Mother! By Darren Aronofsky. A conversation with myself

All aboard the merry-go-round of depression!

(mild spoilers)

One of the little analytical games I like to play with myself

or with people who are too resigned to get up and walk away

is to determine whether a piece of media is good or not good, and why. I generally argue that there are some generally agreed-upon criteria

I would say objective, but the ghost of Malinowski’s journals haunts me still

for a good piece of art, and these can range from having a firm grip on the language of the medium being used

Dutch angles are not products from the Netherland’s IKEA knock-off, Roger, and also not a way to punctuate your STUPID FUCKING CORRIDOR SCENES, YOU

to successfully conveying genuine and specific feelings and meaning to the consumers

appreciators? Admirers? Viewers/readers? FEED ME SEYMOUR

But despite their pedigree, these works of art may or may not resonate with you personally, and that is where subjectivity comes in. Now, before you call me judgemental

you can later, because I totally am

I don’t actually attach a value to these things. I myself love a great deal of what is generally considered crappy media, specifically bad films or music. I have a soft spot for the laughably awful Riddick series, I own the High School Musical on DVD

this is literally the most embarrassing thing about me

and loved The Lost Boys before it was a camp classic.

I was ahead of my time, and by that I mean behind it because it came out before I was born, and you know what? Never fucking mind

In contrast, I recognise Darren Aronofsky’s films as the brilliant works that they are – and hate every single one of them.

I know I have feelings, asshole, I do mental inventory every quarter and they are usually still all there on their shelves, where they belong. I don’t want to actually feel them and you force me to

The best thing I can say for Mother! is that I probably hate it the least and admire it the most.

I saw Requiem for a Dream a decade ago, and I still dream about it occasionally. More like requiem for sleep, amirite *obnoxious snort*

Among other things, Mother! seems to deal with topics such as feminism, the environment, religion and creative torment

so this should be some lighthearted fun

I can’t say for sure, of course, but the creator’s apparent intent


and much of the movie suggest these things are central.

Aronofsky is a master of capturing complex emotions and subconscious fears

always cut your cuticles, kids!

on screen, and Mother! is no exception. There is something so unsettling in the way the titular mother, played by Jennifer Lawrence in an unexpectedly


strong performance, is framed. A lot of the time, the camera floats in front of her face, taking in every feeling and nuance. There is a very sickening sense

for me! Subjective! Though I am sure I am not the only one who will have picked up on this

of dismissal towards the protagonist, generating the kind of powerlessness one might feel as a child, or which indeed many women or minorities presumably feel in the course of their lives. Mother is all but patted on the head and told not to worry herself, as she runs around picking up, painting and cooking, washing and tidying, at first behind her callous husband, played by Javier Bardem

who is frighteningly well-suited to this, and has mastered the thousand-yard death stare like whoa

then behind Man and Woman, played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer

especially Pfeiffer, who seems to be in on some private joke or just having a great time, and I was so in love with her as Catwoman, she is excellent at sophisticate mischievousness

and then the rest. Mother isn’t put upon in any overt way; no one ever tells her that she or her opinion are invalid – they don’t have to. Consider the second act scene after the struggle between Man’s two sons, played by real-life brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleeson

I am really hoping the red hair isn’t a metaphor for something, Darren, that would be unusually lazy of you

Mother is left alone in the house, terrified and covered in blood. Her husband, the poet, whom she clearly loves more than she loves herself, disregards her and her efforts to create a space for just the two of them. Only when her circumstances change does he have a renewed interest in her, but this too fades rapidly in the face of the adulation he receives.

Another one of Aronofsky’s specialities appears to be his way of presenting us with some extreme kinds of violence or gore

gallons of the stuff

Unlike in a splatter film, which the third act of the film certainly shares some kinship with, it is the idea of what is behind the gore which is more disturbing. I am fairly squeamish, so gore, well applied

as it were

has caused me plenty of sleepless nights. But for Aronofsky, I lie awake thinking of the implications behind the guts and blood

oh, god, that ending was so fucking gross what the fuck man, I didn’t ever need to see that shit

rather than the brutality itself.

I wasn’t actually that confused about the metaphorical themes of the film. Obviously you can’t take it for literal truth,

did you fucks not see The Fountain? You can’t trust him!

there are some subtleties of course,

apparently the toad has meaning too? It’s a pretty small plague though, just the one

but then mother literally says she is trying to make a paradise, or the elder of the two brothers having a mark between his eyes after a particularly poignant moment. However, it is not a straight analogy or metaphor, but remixes and connects several different ideas together to form a deeply chilling final product with a climactic

read: utterly batshit crazy

ending that presumably no one will forget seeing anytime soon.

Note: I am of course interpreting a lot into the film regarding its themes, but there is some metatextual evidence to suggest its validity in addition to the cues you receive in the film itself. Aronofsky commented on the film multiple times, suggesting the various mother nature/humanity and creator/muse dichotomies. In addition, he is known to be an environmentalist, an attitude which shines through in other films like The Fountain

screw The Fountain, the last time I was so depressed it was after I found out that there were no real X-Files in the FBI

So, there is some weight to it.

Then again, it could just be an extended metaphor about the hubris of home improvement. What the fuck do I know, Sharon