After watching ‘Mother!’ I realised that I’d forgotten about all the previous Darren Aronofsky films I’d loved (Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler). Only his two most recent films were fresh in my mind: Black Swan which I thought was interesting but flawed; and Noah, which I couldn’t see the point of at all and had actually decided was Aronofsky filling some kind of contractual obligation. So, when I sat down to watch ‘Mother!’ - having forgotten what this writer/director is capable of - I wasn’t quite prepared for the affect it would have on me.
Brief plot summary: Jennifer Lawrence plays the adoring wife of a middle-aged blocked poet (Javier Bardem). They live together in a gorgeous isolated mansion, which she is painstakingly renovating after it was gutted by a fire which consumed the poet’s first wife. Out of the blue a stranger (Ed Harris) arrives at their door looking for a place to stay. To the confusion of his wife, the poet tells the stranger to stay in the house as long as he likes after discovering the man’s a fan of his book. The man is then quickly joined by his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the couple’s two quarrelling sons. The strangers show a general lack of respect – sometimes even outright hostility - to their hosts. The situation soon escalates to murder, then more people arrive at the house and their disrespect goes unnoticed by the poet until his wife can take no more. When all the intruders are finally turfed out , the poet at last finds inspiration and with that a renewed passion for his wife. However, with the publication of his poem and his wife’s pregnancy, strangers, worshippers and fans once again begin arriving at the house and the problems begin again (to put it mildly).
Never having had much interest in religion, I’m afraid I missed most of the Biblical allusions in the film. Instead, I saw it as an allegory about fame or the quest for fame. The poet keeps opening up his house to fans so he can bask in their adoration, heedless to the confusion and suffering of the one person who truly loves him. This quest for fame and adoration suddenly begins to look monstrous and obscene. Why would the poet hanker after the praise and attention of strangers who continually prove themselves unworthy whilst remaining blind to the efforts of his wife to give him a home, a life, and a family? Viewed like this, I found the film to be genuinely terrifying, and it would make anyone who’s ever chased the approval of strangers (Okay, I’ll raise my hand here) seriously question their motives.
I also couldn’t help but see the film as some kind of comment on our social media age; people opening up their lives to strangers and hankering after likes and comments. This was most prominent for me in the film’s most disturbing scene. After the birth of his son, the poet waits for his wife to fall asleep so he can take the baby from her arms and pass it into his crowd of worshippers (this made me think of Michael Jackson dangling his baby son off a balcony for his fans). The worshippers again prove themselves careless and unworthy and by the time the mother re-awakens the baby is dead, his neck snapped after being passed between many hands.