mother! (2017)

Joined: Feb 2015
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Upfront warning, I'm not bothering with spoiler cloaking.

Boy, am I glad that I avoided reading any of the reviews or spoilers for this film. Going in unscathed with talk of environmentalism/biblicisms, I had a number of thoughts that diverge from this template, and converge in some interesting ways. For one, I thought the film makes for an excellent encapsulation of my social anxiety, as I, like Miss Lawrence, agree that most people are assholes and I wouldn't want too many in my house either. Harris and Pfeiffer are people I've met, that kind of selfish boomer that still think they're clever but the pills have turned their humor into something obnoxious and malicious. It is a very irritating film in this regard, but obviously intentionally, so I cringed and grated through all of this unfortunate social horror. I don't know how more people weren't killed a lot sooner.

It became clear very early on that the rules of reality did not apply to this story, so, given Aronofsky's tendencies, I resisted pulling the plausibility card, instead expecting something more surreal and symbolic. I wasn't disappointed.

I began entertaining pet theories about everyone, including Lawrence, being figments of Javier's imagination. I thought of the allegory to fame, including the loss of privacy and a public feeling entitled to one's intimacy, shredding and flaying pieces of their object of worship/torture as souvenirs, and then punishing the idol when she complains (I admit that this was a pretty literal reading of Lawrence's real-life experiences, ala iCloud, etc). I also saw the very compatible allegory of how an artist can exploit his muse, often selfishly and thanklessly (ie, Scorsese's Life Lessons). And although I didn't specifically think of the biblical allegory or the environmental allegory at the time, I can see and appreciate how each of them fit in with this role of exploitation and careless, cynically casual degradation. I'm sure there are equally qualified feminist interpretations to be made. The biblical allegory certainly has a lot of unmined potential - the root between religion and warfare, the parallel of the "apple" with the baby Jesus who was "consumed" to counteract the original sin. And circling back to the fame allegory, it's notable that it is a different actress at the end, suggesting that Lawrence's fame (her face) has been consumed to be replaced by this year's face, and the endless cycle of fresh faces to replace the old (Pfeiffer's hostile negging shows more than a little resentment).

The biblical theory makes the most sense and seems to be the correct reading, but I'm happy that I wasn't burdened to read it that way, and not very sorry to have missed it. But I also feel that all of these allegories are embedded in the film's layers, and most of them rhyme. Whether it's Mother Nature, Mary, the Muse, Womanhood, or Jennifer Lawrence herself, the theme remains remarkably intact.

It's a lovely film. I'm happy that it pissed off a lot of ugly people.
Oct 4, 2017 12:19 AM
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MKS
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Janson JinnistanUpfront warning, I'm not bothering with spoiler cloaking.

Boy, am I glad that I avoided reading any of the reviews or spoilers for this film. ?Going in unscathed with talk of environmentalism/biblicisms, I had a number of thoughts that diverge from this template, and converge in some interesting ways. ?For one, I thought the film makes for an excellent encapsulation of my social anxiety, as I, like Miss Lawrence, agree that most people are assholes and I wouldn't want too many in my house either. ?Harris and Pfeiffer are people I've met, that kind of selfish boomer that still think they're clever but the pills have turned their humor into something obnoxious and malicious. ?It is a very irritating film in this regard, but obviously intentionally, so I cringed and grated through all of this unfortunate social horror. ?I don't know how more people weren't killed a lot sooner.

It became clear very early on that the rules of reality did not apply to this story, so, given Aronofsky's tendencies, I resisted pulling the plausibility card, instead expecting something more surreal and symbolic. ?I wasn't disappointed.

I began entertaining pet theories about everyone, including Lawrence, being figments of Javier's imagination. ?I thought of the allegory to fame, including the loss of privacy and a public feeling entitled to one's intimacy, shredding and flaying pieces of their object of worship/torture as souvenirs, and then punishing the idol when she complains (I admit that this was a pretty literal reading of Lawrence's real-life experiences, ala iCloud, etc). ?I also saw the very compatible allegory of how an artist can exploit his muse, often selfishly and thanklessly (ie, Scorsese's Life Lessons). ?And although I didn't specifically think of the biblical allegory or the environmental allegory at the time, I can see and appreciate how each of them fit in with this role of exploitation and careless, cynically casual degradation. ?I'm sure there are equally qualified feminist interpretations to be made. ?The biblical allegory certainly has a lot of unmined potential - the root between religion and warfare, the parallel of the "apple" with the baby Jesus who was "consumed" to counteract the original sin. ?And circling back to the fame allegory, it's notable that it is a different actress at the end, suggesting that Lawrence's fame (her face) has been consumed to be replaced by this year's face, and the endless cycle of fresh faces to replace the old (Pfeiffer's hostile negging shows more than a little resentment).

The biblical theory makes the most sense and seems to be the correct reading, but I'm happy that I wasn't burdened to read it that way, and not very sorry to have missed it. ?But I also feel that all of these allegories are embedded in the film's layers, and most of them rhyme. ?Whether it's Mother Nature, Mary, the Muse, Womanhood, or Jennifer Lawrence herself, the theme remains remarkably intact.

