For those of you out there who aren’t ready for the Halloween season to be over, one way to keep the spooky spirit around is to watch some well-rated horror movies. This October I ended up watching several, some which I loved and some that completely missed the mark. By far, the best was “Mother!,” a film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, a filmmaker and screenwriter who is well-known for his surreal, melodramatic and often disturbing films.
Released in 2017, this psychological horror film follows a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her life with “Him,” her husband, played by Javier Bardem. They are peacefully situated in a large, old home that Lawrence, playing Mother, is busy fixing up and caring for. When a mysterious couple arrives and disrupts the tranquil house, things begin to fall apart, and Mother becomes increasingly uneasy. When she brings up her worries to her husband, though, He brushes them aside, emphasizing that they are fans of his work and should be allowed to stay.
At first the slow paced and bizarre plot seems random and directionless, and Mother’s character reflects the audience’s confusion as she wanders at times aimlessly about the house, looking for her husband. Soon after the couple arrives, who both remain unnamed, their two sons somehow find the house which is apparently in the middle of nowhere. More and more people invade Mother’s home throughout the film, leaving their mark by destroying bits and pieces of her carefully collected “paradise” which seems to damage her own physical health, until the raucous mob demolishes what is most important to her in the dramatic and disturbing finale.
It is almost impossible to discuss what this film is about without giving away interpretive spoilers. Aronofsky brilliantly intertwines the allegorical structure of the film, which is rife with biblical references, with the storyline, convincingly recreating genesis with an almost comedically dark twist. Mother herself is represented as a woman of immense responsibility and power, like Mother Earth or Mary, yet is completely controlled by her husband’s emotions and her overwhelming love for Him.
Lawrence herself is saddled with the immense acting challenge of radiating godly beauty while remaining an ultimately passive actor in the film’s events. She never gets the chance to be human. The filming itself aids her in this, as her form is displayed as almost statuesque and airbrushed. She is always lit as if from within, while Bardem remains mostly in shadow. Aronofsky’s depiction of this incredibly symbolic and untouchable world makes the human moments of the film jump out in surprising ways, especially in the birth scene at the end amidst the sounds of war and chaos.
Ultimately, this film is not a typical Halloween horror movie, but if you’re looking for something that will make you consider the state of our world and humanity, in combination with gorgeous filmmaking and good old-fashioned blood and guts, this movie is for you. Just don’t watch it alone.