Venice 2017: Darren Aronofsky's Intense 'Mother!' Takes on the World
by Alex Billington
September 5, 2017
This is what happens when you make someone angry. Darren Aronofsky's latest film, Mother! (or officially titled mother! with the lowercase M), is an incredibly intense, heart-pounding cinematic experience. Based on the reactions this morning at the first screenings at the Venice Film Festival, it's going to be the kind of film you either love or hate. And it's going to be discussed and debated endlessly in great depth, which is actually the sign of an excellent film. It's a very bold, straight-in-your-face attempt to address many of the world's problems by using various characters and one house as a metaphor for, well, the world we live on. Darren doesn't hold back, letting it build and build into something so breathtaking and shocking, it's hard not to love it, unless you've missed the entire point of it. This is the slap in the face society needs right now.
Aronofsky's Mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as a woman living in a big house with her lover, as played by Javier Bardem. They don't have names, because the story doesn't require them. The film begins as they're finishing up repairing the house, until one day suddenly a doctor, played by Ed Harris, shows up out of nowhere. Bardem invites him in to stay, and that's when things slowly start to get worse. Suddenly his wife shows up, and then their kids, and then even more people. It becomes clear very quickly that the story we're watching on screen is an allegory for the bible, referencing the events that occur in it, in addition the idea of it being written by the author involved in these events. But there's so much more depth to this film, and what exactly it is referencing, that can't be discussed until you've seen it for yourself. Then we can talk.
I love that Aronofsky doesn't hold back, and third act of the film is intense and mind-blowing and at times unbelievable. But, once you've figured out what exactly is going on, it's possible to enjoy it and revel in this unique experience. This is Darren's cathartic cinematic attempt to express his anger and frustration at the world, and all the bad things going on, and how we mistreat it, and how we mistreat each other. Yes, the story told in the bible is the framework for the film, however there's much more that he gets into later and these scenes will bash you over the head. That's the point where you'll decide whether you can't stand it or think it's completely brilliant. I'm closer to the latter. It's not so deep that it's hard to understand, but it is exactly what it needs to be and that boldness works perfectly to open our eyes to our own terrible misdeeds.
Not every last film needs to have a straightforward narrative with "real" characters, they can also be artistic and innovative, in ways that challenge us and make us see beyond what's on the surface. Mother! is exactly one of those films, an intelligent and angry way of venting about humanity on planet Earth by telling a story of a few human beings in a big house. It's an indictment of humanity in both subtle and unsubtle ways, told through Aronofsky's perspective. He knows exactly what kind of filmmaker and storyteller he is, and he uses that awareness of his own expertise to craft an engaging film that is divisive and challenging and intense to watch. Through that beautifully cinematic experience, we will hopefully learn to see differently (and change ourselves) thanks to this distinct perspective. And the best art is the kind that encourages great discussions.
Alex's Venice 2017 Rating: 9 out of 10
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