It's a lovely film. ?I'm happy that it pissed off a lot of ugly people.

I appreciated the film and it really resonated with me. The biblical allegory kicked in for me around the time Domhnall Cain'd his brother and I began looking at other depths to possibly plumb. I was intrigued by the potentially metafictional aspects of the relationships between artists and their muses/audiences. The characters representing multiple selves while lacking an identity beyond "Him" "Mother" "Man" "Wife" etc lent itself to a very effective universality and specificity that embodies why I love surrealist/allegorical cinema. Bardem functioning as poet/God/Aronofsky worked as an excellent foil to Lawrence as young wife/mother Earth/ Mary/herself and there's just so many directions to take the material beyond the biblical allegory.
Even if it were as superficial as mere Bible allegory, it also functions as a wonderful critique of God and religion and the underappreciated roles of Earth and Mary.
And that's without mentioning the technical wizardry of the thing. The decision to film almost entirely in close ups and POV both lent itself so well to the her subjective perspective (almost the untold story of the bible/artistic creation/relationships) but helped make the film utterly claustrophobic and made one feel her anxiety for Intruders. It was basically party anxiety the movie.
It's amazing that it pissed off America's largely Christian audiences.
Oct 4, 2017 1:48 AM
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Janson Jinnistan. For one, I thought the film makes for an excellent encapsulation of my social anxiety, as I, like Miss Lawrence, agree that most people are assholes.

I'm sure that most people feel the same way about you too.
Oct 4, 2017 2:57 AM
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MKS
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last splash
Janson Jinnistan. For one, I thought the film makes for an excellent encapsulation of my social anxiety, as I, like Miss Lawrence, agree that most people are assholes.

I'm sure that most people feel the same way about you too.

Glass houses.
Oct 4, 2017 3:14 AM
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[quote]
Even if it were as superficial as mere Bible allegory, it also functions as a wonderful critique of God and religion and the underappreciated roles of Earth and Mary.
And that's without mentioning the technical wizardry of the thing. The decision to film almost entirely in close ups and POV both lent itself so well to the her subjective perspective (almost the untold story of the bible/artistic creation/relationships) but helped make the film utterly claustrophobic and made one feel her anxiety for Intruders. It was basically party anxiety the movie.
It's amazing that it pissed off America's largely Christian audiences.[/quote]


Oh good grief. "Party anxiety the movie" would piss anyone off regardless of denomination. Cain was probably the first thing that hit me over the head as well.
Oct 4, 2017 6:13 PM
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Robin McDonald"Party anxiety the movie" would piss anyone off regardless of denomination.

The Invitation seemed to get some pretty positive reviews.

Robin McDonaldCain was probably the first thing that hit me over the head as well.

Oct 5, 2017 4:01 AM
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MKSI appreciated the film and it really resonated with me.

It only gets better the more I think about it. Concerning the biblical stuff, I may be mistaken - because, again, that aspect didn't occur to me watching it - but was that a flaming sword on Ed Harris' lighter? As in the flaming sword which guards the Garden of Eden?

MKSAnd that's without mentioning the technical wizardry of the thing.

I'll have to watch the, um, escalation sequence more closely. Much of it seemed like long shots tracking from room to room, but it's all so chaotic, I'm sure that there were many opportunities to hide the edits.
Oct 5, 2017 4:10 AM
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Janson Jinnistan
MKSI appreciated the film and it really resonated with me.

It only gets better the more I think about it. ?Concerning the biblical stuff, I may be mistaken - because, again, that aspect didn't occur to me watching it - but was that a flaming sword on Ed Harris' lighter? ?As in the flaming sword which guards the Garden of Eden?


MKSAnd that's without mentioning the technical wizardry of the thing.

I'll have to watch the, um, escalation sequence more closely. ?Much of it seemed like long shots tracking from room to room, but it's all so chaotic, I'm sure that there were many opportunities to hide the edits.

If there were ever a film I need to see twice... I shielded myself from much that happened in the last third. It's Aronofsky's best film. The editing alone deserves special recognition.
Oct 5, 2017 12:40 PM
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I read through a number of the bad reviews (one of this site's true perks), as well as some of the trusted positive ones. Leonard Maltin may be my favorite among the former. Poor guy. His entire review reads like he's desperately trying not to make eye contact. Truly traumatized.

There seem to be some common trends. Lots of comparisons to Rosemary's Baby and The Shining, but I find these very superficial. I think that the Bunuel comparisons are more apt - Discreet Charm, Exterminating Angel and Viridiana get more to the heart of what's going on here, and I think it was the guy at ebert.com who compared it to L'Age D'Or, citing the image at the end of a crucifix made from women's scalps.

