After the 2010 triumph of Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky returned to the Venice Film Festival to present another dark picture. Mother! could be summed up as “Jennifer Lawrence walks around a house while really crazy s**t happens”, but of course there’s so much more than that. A couple (the names are never told) lives in a countryside house so that he – a poet (Javier Bardem) – can find inspiration again. One day a stranger knocks at the door (Ed Harris), and soon his wife too (a marvellous Michelle Pfeiffer); from that moment on, a series of increasingly disturbing events take place. It’s a slow descent into madness, reaching the goriest and most violent moments ever seen in a film from Aronofsky.
Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant in conveying a palpable sense of uneasiness; she’s always on camera and the key to her performance (one of the best of her career) is keeping it as understated as possible. The uninvited guests in this house make her life unbearable, doing whatever they want and ignoring her presence. As if that wasn’t enough, the poet acts so unreasonably and irritatingly it becomes almost impossible not to despise him; until he shows off – on close-up – his comforting, incredibly humane smile. From a casting point of view, there’s a similarity with Black Swan: there’s a young actress carrying the weight of the entire film, whose character depends on a man interpreted by a very charming foreign actor (Bardem/Cassel), and there’s also a female glory from the 90s playing an upset lady (Pfeiffer/Ryder).
Jóhann Jóhannsson is the perfect choice for the score, very few composers can deliver the necessary edginess and eeriness for this brutally insane film; the soundscape matches the visual boldness of Aronofsky without ever overstepping it (Jóhannsson’s trademark). Whether you like this love/hate picture, your reaction will be: what the hell did I just watch? Unforgettable, probably the most powerful film of the year.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Mother! is released nationwide on 15th September 2017.
Watch a clip from Mother! here: