Hmm. Let’s get the positive out of the way first- this was possibly the nearest I’ve yet seen to a dreamstate, that is, the sense of being inside a dream, that I have ever seen in a movie. The strange, disorientating, anxiety-ridden sequence of events closely mirrored the feeling I have had in dreams, of being inside/outside of events, the sense of bewilderment and things not really making any sense. If Darren Aronofsky’s aim was to achieve that sense of being in a dream in this film, indeed if that’s what this film really was, a repeating, never-ending dream loop, then I’d say he succeeded, triumphantly.
On the other hand, if he was making some commentary within a deliberately obtuse narrative, some kind of biblical morality tale or something that held within it some kind of meaning, then he failed utterly and the film is garbage.
I don’t refer to films as garbage very often. Flawed, usually. Directors, producer, actors etc don’t in my experience deliberately try to make a ‘bad’ picture- I certainly hope that every film project is made with at the very least, the best of expectations from the start. Outside forces, whether it be cost overruns, location issues, studio interference, there are all sorts of reasons why films can turn out lousy. But when a filmmaker is given pretty much complete creative control, and indeed Final Cut, then the buck stops with him/her. And I think that’s where mother! stands. Its a misguided, wholly self-indulgent piece that fails to connect.
You can be obtuse. I don’t mind David Lynch going all weird at times during his recent Twin Peaks television project. Its fun to try to make sense of things, and indeed, while we may grasp at some explanation and fail, there is always the sense that Lynch himself or his collaborator Mark Frost has a roadmap, that there is some narrative framework there that may elude us, but it’s there. I didn’t get that with mother! and neither did I care. I didn’t empathise with any of the characters, it was all happening at some distance and I didn’t care for it at all. What’s the point of a film if it doesn’t connect in some way and engage the viewer? Surely when you make a film, you enter into some kind of contract with the viewer of that film, even if it’s intended to confuse, to at least make some kind of sense or suggest there is some underlying meaning, even if the viewer cannot grasp it. Somebody can watch Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and be confused by it, but they can have some sense of a narrative arc to the film, the sense that there is some kind of ‘message’ or intention on the part of Kubrick to at least challenge the audience. If only a challenge to watch it again and try to piece together some interpretation.
Here’s a film, rare that it is, that I have no wish to ever see ever again.