On the other hand, I'm a little surprised at the number of pans that charge the film with being misogynistic, which I'm sure would also be levied at Bunuel if he wasn't already safely canonized. Like "pretentious", it's a term that most well-educated critics would be too scared to accuse of a truly and boldly pretentious director, like Fellini. Most critics have deep intellectual insecurities. For example, the most loathsome aspect of these reviews is the smugness. They condescend to Aronofsky over his "obvious", "silly", and "easily decoded" allegory, and some claim that allegories themselves are something that should be beneath a serious artist, and then they proceed to prove that they didn't understand the allegory they found so simple in the first place. At least, it would require such a misunderstanding in order to miss why the "mother" seems to be treated in such a misogynistic way. Also, many critics seem to have a problem with the film showing Jennifer Lawrence in a way that they don't want to see Jennifer Lawrence. This is also misogynistic, because no one bothers to ask what Jennifer Lawrence wants to portray, treating her like a personal doll that Aronofsky cruelly ran over with a bus. I've also read from someone who clearly didn't actually watch the film who refuted the theory that she represents the neglected and ignored Mother Nature because Nature has given us hurricanes recently. I just want to shake the stupid out of people sometimes too.

Another interesting phenomena, as I read over people's responses from that first weekend, is what an annoying neurosis people have about seeking out spoilers, and being too insecure to watch a film without knowing every little secret before hand. Like, begging for it. The brief window before the NYTimes interview, or before too many reviews laid out the details, just had people going mad, like pissing their pants can't wait. This was a wide release, so they could have gone to the theater, but they just had to know first. Sickness. I sincerely pity them.

Also, the impromptu drinking game spurred by every time you see Aronofsky's name misspelled? Very dangerous.
Oct 8, 2017 8:31 AM
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MKS
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There's a trend in film criticism, both amateur and professional, that when a filmmaker does something outside of traditional narrative, it will be maligned when they do not understand it. The impulse seems to be that if the critic can't conceive of a reason something happened, it must be the filmmaker's stupidity and a mistake that it is in the film. If they do understand it, then the filmmaker is pretentious and obvious. It's a peculiarity that is relative and adversarial to the critics approximation of their own intellect and the filmmakers must paradoxically be smarter than them but not ever think themselves smarter.

It's nonsense.
Oct 8, 2017 8:51 AM
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I'd be interested to hear a coherent defense for why this is his best film.

To me part of good film making is some communicating an idea so it understood on some level what you were trying to do.
And did what you were trying to do get pulled off effectively.

The defense here is not how the film is great but tearing apart perceived shortcomings in the critics and audience reaction to the film.
The other unassailable defense is its his best film "because I say so." and "It resonated with me." That is a door that would seem to swing both ways with
equal force whether you liked it or not.

"With me" Mother! was his worst film.
I thought Black Swan was actually terrible as well for similar reasons but an intelligent case could be made for it.
I think Requiem will forever be his best film for effective human relatable performances, structure courage, daring, invention.
Here was a difficult film that even its most passionate fans say its a film they don't want to see twice.
And the reason is because its a film that effectively punches the audience in the gut. The opposite of the feel good film of the year.
Its the feel bad film of its decade. My favorite allegory for the film's structure and I am proud to have come up with it is Requiem has the exact feel of one of those giant 10 foot across coin vortex novelties you see in shopping malls. The quarter slowly and quietly rolls along the top at first as if it could dance there forever. You could easily pluck the quarter off at any time. But as it gets lower the speed gets slowly more intense, then faster and faster its soon too far in and moving almost too fast to grasp. At the end as it inevitably finds the center its spinning so out of control and so fast you can't see it anymore.? You can only hear the fury and then suddenly silence as it drops in the pit of its past casualties. All the while I cared about these characters. And so it hurt to watch them not just hit bottom but fall into the pit and disappear.

To me his art film characters are increasingly alien and abstract? and less and less human and just weird. I've seen art films come and go but this is the first one labeled the 'n' word "pretentious" and people aren't really challenging the use of the word. I didn't go into this film knowing much of anything about it other than the trailers. It still was holding around the eighties during its pre-release date. I glazed over a few reviews for gist picking up there might be biblical allegory. I was going to see it because it was Aranofsky and at the least it would be interesting, and that Jennifer Lawrence was wearing a see through nightie backlit so that's good.? The intensity of the madness doesn't serve this film the way it served Requiem.The apt allegory? for this film is its akin to like listening to the ramblings of a? drunk? for two hours.?Drunks are intensely emotionally connected to whatever they are saying believing they are honestly relating ultimate truths.? Randomly seizing on? scripture or zen falling in and out of despair and rapture. I suppose there is something beautiful and deep in that if you want to find it.? But you probably wouldn't want to read a transcript the next day.

To what degree I get it or don't get it I don't know. But I would probably disagree with the value of the statement being made and its execution with someone who totally gets it.
Oct 8, 2017 5:45 PM
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MKS
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Robin McDonaldI'd be interested to hear a coherent defense for why this is his best film.

To me part of good film making is some communicating an idea so it understood on some level what you were trying to do.
And did what you were trying to do get pulled off effectively.

