mother! (2017)

So much of modern movie marketing is crazy hyperbole so I might as well get with the times: mother! might just be the best horror film of the century so far, by going exactly where it threatens to with zero fucks given. And also because…it really disturbed me.

This is a cinematic nightmare sustained for two hours. It’s an “EXPERIENCE THIS” kind of movie. The first hour you’ll laugh uncomfortably, half perplexed at what you’re seeng. The last hour is an all-out horror show, a cacophony of madness and hysteria. Baffling, hilariously unsubtle and ridiculous? Sure. But it remains HORRIFYING. The allegory stuff is essential as a way in. Once you “get” what the film is doing it becomes much easier to get on its wavelength and understand certain oddities (a celebrity poet in 2017? Surprise!) It’s all allegory, and not necessarily 2017, or any time at all. It’s not even a fucking house. They aren’t even fucking people.

It’s so much a Darren Aronofsky movie. It’s an overflowing boiling pot of imagery, ideas and themes that permeate throughout his entire body of work. Is his favourite book the Bible? Very likely. This is pretty much the creation montage from Noah blown up to full length with an 18 rating. The thing I love about him as a filmmaker is his willingness to deal in extremes. Most modern horror movies daren’t go as far as the imaginations of their audience. It’s why I have very little time for the current wave of “art horror” movies. They’re all about restraint, suggestion, distant composition, quietness and mood. There have been some great recent movies in that mode from promising young filmmakers, but few to none have stayed with me.

Speaking subjectively, I feel like the best horror movies are the ones that aren’t afraid to go there. The ones I love are the ones that offer a truly visceral experience, for better or worse. When I saw It Comes at Night earlier this year, I bemoaned the movie for being too proud to get its hands dirty and confront the horror of that world head-on, rather than behind obtuse storytelling or locked doors. A film like mother! gives me exactly what I want from the genre, and then some. When Jennifer Lawrence’s character becomes pregnant, because this is a Darren Aronofsky movie, not only do you know that the baby’s bloody demise is a possibility, but that it’s downright inevitable*. He reduces maybe the world’s biggest Hollywood actress to a bruised, battered mess, and shows that battering in all its ugliness. And it’s not for nothing. The film needs it. Aronofsky fucking goes there. The fact he manages it in a major motion picture in the super-sensitive social and political climate of 2017 is even more extraordinary. GODDAMN.

I honestly found this to be one of the most oppressive, perplexing and downright traumatic experiences I’ve had at the cinema. But it’s also fun? And really silly? Horror is where my love of film was originally forged, where most of my cinematic sensibility was crystalised (like that heart Bardem rips out of J Law’s body at the end) and its a genre for which I have an undying affection and attachment to. I’m not sure this is widely considered an all-out horror film by everyone, but I certainly see it as such. For all its allegorical dressing, the film is incredibly simple at its core. That isn’t to say it’s hollow as much as it is straight forward. Once I grasped the various layers of metaphor, my understanding of that part of it was complete and I now find myself swooning over the echo-chamber sound design (the way voices differ in sound as Lawrence travels from room to room is truly immersive) and the three shot rule of the cinematography. In short, mother! is best experienced and to be tormented by rather than discussed and dissected. Let it dissect you. Set me on fire and tear my heart out. I love this movie.

*Remember in Noah when half of the movie was Russell Crowe wanting to kill a baby? Aronofsky, why you hate babies?

Watched at the cinema

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