Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past couple weeks, you might’ve heard about a little movie starring Jennifer Lawrence that just came out in theaters. You’ve also might’ve heard a little bit about the film. And if you did, you probably heard that it received an F rating from Cinemascore, and how divisive it was, or how “bad” it was. Nonetheless, you were brought into a circle of conversation about a film that has polarized audiences around the world, and you may not have realized how special of an opportunity it is when a film like this comes around.
For those of you who have seen it (again, this article is spoiler-free, so don’t be alarmed), we could go into all the allegories it has, all the religious symbolism and themes, and the octagonal house – there are a lot of layers and meanings to dissect. But I’d just like to get one thing clear: I love this film, so much. And I’ve never been happier and more proud to say that I love a film this much.
Yes, call me crazy, but I care about it this way because it draws a line between audiences: audiences that are frustrated by it, and don’t enjoy being frustrated by it, and audiences who are frustrated by it and love being so. It’s truly either the best film of the year, or the worst.
It reminded me of Being John Malkovich or Eternal Sunshine – it’s the type of film you love talking about in film classes, the type of film that your professors claimed only come once every decade. It was like a Michael Haneke film in that it went against the “barrel-down” type of American cinema, coming from a director who is fed up with typical conventions and confirming audiences’ expectations. We haven’t had a film this divisive since 2013’s Under the Skin.
But what makes me so infatuated with this film is the sheer structure and composition of it all. All of Aronofsky’s works are somewhat Biblical, they all start with a slow burn and then build into an explosion. But out of his entire filmography, this is the one that finds the perfect contrast of just the right elements to feel greater than the sum of its parts. Comparing the beginning and the ending shows this force of progression that grabs you for two hours and doesn’t let go.
And what made it so special is that I went into it cold. I saw absolutely no trailers, previews, or commercials of the film before seeing it, only posters and billboards around L.A., mixed in with divisive feedback and polarizing reactions. I had no idea what it was going to be about, but that only enticed me more into seeing it. It’s one of the few films I can remember that could pull off such a marketing campaign partly through word of mouth.
And then I started reading more about the film, and how Aronofsky wrote it in a five-day fervor, and how they rehearsed for weeks on end in a warehouse where they taped off the borders of the house and made each shot tie into the next. It was a choreographed symphony of many elements happening at once, through such an unconventional way of filmmaking.
The result is Paramount’s and Aronofsky’s most ambitious film to date. It’s a film that took the necessary steps to go around the path of normal filmmaking techniques, both in production and distribution. Only very little was actually known about Mother! when it first premiered at Venice Film Festival, but the hush-hush and word of mouth only fueled the curiosity of audiences.
And yes, we can talk about how the risk taken led to a box-office bomb, but that’s besides the point. The point is: Aronofsky just threw a stick of dynamite in our laps. Of course Paramount knew that this was going to be a risk. But I’m sure Aronofsky and the studio didn’t produce this film because they were looking to make money – no one gets into this business because they’re looking to make a lot of money. They made this film because they knew it would change their lives. And sitting there in that theater, on that day, it certainly changed mine.