The defense here is not how the film is great but tearing apart perceived shortcomings in the critics and audience reaction to the film.
The other unassailable defense is its his best film "because I say so." and? "It resonated with me." That is a door that would seem to swing both ways with
equal force whether you liked it or not.

"With me" Mother! was his worst film.
I thought Black Swan was actually terrible as well for similar reasons but an intelligent case could be made for it.
I think Requiem will forever be his best film for effective human relatable performances, structure courage, daring, invention.
Here was a difficult film that even its most passionate fans say its a film they don't want to see twice.
And the reason is because its a film that effectively punches the audience in the gut. The opposite of the feel good film of the year.
Its the feel bad film of its decade. My favorite allegory for the film's structure and I am proud to have come up with it is Requiem has the exact feel of one of those giant 10 foot across coin vortex novelties you see in shopping malls. The quarter slowly and quietly rolls along the top at first as if it could dance there forever. You could easily pluck the quarter off at any time.? but as it gets lower the speed gets slowly more intense, then faster and faster its soon too far in and moving almost too fast to grasp. At the end as it inevitably finds the center its spinning so out of control and so fast you can't see it anymore.? You can only hear the fury and then suddenly silence as it drops in the pit of its past casualties. All the while I cared about these characters. And so it hurt to watch them not just hit bottom but fall into the pit and disappear.

To me his art film characters are increasingly alien and abstract? and less and less human and just weird. I've seen art films come and go but this is the first one labeled the 'n' word "pretentious" and people aren't really challenging the use of the word. I didn't go into this film knowing much of anything about it other than the trailers. It still was holding around the eighties during its pre-release date. I glazed over a few reviews for gist picking up there might be biblical allegory. I was going to see it because it was Aranofsky and at the least it would be interesting, and that Jennifer Lawrence was wearing a see through nightie backlit so that's good.? The intensity of the madness doesn't serve this film the way it served Requiem.The apt allegory? for this film is its akin to like listening to the ramblings of a? drunk? for two hours.?Drunks are intensely emotionally connected to whatever they are saying believing they are honestly relating ultimate truths.? Randomly seizing on? scripture or zen falling in and out of despair and rapture. I suppose there is something beautiful and deep in that if you want to find it.? But you probably wouldn't want to read a transcript the next day.?

To what degree I get it or don't get it I don't know. But I would probably disagree with the value of the statement being made and its execution with someone who totally gets it.

Exhibit A
Oct 8, 2017 7:45 PM
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MKS
Robin McDonaldI'd be interested to hear a coherent defense for why this is his best film.
The defense here is not how the film is great but tearing apart perceived shortcomings in the critics and audience reaction to the film.

Exhibit A


Prosecution Exhibit A with recent past posts offered as Exhibit B through F
Critique of critics without making a positive defense for why the film is great. Validates the accusation supporters don't have a coherent defense.
Just "I say so" and critics suck.
Oct 8, 2017 9:21 PM
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MKS
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Robin McDonald
MKS
Robin McDonaldI'd be interested to hear a coherent defense for why this is his best film.
The defense here is not how the film is great but tearing apart perceived shortcomings in the critics and audience reaction to the film.

Exhibit A

Prosecution Exhibit A with past posts
Critique of critics without making a positive defense for why the film is great. Validates the accusation

Are you saying that my and JJ's posts in this thread as to the strengths of the film are incoherent? Your post was riddled with assumptions that because you didn't pick up on elements that it was a failure of Aronofsky's. You also spelled it Aranofsky, aligning with JJ's complaint of the trend.
We've already made a coherent defense of it's quality. Then the assessment of "best" becomes relative to the feelings on the individual on the rest of his ouvre.
Oct 8, 2017 9:25 PM
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MKS
Robin McDonald
MKS
Robin McDonaldI'd be interested to hear a coherent defense for why this is his best film.
The defense here is not how the film is great but tearing apart perceived shortcomings in the critics and audience reaction to the film.

Exhibit A

Prosecution Exhibit A with past posts
Critique of critics without making a positive defense for why the film is great. Validates the accusation

Are you saying that my and JJ's posts in this thread as to the strengths of the film are incoherent? Your post was riddled with assumptions that because you didn't pick up on elements that it was a failure of Aronofsky's. You also spelled it Aranofsky, aligning with JJ's complaint of the trend.
We've already made a coherent defense of it's quality. Then the assessment of "best" becomes relative to the feelings on the individual on the rest of his ouvre.

I am saying your corporate "coherent defense" amounts to cherry picking straw men critiques. If those critiquing don't get it... those who do 'get it' should be able to mount an case what it is about and some point by points on why its worthy message and what about the message is great. GD Poster 12 Sycamores a while back at least attempted a defense of some bombs I lobbed at the films ill matched metaphors. Even if the defense failed I respect the attempt. The critics are stupid and they suck is a lazy one size fits all defense avoiding any positive argument for the content of the film and it execution.
Props to Jinistan's initial reaction post. but thumbs down for his abridged summary of the critics.

