I haven’t seen director Darren Aronofsky’s new film, Mother!, and, frankly, I don’t intend to. I do, however, feel it makes a good film choice because my friends have told me so much about the controversy surrounding it. One of my friends, whose opinion I respect, laughed at it. He said that the people with whom he saw it, however, left the theater angry and upset. How could this be? Knowing that it was eliciting such polarizing reactions made me want to read about it even more.
My friend was right when he told me that there are a number of themes in it that would appeal to me: faith/the bible, the paranormal, poetry, psychological issues…. I could go on. He wasn’t sure if I would like the film itself, though. Now that I’ve read, I’m pretty sure…well, actually, I still don’t know! I did, however, love reading about it — especially what one of my favorite film writers, Anthony Lane, said about it. Take a look, below.
Anthony Lane of The New Yorker:
“My patience was tested beyond repair, I am afraid, by the nimbus of nonsense…that encircles the figure of the poet. We are asked to believe that readers would flock to the bard’s home for a glimpse of him, and that his latest work would instantly sell out; Lord Byron is said to have sold ten thousand copies of “The Corsair” in a single day, but that was in 1814, and many modern poets have trouble pressing free copies of their work into the hands of their immediate family. Dafter by far is Aronofsky’s vision of how a poem gets written. First, you finally summon up the blood and make successful love to your spouse. (The film, so rampant in other areas, meekly retires from this spectacle. Prudery rules.) Second, you sleep. Third, you awake, the sluice gates that restrain your creative juices having opened wide, and rush buck naked to your desk, where you grab sheets of paper and shout, “Pen! A pen!,” like Richard III requesting an emergency horse. Fourth, you scribble away, and don’t stop until you’re done. A cinch.”
Yes, he’s pretty sarcastic. I like that about him. To rewind a bit, here is what he said at the beginning of his review:
“There is nothing wrong with slapping an exclamation point onto the name of a movie, especially if it involves people inflating the bellows of their lungs and bawling out a tune—as in “Oklahoma!,” “Oliver!,” or “Hello, Dolly!” Straight drama, by and large, can do without the boost; had Chekhov plumped for “Uncle Vanya!,” say, there would have been a discernible loss of finesse. In the case of Darren Aronofsky’s new film, “Mother!,” the punctuation should be read as a public-health warning: This movie is insane.”
I like his strong language, and his sense of humor (Lane’s, that is). The potential to argue with him almost makes me want to see a film I wouldn’t otherwise like.
(Illustration by Byron Eggenschwiler for The New Yorker Magazine, Sept. 27, 2017)