On Thursday, a cake was delivered to the Refinery29 office. We were so stoked to indulge in a seriously delicious baked confection. When we opened the box, the cake inside was shaped like a giant anatomical heart, covered in blood red fondant, with dark shading to make it look even more gory. Quickly, we realized that Mother! had sent us the cake, and that this film was going to be even more macabre than we had imagined.
Mother! is of the most anticipated movies of the year. It stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, and was written and directed by thriller master Darren Aronofsky. The premise is purposefully obscure — it seems to be about a run-down house that Lawrence and Bardem live in, where odd, possibly murderous people are gathering.
The press posters seem eerily pastoral, like a Sofia Coppola film meets Hostel, but they're actually a treasure trove of clues and symbolism. The trailer is a whole other ballgame: While giving little away about the plot, we see flashing scenes of Michelle Pfeiffer staring down Lawrence, juxtaposed with a bloody basement, lots of broken objects, and piercing screams. And minimal, clanging music, which is a signature Aronofsky motif.
But what does it mean? It's obvious that Lawrence's husband, played by Bardem, is going to betray her, either to Pfeiffer's group of houseguests, or to a group of glowing zombies (?) lurching across the yard. Lawrence excels at playing heroines who escape terrifying circumstances, but even Katniss might find this unnerving.
Is Lawrence's character trying to become a mother? Or is a title a reference to her desire to care for others? We still have no idea, but the dizzying occult references in film could harken to some sort of divine entity. There's weird symbols on the poster: a Pisces symbol, which is the zodiac sign of dreams. And plentiful scenes of fire may point to a magic spell that spun out of control. Interestingly, the theme of a house filled with dark magic practitioners reminds us of Jack Parsons, a real-life NASA engineer whose house became a hangout for followers of Thelema.
Darren Aronosky's films are famously creepy. His other motifs include very dark colors with harsh lighting, delirium and psychosis, and an obsession with troubled faces. His camerawork tends to fixate squarely on his characters' faces as they move about the setting with very levels of pain, sorrow, or sanity coming through in the actor's expression. The iconic "attack it!" scene in Black Swan where Nina is practicing ballet in full throes of her delusion, her face sweaty and determined, is a classic example of Aronofsky's masterful direction in obtaining extremely visceral performances from his actors.
Aronofsky's previous films are the kind of movies that sink deep into your consciousness days after you see them for the first time. When I first saw Requiem For a Dream, I sobbed for hours in the dark. Black Swan left me questioning my own perception, and Pi felt like a cave I didn't want to leave. His movies have only become more ambitious as his profile has increased, and if his prior works are any indication, Mother! is going to be the kind of film that leaves you feeling stuck in its menacing world after it ends. We are so excited.
Mother! will be released on September 15. Check out the full trailer below, and piece together what you can.