I could easily and clearly identify the themes exploring the nature of addiction, seduction, complusion and structure for Requiem and why the film is powerful and an exciting entry from this new and inventive director. I would show How it artfully employs repeated audible and rhythms cues like he used in Pi as chapter breaks that viscerally enhance the next volley building to the climax. What do the individual characters represent. Why is it and its character arcs so very human and powerful. I would mount that defensein response to an accusation that Requiem is merely and anti-drug PSA. I can't do make that sort of a defense for this film.

One of the accusations myself and other critics level at Mother! is what its saying is that is is sound and fury signifying not much. It appears to be flailing wildly with an assault on the senses that amounts to an unfocused drunken mishmosh tantrum about God and the artistic process. If I could I'd argue its likely its possibly about his own personal struggle with creating and the seduction of fame being a destructive impediment. Maybe the film is a meta confession of a personal creative implosion. Other artists like Fellini and Fosse with 8 1/2 and All that Jazz have explored their personal shortcomings self doubt, social seclusion and relationship issues caused by being a creative. /Alternatively I would make a case paralleling cubism or Pollock. That's where I would place my stakes if I were defending the film. I can't because I found the execution of the ideas tortuously ridiculous and the ultimate ideas in the film unworthy of the energy that would be required to decipher the rest of them. An accusation I would also level at Matrix Revolutions. There is something there...but whatever it is it doesn't appear worthy of the energy and time watching to finish decoding like "Be sure to drink your Oval... "

Someone just boldly called Mother! Aranofsky's greatest film. But someone who thinks Mother! great could explain why the film spoke to them. What about the message in Mother is human. important and worthy of discussion. Why is it better than any other Aranofsky film? Aranofsky defends Mother! by saying he doesn't care how you react but its important that you react. Personally I think that's an annoying cop-out justification. Like the people who stand in a public park shouting about Jesus on a bullhorn. His previous films were non-commercial (except for Noah.) But didn't have the Godard or Tarkovsky "fuck you if you didn't like it attitude". You can disagree but to me good art isn't a guy covering himself in tempera paint and running out naked and screaming about Jesus into the lobby of the Ritz Carlton. What Mother! has to say about creativity and God seems to be describing Aranofsky's own elbow and asshole. Its yet another opinion, but not particularly original or worthy, just loud and obnoxiously presented.
Oct 8, 2017 11:10 PM
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Robin McDonaldProps to Jinistan's initial reaction post. but thumbs down for his abridged summary of the critics.

Am I supposed to take a shot every time my name is misspelled too?

I don't see how the latter negates the former, as it was written several days afterward. I finally got around to sifting through the reviews, and assumed that the "positive defense" of my initial post - written without having read a single review - would still be applicable. But thank you for acknowledging the first post, so that we can move past the charge of making a "critique of critics without making a positive defense for why the film is great" since that's clearly not what I did. Nor do I think that even that post amounted to "critics are stupid". I think the validity of many of the criticisms is questionable for the reasons I mentioned. Those reasons are debatable, and they tie directly into my prior positive defense for why this was a great film.

Robin McDonaldOne of the accusations myself and other critics level at Mother! is what its saying is that is is sound and fury signifying not much.

A bit of a meta-critique, the "sound and fury" is certainly there. But just as Shakespeare intended the phrase, the significant nothing here becomes the roar of the adulation and fanaticism of those social forces inspired by Javier's poem (ie, "scripture"*). Both Aronofsky and Shakespeare are using the phrase to denote the emptiness of the ego and vain veneration.

Robin McDonaldOther artists like Fellini and Fosse with 8 1/2 and All that Jazz have explored their personal shortcomings self doubt, social seclusion and relationship issues caused by being a creative.

I could point out that both of these directors, and films, are literally pretentious, indulgent and ludicrous by design. The reason why the blithe swipe of these terms in a review of art (pretense) is so irritating is because they are usually employed without concern for their purpose. Fellini and Fosse, as well as the other great pretentious directors like Bergman, Bunuel and especially Godard, deliberately draw attention to the pretense and artificiality of the film itself, they indulge to expose their vanity and refute objective perception, they are ludicrous to mock their own significance. (Fosse to God, "Don't you like musical comedy?")

Aronofsky is certainly playing similar games in this film, subverting conventional narrative and frustrating the audiences' more trained responses. It also, indirectly, breaks the fourth wall, allowing the conceit to implode. And I still think that the film is as much about Jennifer Lawrence, how she's "consumed" as an entertainment commodity, as it is about Aronofsky's ego or creative drive. Aronofsky, after all, is ultimately one of her consumers. I think it's about both and much more. And I wouldn't put it past Aronofsky to have realized and utilized the pre-existing audience perception of their relationship as fuel for the fire.

We take for granted how groundbreaking these classics from Fellini, Bergman and Bunuel were. We've gotten used to their formal disruptions. We excuse the surreal, allegorical indulgence of their work in ways that seem to be simply unacceptable for modern directors. There is a percentage of critics who do not want, openly resent, being disturbed in their presumptions, that would have made them hate the great New Wave films had they seen them at the time with the presumptions of that time period. But they know that these directors are great, because their textbooks told them they were great.

