There hasn’t seemed to have been a movie that stirred up controversy for something other than whitewashing in quite some time. Sure The Interview almost sparked WWIII, and A Dog’s Purpose had that leaked video, but in terms of religious and decency condemnation, mother! is by far one of the biggest contenders of the century. Darren Aronofsky is no stranger to complete insanity, nor is he one to absolutely nauseating material (Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan are two of his prime examples) and mother! seems to be the natural crescendo of both.
Sick, twisted, anti-religious, blasphemous, and vile are all words I’ve seen used in describing his latest flick, which happens to star his now-girlfriend Jennifer Lawrence. I can’t necessarily disagree with these words—this movie really is an anxiety-attack waiting to happen—but to use them to disparage a film that most people A). haven’t seen, and B). won’t see, is quite unfair because there’s really a lot here to dissect and learn from.
Most importantly—which might count as a SPOILER so be warned—the film uses the Bible as a sort of source material. At least in terms of structure and basic story line, the entire film tells much of the “greatest hits” from the bible. From creation, to Cain and Abel, to the birth and life of Jesus, the ancient text is diluted into a two-hour narrative which tells the supernatural story of a writer, known simply as Him (Javier Bardem) and his wife (Lawrence) as they live in solitude out in the middle of the forest in a grand house that is being restored by Lawrence after a fire.
Soon, unexpected guests arrive (Ed Harris and a brilliantly sinister Michelle Pfeiffer) and, quite literally, shake things up. From the get-go, Aronofsky unrelentingly plays with our expectations. Hints of The Witch and Rosemary’s Baby are there, as is something like Funny Games. It’s home-invasion meets religious paranoia, conjured up in one of cinema’s most radical minds. Yet every time you get a grasp, it changes genres and sends you back to square one, forcing you to always be on your toes.
But of course, there has to be reason for all the controversy, right? Well, that come after the second half as the film descends into pure insanity. Some truly graphic imagery and ideas rise to the surface—and not a lot of it really makes sense at first. It suggests a lot of ideas about religion, violence, and humanity in general that surely won’t sit well with people of the faith and those with weak stomachs.
Controversial, sickening, anxiety-inducing, and all around just purely fascinating, Aronokfy’s mother! is far from your average movie-goers cup of tea. There’s a lot of depth here–far more than most people will want to go to–that begs to be uncovered despite the nauseating material. But like all great controversial works, there’s some true artistry underneath all the noise of protest. Aronofsky still continues to prove himself as one of the most radical directors of our generation, and Lawrence herself delivers a knockout. Don’t let controversy steer you away from this movie—find out for yourself and make up your own mind. The least you can see is it’s pretty unforgettable.