The blood-curdling snap of a baby’s bones is not something you forget when you leave the cinema after mother!. Or even a few days after. That shit stays with you. It’s shocking, disgusting, and nauseating. There’s not really a word to describe one's emotion at the climax of the film’s built-up tension other than this: it is really, truly the most fucked up thing you’ll see in a cinema all year.
Mother! is the talk of the town right now: A-list star, Jennifer Lawrence, who is in every shot of the film; its controversial director, Darren Aronofsky, who it seems wants his female characters to live the most miserable lives possible (see: Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, and now this); and its baffling plot line, which is filled to the brim with allegories and metaphors, both religious and as well as philosophical. It’s a lot to take in, but this unforgettably gruesome scene towards the end of the film is the one that you may never forget (in the worst possible way).
The sudden death of the newborn child, is hard to comprehend regardless of the movie's plot line, but to even start, we must talk about the baby boy's parents: mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem). The two are married: he is a famed poet, while she is a loving caretaker and live-in muse. Together, they seem like a happy couple in a Goop-approved rustic home tucked away from the rest of the world, but in reality, it’s all an illusion at the hands of Him, who represents God — among other things. Their son is a product of the mother — who one can consider Mother Earth — and God, making him the chosen one. Chosen for what? Well, it would seem that he is chosen for sacrifice at the hands of Him's doting admirers. His worshippers (in the literal sense, the mob in the couple’s home are all fans of Him and his poetry and pour, unwelcome, into their home — but on a metaphorical level they can be seen as pollutants to Mother Earth) are desperate to touch the infant, who immediately starts peeing in distress on the chanting crowd. Within minutes, as mother screams and begs for them to stop passing him around, you hear the harsh sound of bones crushing. And then the baby disappears from sight. mother pushes through the crowd only to find his carcass sitting on a homemade alter and realises that the people surrounding her are feeding on him. As in, they are eating pieces of the baby. To regroup: we, the viewers have spent half of the mother watching mother conceive the baby, create a nursery for the baby, give birth to the baby, breastfeed the baby, coo at the baby, and try to protect the baby, only for her to see him brutally murdered before her very eyes.
It’s difficult to write, uneasy to think about, and nearly impossible to watch (I had to look away). One could argue that The Walking Dead arguably shows similarly grotesque things on a weekly basis. But bloody zombies are actually the perfect buffer to suspend disbelief. mother!, on the other hand, felt like a very real emotional journey aimed at shaking viewers to their core, in an attempt to make cinematic barbaric art.Many will swear off Aronofsky films after witnessing the cannibalistic sacrifice of a newborn child in front of its mother, and I wouldn’t blame them.
Whether you find the artistic value in the shocking scene or not, mother! will make you cringe, laugh (yes! really! but only at the beginning, thanks to the inimitable Michelle Pfeiffer), and it will make you say 'what the fuck did I just watch.' Or, as my friend put it in a text after leaving the cinema, "Now everything feels weird... like was I just on another planet."