Robin McDonaldBut someone who thinks Mother! great could explain why the film spoke to them. What about the message in Mother is human. important and worthy of discussion.

OK, I'll try.

1) I mentioned how the film seems to reflect my own social anxiety in dealing with selfish and imposing people. This was an initial visceral connection.

2) I'm warming to the more feminist interpretation - that Mother is the more traditional, docile and demurring role of the nurturing female who is thanklessly doting, self-sacrificing to a fault, as unconditionally devoted as possible, intimate and esoteric (a true home-maker), subsumed and subjugated by the needs and desires of male industry. The invisible womb behind visible assertion**.

The "sound and fury" is comprised of the aggressive and arrogant humanity (the mob dissolves the gender distinction) which trample the mother, take for granted her comforts and duty, insult and degrade her, mock her sublimity as a form of weakness, devour her food with emetic intoxication. And when she is finally, brutally exhausted, and has no more love to give, then the man/artist/ego/crown moves on, to learn another failure, a new illusion for the maddening crowd.

3) I think that all of the relevant interpretations concerning this ingratitude - towards our "mother", our loves, our earth, our stars, our inspirations, over everything that we as a society consume with abandon, that we fail to balance with the source of our sustenance, both physical and spiritual - are interwoven in the film. It's a brilliant modern myth, and a terrifying one.

Robin McDonaldAranofsky defends Mother! by saying he doesn't care how you react but its important that you react. Personally I think that's an annoying cop-out justification.

I personally think that Aronofsky is simply not interested in telegraphing the reaction. David Lynch is the same, he refuses to explain the meaning of his films, which hardly means that his films lack meaning.


(* another possible analogy: the Hebrew concept of the "Messiah" was formed in the prophetic books of the OT, and refers to the one who would rebuild Solomon's Temple after being razed by the Assyrians/Babylonians. This coincides with the Babylonian Exile, where the first Torah was composed. The synchronicity between Mother's conception and the composition of "the word" is quite interesting.)

(** I know that Aronofsky is knowledgeable of Kabbalah, so he would know the masculine significance of Kether, the 1 or first principle and the phallic assertion of existence, compared to the "womb" of Ein Soph, the egg of 0, which is both nothing and all things in itself.)
Oct 9, 2017 3:18 AM
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Janson Jinnistan
Robin McDonaldProps to Jinistan's initial reaction post. but thumbs down for his abridged summary of the critics.

Am I supposed to take a shot every time my name is misspelled too?

I don't see how the latter negates the former, as it was written several days afterward. ?I finally got around to sifting through the reviews, and assumed that the "positive defense" of my initial post - written without having read a single review - would still be applicable. ?But thank you for acknowledging the first post, so that we can move past the charge of making a "critique of critics without making a positive defense for why the film is great" since that's clearly not what I did. ?Nor do I think that even that post amounted to "critics are stupid". ?I think the validity of many of the criticisms is questionable for the reasons I mentioned. ?Those reasons are debatable, and they tie directly into my prior positive defense for why this was a great film.


Robin McDonaldOne of the accusations myself and other critics level at Mother! is what its saying is that is is sound and fury signifying not much.

A bit of a meta-critique, the "sound and fury" is certainly there. ?But just as Shakespeare intended the phrase, the significant nothing here becomes the roar of the adulation and fanaticism of those social forces inspired by Javier's poem (ie, "scripture"*). ?Both Aronofsky and Shakespeare are using the phrase to denote the emptiness of the ego and vain veneration.


Robin McDonaldOther artists like Fellini and Fosse with 8 1/2 and All that Jazz have explored their personal shortcomings self doubt, social seclusion and relationship issues caused by being a creative.

I could point out that both of these directors, and films, are literally pretentious, indulgent and ludicrous by design. ?The reason why the blithe swipe of these terms in a review of art (pretense) is so irritating is because they are usually employed without concern for their purpose. Fellini and Fosse, as well as the other great pretentious directors like Bergman, Bunuel and especially Godard, deliberately draw attention to the pretense and artificiality of the film itself, they indulge to expose their vanity and refute objective perception, they are ludicrous to mock their own significance. ?(Fosse to God, "Don't you like musical comedy?")

Aronofsky is certainly playing similar games in this film, subverting conventional narrative and frustrating the audiences' more trained responses. ?It also, indirectly, breaks the fourth wall, allowing the conceit to implode. ?And I still think that the film is as much about Jennifer Lawrence, how she's "consumed" as an entertainment commodity, as it is about Aronofsky's ego or creative drive. ?Aronofsky, after all, is ultimately one of her consumers. ?I think it's about both and much more. ?And I wouldn't put it past Aronofsky to have realized and utilized the pre-existing audience perception of their relationship as fuel for the fire.

