Aronofsky has toyed around the concepts of religion for a long span of his career. He took an audacious swing at the ideas of The Tree being a source of eternal life in The Fountain (2006) and then directed a rather straight forward and bland adaption of Noah (2014). With mother!, it felt as if all the labor of his passion has spooled open the flood gates of bombastic creativity. This is the work of an artist who is unhinged, unbridled and totally immersed in the medium he so profusely professes.
Darren Aronofsky’s passion project tells a story about the time when nothing existed. Before humanity wrecked chaos on this planet, there lived a couple – Mother Earth (Jennifer Lawrence) and Creator (Javier Bardem). Whenever she peeked out from the blinds of her unwavering love, she saw cracks in affection from Him. The Creator is having a writer’s block which He is trying to overcome as Mother building the paradise – piece by piece, all the while caressing the living heart of the house. Then came the first Man and his Wife (a symbolic nod to Adam and Eve) and with them started the feudal onslaught triggered by jealousy and coupled with greed of their sons, Abel and Cain.
Before soon, the house which was built ever so elegantly was amassed with strangers of the Man’s family. Humanity rode in hordes, destroying the very fabric of nature, mutilating it – tossing and turning at will’s command. As Mother felt that Creator’s attention was wavering even more from her, she convinces the Creator to get rid of them. They soon make love and she conceives a baby – and in that moment right there, the Creator finds inspiration for his writing and completes his work (Bible).
It is the second act of mother! that goes complete bonkers and chaotic in it’s allegorical description – to an extent that it would not be surprising if many may find it outrageously offensive in the visual representations of the metaphors. Darren Aronofsky has channeled the immense rage and anger he had towards humanity’s outlook towards nature into one explosive vision of destruction. Mother Earth’s bleeding heart blackens, the crater inside the house widens and the film virtually delves into sacrilegious cannibalism by the end.
When one crams far too much in a single script, the end product tends to be slightly messy. mother! struggles with this sole flaw in the last 30 minutes of its length. Otherwise, as an auteur’s single handed imagination – it is a disturbing, difficult but a compelling watch. Jennifer Lawrence plays Mother Earth with such an unmistakable sense of vulnerability that is is impossible to shake off her persona from the minds. The wooden house creaks and groans and the camera is sticking so close to Lawrence that the end effect is often claustrophobic – which may be exactly what Aronofsky wanting its viewers to feel.
Intangibly layered with religious allegories, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is a deeply personal exploration of the cyclic nature of creation and destruction. A work of art which could be easier respected than being adored, mother! will remain the cornerstone dissection piece among cine-aficionados for a long time to come. It feels like a long and hard stare into the void of humanity’s birth and eventually, the ethics and morals that will lead to our decline.