mother! is a divisive film, right down to its unconventional title. While Zac adheres to the brilliance of Aronofsky, Grant keeps rubbing at the bloody spot.
Grant: In your review you described mother! as a love it or hate it film. Well, I’m somewhere in the middle.
While I was impressed by Aronofsky’s technical craft and the performances of the two leads, I find myself continually frustrated by Aronofsky’s decisions. It feels like there is the core of a great film here, but Aronofsky instead insisted in forcing the film off the rails without enriching the film.
Zac: I’ve spent a lot of today reading some of those, “what does mother! mean?” articles and I’m sort of unsettled by how we’ve (the royal we’ve) so quickly coalesced the themes and meaning of the film to only be basically what Aronofsky has said it means. The titular mother is Mother Nature, Bardem is God, and everyone else is an allegory for the Bible as well. Yes, the director saying that gives it a lot of weight, and I totally see those correlations, but there is so much more to it.
The interpretation I like the most from the biblical angle is how the film is basically a portrait of how much of an asshole God is. Which makes mother! an excellent companion piece to Aronofsky’s previous works The Fountain and, especially, Noah. Aronofsky and I gel so well because I think we have similar views on religion, atheist but can be entranced by their stories, and while I can embrace that relevance to mother! I wasn’t thinking about religion really at all while watching it. Once the baby showed up, and they were bringing gifts, yeah, sure, but I was too wrapped up in Lawrence’s mother character’s repression and oppression because she was a woman. I think the biblical allegory interpretation makes the film’s bookends make more sense, but I think the film worked wonderfully as a descent into a misogynistic nightmare that the film becomes.
To go back to your off the rails comment, I thought the film earned the escalation by just expertly building us to those points through superb craftsmanship. I had given myself over to this world that had been created by Aronofsky and Bardem’s Him and was ready to roll with whatever happened. But, did the insanity enrich the film, I think it did, and it did so by showing just how fucking crazy things can get if we let dumb ass men continue to destroy our world. In a nutshell.
Grant: I like to think that Aronofsky gave that clear-cut explanation because it is also about his regrets as a husband to his ex-wives, but he didn’t want to answer those personal questions. So the misogyny that you saw, I considered Aronofsky’s critiques of the way he has treated the women that have loved him while he is distracted making art and being praised for his art. And after the hurtful and chaotic marriage is finally ended by the wife, he finds a new ‘diamond’ to propose to the next woman.
I have not done any research into the symbolism, what does the fire and rebirth signify? Oh! I just realized the the pipe bursting is the great flood in Genesis. Am I the last one to realize that?
Zac: No, I didn’t get any of the bible stuff besides baby Jesus (insert Ricky Bobby .gif) and I didn’t even put together the communion (blood and body) aspect either of them eating the baby, I think I was too horrified they were EATING A BABY! The Aronofsky confessing for his marital sins of the past is an interesting angle I’ve heard thrown out there as well, and if that is the case the god complex he has is something else!
The bookends and the cyclical cycle isn’t all that hopeful either, but it makes me wonder what cycle we are on during the film. I believe the opening girl was blonde, Lawrence a sandy brunette, and the new wife a redhead, so maybe only three times. Bardem’s success seems rather small or dulled during the film too, so is he still in the early stages of his experimenting? Also, if mother is Mother Nature, the bookends seem even more confounding. Is he rebooting Earth over and over again? There was some movie that talked about how the version of Earth as we know it is like the 6th or 7th try by God, I guess that is an interesting read on things too. Not that this is a literal reboot of Earth, but in allegorical terms.
Grant: Oh we forgot to give everyone the mandatory:
**Baby Eating Spoiler Alert**
I was thinking that this cycle has been repeated so many times that Bardem’s character is now much older than his wife. Since her age seems to be reset with each ‘apocalypse’ or whatever we want to call it.
Back to my issues with the film, while I did enjoy the suspense of mother’s increasing unease with the house, the houseguest escalation was never as effective. Harris and Pfeiffer were great, but I don’t care how many party crashers come in, it is never as effective as a bloody lightbulb. Aronofsky spent such time and care giving the house texture and depth, making us care about its slow destruction, but as we spent an increasing about of time dealing with awful people in repetitive situations, the film lost me.
Zac: I disagree, the houseguests had me hooked and I was rolling with the guest from hell story he was putting down. I think I mentioned in my review that I was right along with mother the whole time in her “WTF are these people doing in my house” anxiety. I hate parties, and this film tapped right into that anxiety.
Grant: Strange, it didn’t seem like you hate parties when you were doing those body shots off my stomach in Cancun.
Zac: Fake News
Grant: Since that houseguest spiral really worked for you, I am curious what you think Kristen Wiig’s character brought to the film. Her acting was fine, I just didn’t see what I was supposed to feel. I found it somewhat amusing, but maybe it was supposed to horrify me and I am just preconditioned to find Wiig funny.
Zac: Wiig brought an energy to the film and I think was a great representation of just how crazy people can go for celebrity/religion/something else I’m sure. I also like where they go with the character, ready and willing to kill for her devotion; let’s just hope she isn’t a harbinger for future Kellyanne Conway after North Korea nukes us.
Grant: Last thing, I find it interesting to compare the film with Requiem for Dream, both films fill you with mounting dread in the first act and devastate you with the conclusion. However in my opinion, Requiem didn’t get muddled down in one horrific sequence and is therefore the more engaging and effective film.
Zac: I agree with your assessment on Requiem comparisons, but I think Noah and The Fountain are much closer touchtones. The Fountain goes the the extreme of the power of science, a much more peaceful process, while Noah compliments the environmentalist side of the story.
Also, one man’s muddled scene is another’s perfectly executed set piece mirroring the trauma of childbirth!
Grant: The childbirth was traumatic?! Have you already forgotten that THEY ATE A BABY!! I do feel bad for those extras who were selected to be in an Aronofsky film, only to find out that they are the ones who need to eat fake baby meat before getting stabbed by Katniss.
Zac: She’s good with a knife too!