We take for granted how groundbreaking these classics from Fellini, Bergman and Bunuel were. ?We've gotten used to their formal disruptions. ?We excuse the surreal, allegorical indulgence of their work in ways that seem to be simply unacceptable for modern directors. ?There is a percentage of critics who do not want, openly resent, being disturbed in their presumptions, that would have made them hate the great New Wave films had they seen them at the time with the presumptions of that time period. ?But they know that these directors are great, because their textbooks told them they were great.


Robin McDonaldBut someone who thinks Mother! great could explain why the film spoke to them. What about the ?message in Mother is human. important and worthy of discussion.

OK, I'll try.

1) I mentioned how the film seems to reflect my own social anxiety in dealing with selfish and imposing people. ?This was an initial visceral connection.

2) I'm warming to the more feminist interpretation - that Mother is the more traditional, docile and demurring role of the nurturing female who is thanklessly doting, self-sacrificing to a fault, as unconditionally devoted as possible, intimate and esoteric (a true home-maker), subsumed and subjugated by the needs and desires of male industry. ?The invisible womb behind visible assertion**.

The "sound and fury" is comprised of the aggressive and arrogant humanity (the mob dissolves the gender distinction) which trample the mother, take for granted her comforts and duty, insult and degrade her, mock her sublimity as a form of weakness, devour her food with emetic intoxication. ?And when she is finally, brutally exhausted, and has no more love to give, then the man/artist/ego/crown moves on, to learn another failure, a new illusion for the maddening crowd.

3) I think that all of the relevant interpretations concerning this ingratitude - towards our "mother", our loves, our earth, our stars, our inspirations, over everything that we as a society consume with abandon, that we fail to balance with the source of our sustenance, both physical and spiritual - are interwoven in the film. ?It's a brilliant modern myth, and a terrifying one.


Robin McDonaldAranofsky defends Mother! by saying he doesn't care how you react but its important that you react. Personally I think that's an annoying cop-out justification.

I personally think that Aronofsky is simply not interested in telegraphing the reaction. ?David Lynch is the same, he refuses to explain the meaning of his films, which hardly means that his films lack meaning.


(* another possible analogy: the Hebrew concept of the "Messiah" was formed in the prophetic books of the OT, and refers to the one who would rebuild Solomon's Temple after being razed by the Assyrians/Babylonians. ?This coincides with the Babylonian Exile, where the first Torah was composed. ?The synchronicity between Mother's conception and the composition of "the word" is quite interesting.)

(** I know that Aronofsky is knowledgeable of Kabbalah, so he would know the masculine significance of Kether, the 1 or first principle and the phallic assertion of existence, compared to the "womb" of Ein Soph, the egg of 0, which is both nothing and all things in itself.)


I appreciate taking on my challenge and you did a good job of it. I am most sympathetic to your outline of personal reasons. Especiall the first about "imposing people" because its just something you relate to.

Its tempting to pick apart specifics but it boils down to my finding the execution an unpleasant, overblown and even idiotic and embarrassingly silly experiment. You remind me when talking about Fellini that for the most part I mostly disliked Fellini (City of Women, Roma ot name a couple) so I watched quite a few and finally liked La Strada and Nights of Cabria. My reactions to the ones I disliked is not unlike my reaction to Mother!. I miss the Aranofsky of old where his depictions of humans and ideas were not so much bizarre extreme cartoons but something more natural and human. And yet were just as incredibly new, gripping,challenging, raw groundbreaking and the opposite of happy ending kind of films. The brand of intentional pretentiousness loses me because it not only doesn't feel authentic but false. Not unlike listening to Trump where I hear what Trump is saying but it seems Trump left the planet fifteen years ago and just lost his connection to reality. But he still has a following "in spite of " or even "because of" his outrageousness. Intent to be outrageous does not make it better or justifiable. The net effect of going out into the street in a raincoat and exposing yourself isn't a lot different if you did it because you are just a crazy perv or did it for 'artistic reasons to make a statement'. In my opinion Its just a bad idea either way.
Oct 11, 2017 6:43 AM
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Robin McDonaldIts tempting to pick apart specifics but it boils down to my finding the execution an unpleasant, overblown and even idiotic and embarrassingly silly experiment.

Of the words you use here, I can agree with "unpleasant". And even though I was pleased with the overall experience, I can also respect that it wasn't subjectively pleasant for you or a number of people. "Overblown" misses the intention of the theme, which requires this exhaustive degradation of Lawrence's character. (As a side note, I've also noticed that at the theater, they have a large cardboard display for mother! which since its release has been increasingly defaced; she now has no nose or eyes in addition to other gashes and holes. The audience is only proving Aronofsky's portrayal of them as accurate.) "Idiotic" and "silly" are subjective, and, since I've laid out my reasons defending the film, requires showing the idiocy and silliness of these ideas. It's like "overambitious", also frequently lobbed at the film. Someone making this claim then needs to show why the ambition needs limits in this case. As I pointed out, my problem with some of the criticism has more to do with the employment of these dismissive terms without presuming to need to following through on explaining why they apply.

Robin McDonaldThe brand of intentional pretentiousness loses me because it not only doesn't feel authentic but false.

