get started on the apocalypse
(We interrupt the planned programming here at The Groundhog Day Project--because my VHS set of Star Wars films didn't arrive and I don't feel like skipping ahead--to bring you a brief bit about mother!--because I saw it again today, and however much it is horrifying some people, I liked it even more the second time than I did the first time.)Honestly, you probably won't like mother!. I mean, statistically, most people won't like it. Maybe, taking into account the limited scope of this blog and the side of the Venn diagram of film aficionados who might come to my blog regularly, you're one of the few who will not only like it but love it. An Aronofsky fan, perhaps. A fan of divisive, provocative, polarizing cinema, maybe. Let's get some stuff out of the way right off. You know, SPOILERS.
You're gonna get overloaded with imagery of violence, of gratuitous religiosity, of Jennifer Lawrence's breasts, of a newborn baby's half eaten corpse, and if you've made it that far, you're going to wonder what the fuck have I been watching? What you have been watching is your basic run-of-the-mill allegory about 1) the entire history of mankind's interaction with God and religion by way of the Book of Genesis and the Gospels... With a little bit of the Book of Revelation thrown in, all wrapped up in a nice metaphorical package with a poet husband, his put upon wife, some strangers who happen upon their house even though it is nowhere near anything, strangers who overrun and mangle said house, and the final (?) destruction of that house by the titular mother, herself; 1b) that entire history is going to especially play out over the course of a sequence that lasts somewhere between 15 and 40 minutes (I wasn't checking my clock because I was having an amazing time), and offers up imagery from just about any modern interaction with religion you could imagine--the faithful lining up to be blessed, zealots standing in for the Lord, folks being enslaved, folks tearing edifices down, folks building edifices up, soldiers warring with one another, sudden executions by gun, random old naked guys sitting on the edges of bathtubs, more soldiers, more faithful, more zealots, and a pregnant woman in the middle of it all, reacting as politely and innocently as she can, because that is who she is; 1c) that entire history, plus the earlier bit from Genesis, is not going to make you very happy if you are at all religious, or if you even once were, or thought about being religious, or just believe in God but don't hold any claim to organized religion, because God is an asshole, God is aloof, God is more concerned with the adoration of strangers and hangers on than the love of his wife, less concerned with the murder and consumption of his newborn child than with forgiving the people responsible so that they will go on adoring him, and more concerned with building this entire exercise again when it burns to the ground because he needs more adoring fans than he is with offering his wife a peaceful death; 1d) seriously, if you like your God to be nice and caring and loving, this is not your movie; and there's 2) the environmental angle, because, you see, the "flood" happens because all those strangers who have invaded the house (the first time) don't fucking listen when mother (nature) screams at them that that fucking sink isn't braced yet and all these damn hurricanes in a row have got to be a sign of something, and scientists seems to be pretty much on the same damn page about it... Oh, some of that might have been my own voice interjecting, but really, the house is flooded because some dumbass strangers would rather make out and then bounce up and down like ignorant children than listen to the person who knows what she's talking about because she's the one fixing this house to look nice, and so much of the trouble with the strangers who have invaded the house (the second time) is that there are limited resources, only so many pieces of the house or objects sitting around the house for them to steal as proof they were there, because for some reason a souvenir of some awesome experience is more important than living in the moment of that experience at the moment of that experience... Seriously, the "inspiration" for your beloved poet's latest piece of brilliance walks among you but you're busy tearing down and building up and tearing down, and killing, enslaving, and worrying about theology and ritual and all the bullshit that inevitably separates them further and further from the actual experience of being there, and so the more of you there are, the more you do without thinking, the more you tear down walls and blow up other walls, and break through windows and doors, of course, the "house" around you is going to start falling, and you're all going to end up dead within it or you're going to have to get over your damn egos and try just lifting each other up, lifting up the pieces of the world collapsing around them, and not fighting over who worships which God better than the other; 3) the creative process, finding your inspiration in the people around you, whoever they might be, listening to their stories, taking them in for who and what they are, then find your new piece, slave away for as long as it takes (nine months, or maybe just a day; time is all relative and blurry in mother!), then let the fans come, let them interpret it as they will interpret it because your part is over, man, and it is up to them to love it, leave it, live it, alter it, embrace it, teach it, share it, or whatever, up to them to take it into the larger world, to tell other people about it, to read it, watch it, stare at it, listen to it, meditate on it, echo it in their own art and their own lives, and then you find inspiration again, wherever you can, new strangers, a new partner, a new house, but let the old piece burn and die and fade away if you can't sustain it (and a filmmaker can't keep making the same film (either literally, or because of a lack of creative variety) and stay a filmmaker... Not to mention the film being an allegory for the interactions of male ego and whatever submissive female (or male) he can find (or create) to praise him... Also, note: Rachel Weisz, one of the stars of Aronofsky's The Fountain (my personal favorite of his films, by the way), can be seen briefly at the start of mother!, as the previous incarnation of the titular mother; she's also Aronofsky's ex, and he's now been linked to Jennifer Lawrence, so the film apes reality in that.
At the end of the film, Lawrence's mother tells Bardem's Him, "I was never enough for you." He points out, of course, nothing ever can be, or he wouldn't need to create. The film apes Rosemary's Baby, but in that moment I was also thinking of Hamilton, how it's more than just artists who can never be satisfied, who must keep creating, keep talking, keep writing, keep singing, keep painting, keep drawing, dancing, performing, because, really, why would you ever really want to be satisfied? After his Emmy win this past Sunday, Sterling K. Brown told reporters, "I feel like I have a thousand different people living inside of me and I'm just looking for opportunities to let them all out." Imagine if God were real, and he had all these billions of people we've got (not to mention all those who have come before) inside him, and just needed to get them out. It would be understandable for him to be arrogant and ego-centric, for him to demand adoration, for him to punish us and admonish us when we do not follow his precepts. Now, if he were just a nice playwright and this were all a play, it might be more pleasant. But, instead, we've got this overwrought, overcrowded stage, with no writer, no director, and mother is constantly reminding us that this shit is going to go badly. But, we'd rather fight one another over bullshit like whether or not sick people deserve to be taken care of, than to take care of sick people, to take care of the world, to take care of one another in the face of increasingly extreme weather, increasing radical politics and politically-motivated violence, wars and rumors of wars, and there is no reset, because we're neither Him nor mother, we're the random strangers taking up too much space, utilizing too many resources, and fucking up the play for everybody else because there's no script, no end in sight but entropy, and we would rather watch a movie that numbs us than one that makes us think.