MOTHER! directed by Darren Aronofsky (USA, 2017)

Beware of films with exclamation marks in the title!

“Mother! is a movie designed to provoke fury, ecstasy, madness, and catharsis, and more than a little awe”.  This verdict is from a review in Vox that Darren Aronofsky says ‘gets it’.

It culminates in an apocalyptic finale that works on the theory that nothing succeeds like excess. It is shocking in the sense of being shockingly awful.

If Aronofsky’s goal was to get under my skin he succeeded but, while I usually gain a perverse pleasure from mindfuck or body horror movies, this one left me cold and with feelings of distaste and repulsion.

The characters are nameless and soulless. We learn next to nothing of their back story and , since we are not persuaded to sympathise or emphasise with them, the escalating pain and atrocities we witness  merely satisfy a debased form of voyeurism. This is pornography disguised as an art film.

On one level it is also a film about impotence. The poet husband (Javier Bardem) has writer’s block and also seemingly avoids having sex with his wife  (although he does manage to impregnate and fertilise her after she goads him into action). For her part, the wife (Jennifer Lawrence) is entirely powerless to prevent him from inviting guests and worshipful admirers into their idyllic ‘paradise’ home.

The whole movie is seen from her perspective and the impressiveness of Lawrence’s full-blooded performance is its main selling point. She screams “STOP!” a great deal but her desperate pleas fall on deaf ears. I felt like joining in with her as the plot became increasingly preposterous.

For good measure,Aronofsky throws in the red herring that the ill-fated couple are living in some kind of haunted house; a pretentious and ultimately vacuous nod towards the more conventional horror genre.

The hell in this movie is other people whose behaviour escalates from being rude and unruly guests to being totally unhinged as part of a mass invasion.

The director has spoken about the movie being a form of religious allegory wherein Lawrence represents Mother Earth , Bardem is God and the first two uninvited visitors (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) are Adam and Eve.  But alongside this pseudo biblical hokum pokum, the suggestion is also that this is what it is like to live with an artist who is prepared to sacrifice personal relationships in pursuit of self-centred creativity.

But, to my mind, the only possible point to the movie would be to see it as a warning against the destructive forces of an indoctrinated,  undisciplined mob which collectively plunders the Earth in a desperate search for hope or meaning.

Unfortunately,  Aronofsky lacks the poetry, passion or humanity of  Luis Bunuel or David Lynch to be able to make this point with any gravitas and cannot prevent the dark, surrealistic nightmare spiralling into a mire of grotesque and meaningless bullshit.