Genesis, the Gospels, and Revelation Plunge Through a Psych-Horror Looking Glass in mother! | Film Review | Indy Week

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Genesis, the Gospels, and Revelation Plunge Through a Psych-Horror Looking Glass in mother!

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In Darren Aronofsky's Rorschach test of a film, a husband (Javier Bardem), identified only as "Him," is a poet with writer's block. Meanwhile, his wife (Jennifer Lawrence), identified only as "Mother," tends to their Victorian fixer-upper. Their tranquility is interrupted when he brings home a mysterious man (Ed Harris), soon followed by his mischievous wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their sons. These interlopers are barred from one room in the house, which contains a crystalline object of great significance to Him.

Calamity follows, and the house fills with mourners for whom the poet shows more concern than he does for his wife, who chases them away and then redirects her outrage at her husband. A pregnancy seems to restore the couple's happiness and the poet's inspiration, but when new fanatics make a pilgrimage to his home, the results are disastrous.

There is some sidelong symbolism about artist-muse and celebrity-fan relationships, but the film's ostentatious presentation conceals deeper themes. Mother! is a biblical speed-walk through Genesis, the Gospels, and the Book of Revelation, though its purpose isn't ecclesiastical. Aronofsky, a humanist, filters an environmental message through the theological construct, making this a companion to his Noah, a story of catastrophe and a god who's either absent or who lets bad things happen.

Lawrence's character is central but subjugated as a deferential housewife who is ignored and brutalized for finding her agency—the divine feminine, so often suppressed in Judeo-Christian doctrine. The male deity is dominant but flawed, susceptible to vanity, neediness, and distraction. His craving for adoration is such that he sates his supporters on his home and family, which leads to a depiction of the Crucifixion and Eucharist that's incendiary mainly because it's so literal.

Mother! is a religious allegory as provocative as Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ and Lars von Trier's Dogville, but without the former's piety or the latter's minimalism. It's prone to pretension and bedeviling narrative detours, and halfway through, I had no desire to ever see it again. By the end, I couldn't wait to.

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