You’ve probably heard the line about a film’s setting being a character in its own right, but rarely has that cliché been upended as ingeniously as it is in “mother!” Over the course of two precisely modulated, increasingly frenzied hours, this cherished piece of country real estate will play any number of roles: a monument, a monster and finally a victim, shuddering under a violent onslaught unleashed by the wife, or maybe her husband, or maybe — to complete this unholy trinity — writer-director Darren Aronofsky himself.
Him, suffering a severe case of writer’s block, has become moody, distant and sexually inattentive toward his notably younger spouse, and the silent specter of the couple’s childlessness hovers oppressively in the cavernous space of their home, conceived by production designer Philip Messina as a Victorian gothic labyrinth of hardwood floors, winding staircases and tastefully minimalist furnishings.
It’s a tour de force of choreographed insanity, one that the poet receives with a warm embrace while his wife looks on in barely concealed alarm, her mounting panic captured in tight, empathetic close-ups by Matthew Libatique ’s skittering handheld camera.
Either way, it’s easily the most experimental feature released by a major studio in ages, a gleefully deranged companion piece to Aronofsky’s Old Testament epic “Noah” and an evil twin of sorts to “The Fountain,” with its grandiose meditations on love, death and eternal recurrence.
The movie is a savage attack on the egomania that enables a director to fancy himself a deity, as well as the rotten patriarchies that govern the worlds of art, industry and religion alike, with Lawrence embodying the wise but perpetually ignored voice of the divine feminine.
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