Life Through the Lens: Not all experiments yield positive results

“All I’m trying to do is bring life into this house!”

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I am a big proponent of art. Movies, music, books, writing — you name it! If it can teach me, I am as willing of a student as you can find. I like to be challenged and strengthened. I want my movies to teach me something. “Jurassic Park” = a dinosaur’s natural enemy is a walk-in freezer. “Back to the Future” = don’t date your mom or you’ll disappear. Each movie I watch, I participate with, I dissect, I digest — all in search of lessons. This week’s movie was a real test of my resolve, though. What happens when the lesson is buried under miles of purposeful-pretense?

This will be no small feat: I will try and describe the movie’s plot (enter dramatic music). “mother!” begins with rebirth, reformation, renewal: ashes turn to substance. We meet the main characters called “Mother” and “Him” (as the vagueness begins). Their relationship takes center stage, and we learn of the sacrificial-servitude of Mother and the tortured-artist-mentality of Him. She slaves all day recreating while He broods and struggles to write a single word. She gives, and He takes — a seemingly endless-cycle.

Creak. Knock. Enter a stranger: “the Man.” The Man is under the impression that this is a bed and breakfast and is here to rent a room. Instead of admitting the misunderstanding and sending him on his way, Him jumps on the opportunity to house a guest and invites him in. Mother is appalled and unprepared to host … but Him is either ignorant or disinterested of that fact. Cough. Laugh. Him and the Man seem close and comfortable, staying up all night talking and sharing, while Mother is alone and awkward. Creak. Knock. Enter another stranger: the Man’s wife … “the Woman.”

The Woman is here to stay now, as well. Mother is apprehensive, but Him is welcoming as-can-be. Him’s generosity is never-ending while Mother’s anxiety is gradually escalating. Along come “the Sons.” They bicker; they squabble; there’s a murder. If this is confusing … welcome to the club. To save some time, let me just speed up this synopsis: there’s a funeral, there are guests, there is damage, there is anger, there is betrayal, somewhere in there is a baby, there are riots, some weird beating heart, Nickelodeon ooze of some-sort, a publicist, some minor dismemberment, and back to a beating heart.

One idea that stuck out to me was the Biblical story of Mary and Martha. When Jesus visited their house, both women were excited. They both looked forward to this day: life-changing and impactful. The anticipation must have been excruciating — what is the proper meal for the Author and Creator of all things? Talk about pressure!

Upon Jesus’s arrival, we see two different approaches to hospitality. Martha is dead-set on keeping the house clean for her guest. She is extremely conscious of his comfort and his needs: get the food ready, keep the counters clean, mop, sweep, dispose, make, bake … you name it! Hospitality was a question of setting to her. Mary, on the other hand, considered hospitality more about proximity and attentiveness. Mary sat at Jesus’s feet and enjoyed communion … much to the chagrin of her sister who was slaving away in the kitchen (pans banging and timers buzzing). When the time came and the Guest had arrived, the sisters were split in priorities. Who was the better host?

Mother is obsessed with setting: her life is dependent-on and bound-to her physical location. She is her house renovation — she is its progress and repair. Apart from it, she is nothing … truly nothing. Her relationships seem void and empty; her past is unimportant; her personality and character are meaningless. Instead of sitting at the feet of her guests, she attempts to keep her house straight. (Granted — she is then severely mistreated, and the illusion wears off … but it holds true for a while.)

What kind of host are you (we are talking literally and figuratively, folks)? Do you miss the relationship for the setting? Do you miss the forest for the trees? Do you miss the guest for the preparations? Let the roast burn, let the dishes wait, let the social-pressure go and just sit at the feet of your guest.

Here is the hard part: what are my thoughts about the movie? The movie intends … something. It is obvious director Darren Aronofsky is attempting a poetic and symbolic cautionary-tale … but to what end? I’m not sure.

Where I’ve spent most of my meditation is the movie’s religious-meaning. The movie paints a picture of a God who creates at his creation’s expense. A God who shows little concern for “mother” (nature). A God unfeeling and unaware. Almost masochistic in his approach, He produces and destroys with disregard and cruelty. It is Him that causes the calamity — it is Him that is Mother’s ultimate demise. Personally, I struggle with this image; it seems futile and fruitless.

Director Aronofsky claims to have written this script in five days … which might explain the lack of continuity and connection. References are random and vacant.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was valiant at times … forgettable at others. Javier Bardem was interesting at times … shallow at others. The script didn’t provide much depth for the actors to work with. The sound editing was consistent and original, though; each sound was heard and felt.

For a movie that intends so much, it misses its mark. I didn’t enjoy the movie. It had some great ideas, interesting cinematography, some powerful moments (to put it lightly); but, as a whole, it was a mess. It seemed shocking just to be shocking. If a pill is this hard to swallow, it better improve my well-being somehow. So far, I feel the same … maybe a bit more confused, maybe a tad noxious.

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