). A young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in the house with her husband (Javier Bardem), a famous poet with severe writer’s block. Neither Lawrence nor Bardem are given actual names, but are billed as mother and Him.
While Him tries to find inspiration for words, mother focuses on the domestic work while diligently restoring the house, which, we learn, had been nearly destroyed in a fire. Unexpectedly, a man (Ed Harris) appears at the front door and Him welcomes the man into their home with no apprehension. The next morning, a woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) comes to their doorstep and is the wife of Ed Harris’ man.
From that point on, the couple’s tranquil existence is no longer, and a steady stream of guests enters the house, much to the horror of mother. But these are not your typical house guests. These house guests lack a shred of decorum, steal belongings, rip apart the house, rape, murder and are cannibalistic. As the camera closely follows Lawrence as she reprimands the guests, it feels like the audience is winding through a horror maze of gore and the worst representations of humanity.
It’s no secret that Aronofsky is not afraid of depicting biblical themes on the big screen, as seen with his controversial “Noah.” Aronofsky once again draws inspiration from the Bible with biblical allusions — Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the Eucharist and Revelation — incorporated throughout the film.
The story itself resembles that of the Bible with two chapters that are similar to the two testaments. Environmental allegories and metaphors of fandom are also frequently pummeled at the audience.
At some points, the allegories and metaphors pummel the audience to the point of overkill. But, Lawrence’s and Bardem’s performances are definitely worth seeing (and Oscar-worthy).
Watching the film is traumatic enough, but actually performing these roles seems too demanding for anyone. If anyone could handle the weight of the film’s ostentations, it’s Lawrence and Bardem.
It’s up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions, whether they be religious or environmental interpretations. Whatever your analysis, there’s no doubt that this film will create controversy and discussion — but that is exactly what Aronofsky’s objective was in making this film.