I recently went to a cinema screening of the film Mother! directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem and I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT IT.
It was an interesting film to watch. I saw it with another writer friend on a whim and my only knowledge of the film was a short trailer I'd seen the week before. Conceptually, it was phenomenal. I get why a lot of mainstream movie-goers wouldn't like it; it's very out there and seems to have been promoted as a thriller without an art house-style disclaimer. But for me, a writer with a literary theory fetish, it was intriguing.
Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who has rebuilt the wreckage of her lover's house from the literal ashes. Her lover, played by Javier Bardem, is a poet caught in the clutches of severe writers block. Easy for my friend and I to relate to at the start. They seem to occupy a fragile paradise, but one night a man knocks on their door claiming he thought it was a bed and breakfast. The audience sees a glimmer of how fucked up the dynamics between these characters is when the poet invites this stranger to stay without consulting his partner and despite her very obvious discomfort.
After a strange night, the stranger's wife shows up. She's a nosey bitch to say the least, presumptuous and disrespectful towards Jennifer Lawrence's character in an almost deliberate fashion. Things get messier quickly after she arrives, with she and her husband entering the poet's study in secret and accidentally breaking something very precious. Then it escalates. Like, their kids suddenly show up and someone is murdered kind of escalating. And my god does it enter the territory of surrealism after that.
I don't want to just give a recap of the film. It was good and I think it's worth watching. What I want to do is explain the feelings I had about it. First, that I loved it. The acting was great. The cinematography was exceptional. It was thematically complex and engaging. On the surface, it was a film about a couple who had their fragile paradise disturbed by strangers and the burdens they brought. It was about the tension that created and the way that played on their relationship and the poet's writers block. Deeper down, we get a subtext about the idea of the writer as The Creator. We get a feel of the writer's ego when the poet overcomes his writers block and creates something beautiful. But he is also the dictator and the supposedly higher being of the world of the film.
And this is the part that really got to me. The film was sensational. I really enjoyed it. For the most part. But it got under my skin for one reason. Throughout the film, it was painfully obvious that the poet held a complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of Jennifer Lawrence's character. As did every other character. But the way the poet treated her ... with such disregard, such carelessness, and such undeserving entitlement ... that was sickening. And it got worse and worse as the film went on.
The part that really got to me was when they were arguing and she challenged him, 'You can't even fuck me', after enduring endless criticism from the strangers who stayed with them about not having children. It got to me because in response he pins her again a wall and starts passionately kissing her. And her initial response was to push him away. She didn't want him to get intimate with her at that point. She was angry and had every right to be. But then the anger melts away, after her attempts at resistance prove futile. The anger melts away and they make love.
This pisses me off. A lot. Because not only is it a cliche, it is also a cliche that promotes sexual violence. I'm sick of seeing films and tv shows and reading books where someone starts making out with someone against their will, and then it turns it into a steamy, beautiful moment of love. It's not romantic. It's fucking abusive. And it validates the same type of underhanded abuse that gets played out in the real world.
Mother! was impressive and enthralling in it's thematic content, acting, and cinematic direction. And I can deal with being labelled one of those arseholes who likes art house films. It was a weird film, but I liked it. But I cannot get past this shortcoming. I cannot get past the idea that there is no redemption, no saving grace following the excessive violence and disrespect towards Jennifer Lawrence's character, but a feeble illusion of one I could see right through. It did nothing for me. And others can argue as much as they want that 'oh, it was making a point about the patriarchy' and 'but it was an allegory about how people treat the earth' and 'there was a biblical subtext'. There was also an inherently violent, sexist subtext. And while it did not portray it in a positive light, it also offered no solution. It did not overcome the problem it highlighted.
People describe it as 'confronting' and then justify it using the subtext about creative people and egos and the way people treat mother earth. But this excuses nothing. It doesn't make this behaviour okay, even in a film. It's aweful. And I do not have to be okay with it just because it was otherwise a good movie.
I apologise for this rant, especially for anyone who hasn't seen the film yet. I needed to get some rage off my chest.