Well, that exclamation mark in the title is certainly not out of place! Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is darker than Black Swan, fiercer than Requiem for a Dream, more metaphysical than The Fountain, and more spectacular than Noah. Not for all tastes.
Don’t be afraid to say so if you think Mother! is a dud. It was booed by some of the film critics when it was given its world premiere at the Venice Festival. And it is undeniably grotesque and bombastic. To a hilarious extent, in fact. I reckon that Aronofsky is well aware of that. But he doesn’t let that bother him and his extreme, gruelling, and over-the-top account of the vampiristic romance between an artist and his muse/wife/maid/mother (!) is sincere and moving.
And if you choose to resent rather than embrace the insanity, you’re going to miss out on an exceptional experience – an extraordinary cinematic descent into hell. Every image is staggering, every scene intensifies the shudders. The crescendo mounts until the last second. Aronofsky’s ambition was to apply the resources of Hollywood to create the same bewildering lunacy as Luis Buñuel in El ángel exterminador, Roman Polanski in Repulsion or Rosemary’s Baby, and Lars von Trier in Antichrist. How crazy is that?
In a remote country house, reconstructed after a devastating fire, a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence, in phenomenal form) is putting the finishing touches to the renovation works. She wants to make the house a paradise for herself and her beloved, a world-famous writer (Javier Bardem) who is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. She is not best pleased when he admits a sick stranger (Ed Harris) and his wife (a wonderfully nasty Michelle Pfeiffer) to their house/intimacy.
The guests’ boorish behaviour is beyond belief, but the writer is delighted with it. The nightmare seems to be over when his wife finally gets pregnant and he pens a masterpiece. But it is anything but. Acolytes turn up from every side, with a devotion bordering on religious mania. With every heartbeat, the muse’s ordeal becomes more grotesque; finally, it reaches a stage of pure apocalyptic chaos. Mother! baffles and bewilders with the violence of an inferno. Go on: dare to be burned by it!
> Mother! US, dir.: Darren Aronofsky, act.: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer