Has this provocateur director gone too far with his latest movie?
If there’s one thing director Darren Aronofsky seems to enjoy, it’s provoking people.
When gritty drama Requiem for a Dream was released in 2000, he pushed the boundaries of what we can stomach as an audience with a gut-wrenching portrayal of four drug addicts in Brooklyn.
Nobody was quite sure what to make of the fantastically bizarre The Fountain (2006), Noah (2014) controversially reimagined a biblical tale, and the dark undercurrent of Black Swan (2010), which trod the line between sanity and insanity, divided audiences and critics once again.
But it is his upcoming release mother! that has left critics and audiences speculating on whether or not Hollywood’s enfant terrible might just have gone too far this time.
And that’s a reputation he seems to rather enjoy.
The product of a five-day ‘fever dream’ writing spree, mother! follows a nameless couple rattling around a huge mansion in the middle of nowhere.
The wife – mother – played by Jennifer Lawrence, fills her days with redecorating after the house was destroyed by fire, while her husband Him (Javier Bardem), a successful author, plays the role of a tortured artist wrestling with writer’s block.
This apparent idyll is shattered with the arrival of a strange houseguest (Ed Harris) and his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) who insinuate themselves into the couple’s life, and things begin to take an unsettling turn.
Booed by audiences at the Venice Film Festival and given an F-rating by market research film company CinemaScore, yet praised by fellow director Martin Scorsese, the film marries elements of home invasion, horror, romance and biblical allusion in a building crescendo of phantasmagoria that shocks a lot, but explains very little.
Actress Jennifer Lawrence had a similar reaction upon reading the script: “I read the script, I threw it across the room, I told him he had severe psychological problems,” she told Vice.
Aronofsky wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve never really quite fit into genre,” he explained at the Toronto Independent Film Festival. “The Fountain wasn’t really a genre but had a little sci-fi and romance. The Wrestler wasn’t eligible for an ESPN award because it wasn’t considered a sports film. We almost couldn’t get Black Swan made because it wasn’t a ballet movie or a horror film, and of course Noah wasn’t your regular biblical movie.
“You start to watch and you think it’s one type of film… You can never quite get a handle on it,” he said in a later interview.
“The worst thing I think you can do is make a movie where you’re entertained, but a couple of hours later you don’t really remember it,” continued Aronofsky.
“You want to give people something to think about, and with this movie there’ll be a lot of conversation afterwards – and it’ll be a lot of heated conversation, but that’s kind of the fun.”
- Also starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Kristen Wiig and Jovan Adepo.
- Running time: 125 mins
- Rating: 18+
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WORDS Camille Hogg