I went to watch a profoundly different film this week: mother! It was chilling, but also beautiful.
mother! was written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Jennifer Lawrence plays Mother beautifully as a gentle, nurturing soul, capable of extreme acts when humanity has pushed her to the very edge of sanity. Javier Bardem plays Him in a compelling performance that has made me question the fine line between adoration and possession (from both the adorer and the adoree).
mother! is a film quite unlike anything that I have ever seen before. I had read reviews warning me that the film’s trailer bills itself as a ‘psychological horror’ and that this is patently untrue on watching the film. The reviews were right; I do not enjoy traditional horrors with men in masks jumping out of the shadows onto naive girls; and this is no such horror. I would class this film as an art-house activist metaphor for God and Christianity as a whole; mother nature and climate change; and more subtly, for traditional gender roles and the harm they cause.
The metaphors for Christianity are woven throughout the entire film, as with the notion of mother nature/ Gaia theory. When people start invading the house to be closer to Him and littering items around, Mother is physically pained and sickened, portraying the idea of climate change and humanity’s global pollution of the planet. Mother clearly devotes herself to Him, but his desire for external adoration is too great, hence he lets the random strangers come into their home so that they can worship him for his writings. There are also specific scenes that depict the sexualisation of women, as well as the view that to be a ‘real’ woman, a woman must also be a mother (which is entirely ludicrous).
Cinematically, the film is experienced solely from Mother’s perspective, with wide-panning camera angles that follow her line of sight as she goes in and out of the various rooms of the large house. We experience her growing unease about the uninvited guests, and watch as she continually cleans up the debris they leave behind them.
There are several particularly violent scenes, the most violent being at the end of the film. Without spoiling the plot, we see a significant amount of physical violence inflicted on Mother in a particularly distressing scene. I winced as I watched it, but I feel that the violence served an important role in the film. As a metaphor for mother nature’s treatment by humans, we needed to wince at the raw brutality of the destruction, and the sheer mindlessness of it too.
I saw this film with one of my new PhD friends, a lovely girl who jumped as much out of her seat as I did during the trailers, both already petrified (but as I said, there are no real ‘scary’ bits). We walked out of the cinema and discussed the metaphors and the film’s meaning on the whole bus ride home, which for me is always the sign of a good movie. It’s not a film for a family movie night, but it is a powerful and thought-provoking film nonetheless that I will be watching again!