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Film analysis written by Victor "Vic Kings" Reis

All destruction is also a form of creation. This statement originated from Lavoisier's principle that "in Nature, nothing is lost, everything is transformed", is the basis for better understanding the journey of the protagonists played by Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence in this 2017 film directed, produced, and written by Darren Aronofsky.

With extensive filmography, which debuted with the film "Pi" (1998), Aronofsky has caught the attention of the movie-going public and specialized critics with his dense narratives full of layers and meanings. His debut film, about a mathematician who, through the analysis of the number Pi, discovers and drowns in millenary secrets studied by the most diverse philosophical, scientific, and religious strands (including Kabbalah), was only the kickoff for what was to follow.

Films like "Requiem for a Dream" (2000), "The Fountain" (2006), "The Fighter" (2008), and "Black Swan" (2010) paved a path of success, maturation, and also establishment of his film style, as well as translated to the screen the complexity of the filmmaker's vision towards life, religion, psychology, and society as a whole. His projects, always deeply interconnected with theoretical and philosophical currents of thought, have gained deserved notoriety and deep analyses about each of its aspects and significance in the context of the time, but also in a more timeless view, that even after decades, will bring debates and discussions to the surface, both in popular and academic circles.

After the Academy Award winner "Black Swan," however, Aronofsky ventured into a direct adaptation of the biblical text of Genesis. The first book of the Pentateuch, one of the most metaphorical of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, features notorious characters, and the one chosen by the filmmaker was Noah. The result of the adaptation was the opening of several polemics, especially by the religious audience, who saw in the film only a way to misrepresent the sacred, by turning the story of the "first (post-great-flood) family" into a metaphor about wars, political turmoil, and environmental conservation. Drawing on Jewish mythology, the non-canonical biblical book of Enoch, and the Christian imaginary, Aronofsky has brought the audience a direct film with messages that are not at all subliminal, speaking to matters such as veganism, social justice, and Western consumer culture. Despite the numerous controversies caused by the film, the director showed especially to specialized critics and academics of the 7th art that, yes, his films are also political works.

However, in 2017, Aronofsky returns to the style that projected him as a visionary and provocateur. His films "Pi" and "The Fountain" both flourish in thriller and fantasy the element of curiosity and in a way, puzzlement. Through the use of deeper metaphors, scenes less bound to mundane realism, or even the fantasy typical of Hollywood particularly in horror cinema, the director brought to the public what would be his most controversial film, up to the present moment of the writing of this text.

"Mother!" takes the audience to a so far simple synopsis: a couple, about to give birth to their first child, organizes their huge house until unexpected guests show up. This plot, usual in suspense films, horror, and even comedies, however, turns out to be much more intricate than the first glance it suggests. The patriarch is a genius artist who seeks, by all means, to elevate his creations to levels never before imagined; and the matriarch is an extremely dedicated and skilled housewife, but who throughout the film feels her husband's neglect towards her.

Needless to say, the title dedicates the protagonism to Lawrence's character; even when pregnant, the woman takes on the heaviest tasks in the construction and also the maintenance of the enormous house, ensuring that every room and every aspect of that household function perfectly, or at the very least that they are preserved in the best way possible. The arrival of the first intruders, a couple played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, and later their sons, Brian and Domhall Gleeson bring to the house disturbances that cause physical and emotional imbalance, both in the matriarch and in the house itself. The confusion generated by the couple, brings agony to the woman, while her husband is seized by unconditional empathy. In astrology, the aspects that best represent this couple would be the archetypes of Pisces (him) and Virgo (her), where light and shadow meet in the duel between an integral but irresponsible receptiveness and an effective but apathetic practicality. In which the result of this mathematics is nothing but chaos.

The family, however, is only the beginning of this spiral, which escalates exponentially in a number of characters, destruction, disorder, and symbolism to the eyes that begin to clear up the audiovisual pandemonium that becomes the family's residence. With the increase of unexpected and unwanted visitors, the patriarch's welcome is incessant, until the possible destruction of his most precious object forces him to retreat to his office. Leaving the woman, increasingly closer to the birth of her child, alone amidst an ocean of countless voices, ideologies, desires, and wishes. Furious, desperate, and frightened, the matriarch tries to remain sane, at least until the birth of her firstborn.

Helped by her spouse, the woman tries to take care of the newborn child and confronts her husband who wants the world to know that little baby and be inspired by its purity and innocence. Big mistake. Even over protests, as soon as the mother falls asleep, the father takes the baby to the epicenter of the mayhem, away from his mother's breasts and the mystical protection of his father's office. The result is a living sacrifice, sharing the body and pouring out the blood of the little infant who, even with a short time to live, has been mercilessly murdered.

I believe that by now, you who read this article and have a basic knowledge of the Judeo-Christian religion may have understood what the film is about. But Aronofsky goes further. The sacrifice of the innocent child generates in the matriarch an uncontrollable outburst of rage, in which, for the sake of justice, she decides to burn herself, everyone, and especially the house, a living organism that has sheltered the most diverse types of people and has endured, firm and strong, the destruction inflicted upon itself. The explosion carbonizes all the people, but also every structure of that family's home; and the mother finally succumbs with her body completely burned. The only survivor is the patriarch, who mourns the death of his wife, his son, the people he welcomed, and his household, but, filled with hope, and somehow knowing the inevitability of it all, plucks out of his wife's chest her heart, the same crystal he had kept so zealously in his office. The ultimate symbol of creation. And from that shining gem, the home is rebuilt, and a new matriarch emerges.

Aronofsky, in his narrative geniality, presents us with a work full of meanings and speeches that will promote debates of indescribable importance about the preservation of our home, about the attention we should give to our Mother Earth, about the imminent and practically inevitable danger of an Armageddon caused by our own imprudence as human beings, residents of this planet and usurpers of its life, taken by selfishness, greed, consumerism, irresponsibility, and ignorance. And without effective and collective changes, even if there will be, after the complete combustion of our resources and our self-destruction, a "new earth"... It will not be we, the human race, who will see it flourish again.

By Victor “Vic Kings” Reis


*A.N.: Title inspired by the song “Watch it Fall” by The God Awfuls


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