Darren Aronofsky’s Mother is bizarre to say the least. If you watch the film as a psychologist, you will find evidence of various mental disorders. The setting of the film is a large house in the middle of nowhere. All you are allowed to see is grass surrounding the house. The horizon is made only of trees and light. C’est tout!
At no time is the camera taken outside the house. Metaphorically, we are meant only to dwell in the inner domain- a place occupied by Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband, Him ( Javier Bardem).
Mother is a young girl who seems to be devoted to Him and the house she is trying to rebuild. Despite the cracks and the unending labour, she give the house her all. Never once, does she crib. She aspires to make the house ‘paradise’- not because it is her house, but because it is ‘His’ house.
While Mother is spending her days and nights toiling away, doing laundry, cooking and feeding Him, he is locked up in his study trying to write. She is not allowed in his study alone, because, “He doesn’t like anyone going in there without Him.”
She is the muse, and He, the artist. Their peaceful existence is disturbed when strangers descent upon their house. First comes the Man (Ed Harris) who brings with him his bad lungs infected with terminal cancer. Following him is his wife Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is loud and inquisitive to say the least. She is the nosy neighbour we are all weary of. She needs to know why Mother and Him do not have children yet.
Woman uses sex as a weapon and her lace lingerie as the ammo. She tells Mother that she should have kids asap because she will not be young anymore.
Not only is she inquisitive, she is condescending too and only ends up feeding His humongous male ego.
After the unexpected guests arrive, the film becomes more bizarre. There is blood seeping in from all sorts of unexpected places. The wooden floor melts to give way to a metal door, the incinerator fires up all by itself. The sound effects and the cinematography all points towards the genre of horror.
Yet, nothing happens.
Half way through the film, Mother gets pregnant and He starts writing again. His book is a success and one fine day, history repeats itself. Horde of strangers descend upon the house.
“The poet asks us to share”, they say. “This is everyone’s house, the poet says.”
The chaos that follows reminds me of Dante’s inferno. There is violence, fornicatation, theft, etc. and in the midst of all this there is Mother, who is trying to save her baby in the confusion.
Everything becomes surreal and Jennifer Lawrence’s confusion mirror that of the audience. “I have given you everything. Why am I not enough?” is a question asked by the viewers along with Mother to Him.
All he has to say is that they (the horde) need him as much as Mother does.
Finally, Mother sets the house on fire and everything is burnt to ashes but Him.
“Nothing is ever enough and that is how I create,” answers Him- he who has one last favour to ask of the dying Mother. He needs her love and it is that love that keeps him going.
Now, for a lot of us Bollywood lovers, this film is anything less than weird. But keeping aside the obvious, let us try to understand the metaphor.
Mother is a representation of the everyday woman. She is shown as a muse, who gives and gives till she has nothing left to give. She loves endlessly and that is what drains the life out of her in the end.
He is the male ego, the creator, the loved one. He takes inspiration from her, drains the life force out of her and expects her to keep functioning according to societal norms, despite his selfishness. He is the creator, the selfish one.
One can ask whether Aronofsky is questioning the ways of God. We do refer to the entity as Him. Even within the world of the film, Mother is overlooked and the only time she is acknowledged is when she gives birth in a closed room. Mother is away from the public eye and yet she is the giver of life. But Him, the artist, the God to the horde is well worshiped.
They come from far and wide and just need one touch from Him. Yet they turn against him when the time comes. They take more than they give. Could the horde be the human race? Could it be our disregard for nature, the Mother of all?
I found this film apocalyptic. It showed me how the world as we know it will come to an end. We (the horde) will take from Mother Nature, not acknowledge her presence and will lead to our own doom, all the time searching for the Him, the creator.
I cannot begin to understand what Aronofsky wanted to portray through the film. But I do know why this is a horror film. The horror lies in the fact that life was taken by the horde without a second thought.
It lay in the fact that murder is so ritualised in us and deeply engrained in the audience, that we do not feel as strongly about it as we should.