The technique of drawing attention to the more unreal mechanics of filmmaking is to create a sense of artificiality. This does feel false. But whether or not the underlying meaning of the film, beyond its artifice, is authentic or false rests on considering how this facade, and tearing it away, illustrates and illuminates the purpose of the film. Here, the house itself is the facade, unfinished and isolated. The film condemns the pretensions of Javier's writer, the pretensions of the doctor's family civility ("We said we were sorry"), and the pretensions of the masses, whether drawn to religious fervor, sectarian fervor or more generally the pretentiousness of presuming to occupy a house that doesn't belong to them. The facade of the filmmaking pretense breaks down in symmetry with the break down of the larger social pretensions that the film is mocking.

Robin McDonaldThe net effect of going out into the street in a raincoat and exposing yourself isn't a lot different if you did it because you are just a crazy perv or did it for 'artistic reasons to make a statement'. In my opinion Its just a bad idea either way.

Sure, I wouldn't do that either. I'm not sure how mother! is a proper allusion for sexual assault though.
Oct 12, 2017 11:35 AM
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Janson Jinnistan
Robin McDonaldIts tempting to pick apart specifics but it boils down to my finding the execution an unpleasant, overblown and even idiotic and embarrassingly silly experiment.

Of the words you use here, I can agree with "unpleasant". ?And even though I was pleased with the overall experience, I can also respect that it wasn't subjectively pleasant for you or a number of people. ?"Overblown" misses the intention of the theme, which requires this exhaustive degradation of Lawrence's character. ?(As a side note, I've also noticed that at the theater, they have a large cardboard display for mother! which since its release has been increasingly defaced; she now has no nose or eyes in addition to other gashes and holes. ?The audience is only proving Aronofsky's portrayal of them as accurate.) ?"Idiotic" and "silly" are subjective, and, since I've laid out my reasons defending the film, requires showing the idiocy and silliness of these ideas. ?It's like "overambitious", also frequently lobbed at the film. ?Someone making this claim then needs to show why the ambition needs limits in this case. ?As I pointed out, my problem with some of the criticism has more to do with the employment of these dismissive terms without presuming to need to following through on explaining why they apply.


Robin McDonaldThe brand of intentional pretentiousness loses me because it not only doesn't feel authentic but false.

The technique of drawing attention to the more unreal mechanics of filmmaking is to create a sense of artificiality. This does feel false. ?But whether or not the underlying meaning of the film, beyond its artifice, is authentic or false rests on considering how this facade, and tearing it away, illustrates and illuminates the purpose of the film. ?Here, the house itself is the facade, unfinished and isolated. ?The film condemns the pretensions of Javier's writer, the pretensions of the doctor's family civility ("We said we were sorry"), and the pretensions of the masses, whether drawn to religious fervor, sectarian fervor or more generally the pretentiousness of presuming to occupy a house that doesn't belong to them. ?The facade of the filmmaking pretense breaks down in symmetry with the break down of the larger social pretensions that the film is mocking.


Robin McDonaldThe net effect of going out into the street in a raincoat and exposing yourself isn't a lot different if you did it because you are just a crazy perv or did it for 'artistic reasons to make a statement'. In my opinion Its just a bad idea either way.

Sure, I wouldn't do that either. ?I'm not sure how mother! is a proper allusion for sexual assault though.

I definitely felt assaulted. Didn't you? ? I like what you are saying from the angle of having a good debate.
When you accede to my use of false "false", you refer to an artificial construct. As you have read I have an issue with the artificial construct being bad metaphor. So I will give a small defense of "idiotic and silly" as being as valid as "uncomfortable"
The bad metaphor, i contend is objectively bad.

To do this I listed examples (like Mother nature living in four walls and biblical metaphor being served up as a meal rather than as a spice.) but killed my argument for brevity.

Where I am stuck is I think its bad romantic drunk material which unfortunately is branded with Aranofsky's name giving it artistic cred.

I go to art classes three times or more a week where everyone in the room makes some art. Most of the final product really bad. I can define how the proportions are off, perspective is wrong, eyes are different sizes and misaligned, hands are too big. lighting is way off. And I would be right. Especially in comparison to what were probably the goals of the artist. They probably didn't want to proportions wrong. Even if they were intentionally distorting that can be badly done as well.

But you can look at it and think...well this person has only been drawing for two months so its good for someone at their level. Or you can be generous and see what they were trying for and commend them for the try. You can pick out something you like but still think most of the piece is still a mess. For example I think Cain was an example of an apt biblical metaphor to start the ruckus.

Where I get confounded is when a person Gestalt's the whole thing and they thinks its really good. At which point there is nothing much I can say other than to ask why I they think so. They like all the things I hate about it. I am more and more living in a world where there is no objective criteria for what's good and bad. That's always been true particularly in the field of art. I guess I am not advocating for limits. Certainly Requiem pushed the limits and I loved it. But I am a believer in successes and epic failure in pushing boundaries. You can score an artists punches for how well they connected.
Oct 12, 2017 6:54 PM
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