A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
“Mother!” brings Dove to something of a stalemate. We are at a crossroads with this picture. It is a film so challenging, so startling in its subject matter and message. In fact, it is shattering to consider that the philosophical guns it chooses to stick to are all at once haunting (and not for the better, in the case of some audiences) and bordering on hateful (a theme I will explore later). Yet when I saw this film, I was enamored with its use of visual language, and although I did not align myself with the beliefs that director Darren Aronofsky had to offer, I haven’t been able to stop talking about and thinking about his film.No, this is not a Christian film. Yes, it is very violent and horrific, and doubtlessly makes one squirm in his seat. Some critics have expressed distaste for the film’s unsavory message and content. Some have even thrown out such words as “hateful” and “grotesque.” I believe that those are understandable conclusions. This dark portrait of Christianity, the Bible, and the Fall will not be a conversation that everyone will want to be a part of. That will is the difficult part of this movie. In the eyes of Aronfosky, these themes are rather distorted. The Christianity element is not seen as faithful, but a series of visiting guests disrupting the hospitality of God’s nature on Earth. The Fall is almost unforgivable; is it disruptive and chaotic. The film suggests that we are bound to the cycle of God’s creation, humanity’s destruction, and live on repeat. Do not go alone to “Mother!” first of all. It is not a film meant for that. It is instead meant to immediately open up a dialogue. It is to be looked at not as a motion picture you liked or disliked, or even enjoyed, but as a platform for discussion about what is seen and what is believed. Critics, as mentioned, have called “Mother!” hateful on Aronofsky’s part. It is an outcome that does make sense, no question. But there is more beneath the surface. His angry direction never felt truly angry; instead, I saw someone broken by his faith and filled with insecurities about religion, someone shaken by the beliefs of Christianity. It is not easy to see or understand this point of view. Like last year’s “Silence” from Martin Scorsese, “Mother!” is dedicated to how the director communicates doubt and, possibly, fear of the Christian faith. Keep in mind what this film has to say about Christianity is from the director’s point of view and should not be accepted as truth. “Mother!” also has an interesting point to make about hospitality. The cinematography and editing clearly align us with the unnamed Mother (Jennifer Lawrence, in her most complete and mature performance to date), but we are challenged as viewers. Do we side with Mother, and feel anxious and resistant to letting strangers and new ideas into our homes or hearts? Or do we open our doors and arms, running the risk of conflict or destruction? All I can say is that it is a discussion better left for after the movie. “Mother!” is not a Dove-approved picture. It is violent, brash, and perhaps even obscene in the eyes of many. It is to be looked at as a conversation piece; perhaps a psychological inference of Aronfosky’s motives and feelings. There is a lot of hurt and brokenness in his direction of the film, but by taking the chance to see it, we may be able to offer healing through discussion of what is seen through his lens.