Part biblical allegory, part nightmare vision of a marriage breakdown, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is a film which ties itself closely to biblical imagery in its tale of the domestic space invaded and corrupted by fanatic followers of a God-like creator.
Javier Bardem plays Him, a frustrated artist who lives with his wife (Jennifer Lawrence) in an isolated and dilapidated house. Lawrence’s character, Mother, is determined to make the house a “paradise” and works tirelessly toward its renovation. When interlopers ruin their isolated idyll, firstly Man (Ed Harris) and Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), the relationship between Him and Mother becomes strained as he indulges their guests and distances himself from his wife. From here, the narrative spirals rapidly out of control with an ending 30 minutes of unadulterated cinematic madness.
As is clear from the names of its characters, Mother! is a film which is inhibited by its fixation on archetype. Mother! also frequently references Bible stories and Horror cinema. For example, Lawrence’s character intentionally evokes Mia Farrow’s bewildered titular tragic heroine of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) who, too, is besotted with her husband and unable to notice that he is overly enamoured with the attention from his devoted ‘fans’. The overt similarities drawn between Bardem’s creator and the biblical God can be unnecessary at times during the film, especially in the final act where he is reduced to being one-dimensional. Indeed, the film’s final section undermines itself significantly with an overly neat and unsatisfying conclusion.
The film boasts a striking cast with, as well as the aforementioned, Domhall Gleeson and Kristen Wiig turning in committed performances. The two central turns are mesmeric thanks to both the actors and the director’s filming style. When Javier Bardem first became sentient he must have looked at his face in the mirror, observing all its handsome yet demented structure, and thought to himself, “Well I suppose I’ll have to be an actor”. His astonishingly emotive face conveys all the desires and insecurities of the omnipotent Him. The filming of Lawrence’s Mother is mainly through close-up or over-the-shoulder shots in a similar way to last year’s Son of Saul. The result is that the audience sees the horrors through the danger they pose to her, making the final act almost unbearably tense.
Darren Arfonsky’s Mother! has proved divisive with critics and appalled the majority of punters. Despite its shortcomings, the film is a disturbing and occasionally thrilling look at the relationship between a creator and his dependents.