Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken
Ok. Let me try and lay out all the reasons why I think mother! is such a cruddy film…
(I’d like to apologize in advance if this goes on a little long).
In a way that hopefully isn’t just a take-down of the just this particular thing but also starts to get at a thing that’s been bothering me for a while (like a wobbly tooth in the back of my mouth: maybe if I can find the right words I can work it loose and finally pull the damn thing out…).
I can’t remember the first time I realised or was told how a story could mean something else other than what it was. I wish I could. But wow – it’s a proper magical thing right? The Terminator is actually global warming or FernGully is about gay panic or whatever. Actually – joking aside: one of the best early examples I think I came across was that Hooper X speech in Chasing Amy.
This one (as if you didn’t know):
Hooper: Always some white boy gotta invoke the holy trilogy. Bust this: Those movies are about how the white man keeps the brother man down, even in a galaxy far, far away. Check this shit: You got cracker farm boy Luke Skywalker, Nazi poster boy, blond hair, blue eyes. And then you got Darth Vader, the blackest brother in the galaxy, Nubian god!
Banky Edwards: What’s a Nubian?
Hooper: Shut the fuck up! Now… Vader, he’s a spiritual brother, y’know, down with the force and all that good shit. Then this cracker, Skywalker, gets his hands on a light saber and the boy decides he’s gonna run the fuckin’ universe; gets a whole clan of whites together. And they go and bust up Vader’s hood, the Death Star. Now what the fuck do you call that?
Banky Edwards: Intergalactic civil war?
Hooper: Gentrification! They gon’ drive out the black element to make the galaxy quote, unquote, safe for white folks. And Jedi’s the most insulting installment! Because Vader’s beautiful black visage is sullied when he pulls off his mask to reveal a feeble, crusty, old white man! They tryin’ to tell us that deep inside we all wants to be white!
Your mileage may vary – but for me: this is some proper magic stuff. The thing that you thought was one thing is actually another. That sci-fi / fantasy fairytale you like is actually a racist parable or whatever. Even if – upon closer examination – it maybe starts to fall apart (altho the “racism of Star Wars” does sound like a pretty cool idea for a future discussion….): but taking one thing and saying that it’s actually another feels like one of the foundational magical powers of being a human being…
(Am reminded of An Oak Tree: but actually maybe that’s something completely different?)
But hey: say I have a big red apple in my hand and I say that actually it’s a symbol for knowledge. I mean: one hand that’s kinda crazy (what the hell does a piece of fruit have to do with the facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education you know?): but on the other hand – it’s a connection that pretty much all of us have had drilled into us from a pretty young age because you know: we live in a Christian country and stuff: and it’s basically been in the water supply / deep in the soil since before any of us were born etc: so you know – we get it. The apple (somehow) means something else which if you stop and think about it is actually kinda bizarre: but then so is anything when you stop and think about it…
Now imagine that the apple isn’t just a stationary inert piece of fruit – now imagine it’s a story. With all of these different moving pieces – like characters and a plot and locations and talking and all the rest of it. And yet somehow all those moving pieces work in such a way that they tell a completely other story than the one you’re seeing: where the woman walking around the house getting more and more crazy isn’t actually a woman after all – no: she’s actually Mother Earth. And that moody guy played by the crappy Joker in that Bond film? He’s actually God. And Executive producer Christof is Adam and Catwoman is Eve and so on and so forth…
(Now: don’t get me wrong here. If that’s all I knew about this movie then I’d be like well ok: it sounds a little ambitious – but maybe it could work… (My personal philosophy: it’s not really bad ideas that are the problem – it’s the execution. I mean: The Lego Movie was one of the best films I’ve ever seen and The Cloverfield Paradox is a Cloverfield Movie set in Spaaaaaaaace and it almost made me never want to watch another film ever again. People mostly tend to talk about ambition as if it was a positive quality in and of itself (“That movie sucked!” “Well yeah but – at least it was ambitious”): which honestly I’ve never really understood).
But here’s the thing: if you wanna write a story and have it be cool and not have me getting up after the credits and retching in the street like I’m Gary Johnston in Team America – you’ve gotta have a story that actually works as a story. By which I mean: something which is pleasurable to watch, with characters acting in a way that makes sense and is internally coherent, with events causing other events and all that other extremely basic stuff that makes a story a story and not just a collection of random images and sounds.
And mother! well – in my humble opinion – is probably closer to collection of random images and sounds than it is to any real kinda well-made film because it gets itself ass-over-backwards (it’s like The 5-Year-Old Screenwriter of Fast Five only instead of cars he’s fixated on Catholicism lol). Because yeah: ok – there’s meaning there and symbolism and everything is actually really something else (I think I actually did a little bit of sick in my mouth when I realised what that title meant) but it’s hooked on to a bunch of crazy gibberish nonsense.
To go back to the apple / knowledge thing from before (altho uh oh: now we’re using metaphors to talk about metaphors) – Basically: if you want to create an enjoyable experience and something that works: then apple needs to be something that is enjoyable in and of itself and something that works and can be understood without recourse to the “higher” meaning. And in mother! well – the apple (how apt!) a piece of glass. You can’t eat it. You can’t taste it. It just sits there looking pretty…
And shit yeah ok: there’s lots of people out there who loved this film and thought it was a marvelous marvel and all the rest of it. And yeah yeah: I know – the polite thing is to say that everyone is entitled to their opinion and who I am to judge and whatever. But at the risk of being too aggressive and alienating everyone else (which you should know isn’t my intention – quite the reverse in fact): I call bullshit. In fact I’d argue that mother! is designed (albeit unconsciously) to play on the ego and feelings of superiority of those who watch it: because the end point is for those who feel pissed off that they didn’t get their story hit or high or whatever you want to call it (catharsis is always a good word) to stand by and feel dumb while those who twigged on to the deeper meaning get to say “well of course that just means that you didn’t really get it” And on the one hand: you know – there’s obviously a whole layer of stuff there for sure. But on the other hand: there’s no frigging cake underneath.
And shit but also: the upper layer isn’t really worth writing home about that much because: erm – I mean: apart from the ending: what does it really do apart from react biblical scenes or whatever? Like yeah sure ha ha – there’s those people sitting on the sink and she hasn’t braced it and omg: it’s kinda like The Flood like that other film but erm: what’s really been communicated here? That the Flood is like a sink or something something? If only those two people had listened to Mother Nature then the pipes wouldn’t have burst (???).
I don’t know.
Like: Requiem for a Dream (yeah yeah: I preferred his earlier work – bite me) isn’t tied to one particular meaning of “whats it all about?” which I think actually makes it a lot deeper and gives it more scope. If you’re not tied down to one meaning then maybe it lets you mean more maybe? But whatever: I’m guessing that maybe I’ve ranted enough. And well yeah hey: if someone else wants to come in and explain all the reasons why I’m wrong – then that would be very cool. Or you know: double-down on everything I’ve said and then we can just leave it at 🙂
Over to you.
So. I watched The Wrestler last night. And it got me thinking (uh oh).
Had watched Creed over the weekend – an experience that could be best described as “average” and it gave me a hankering to watch something that felt like it was made by an individual with a point of view rather than something made by committee… (I mean – Creed – seriously? Like: it’s not a bad film. It’s all like competent and stuff – but it’s all so paint by numbers that it’s almost insulting. Like I could list all of the obvious points it hits along the way – but you already know what all they are).
But anyway – it made me want to watch The Wrestler and so I’m glad of that because hey: here’s the thing: The Wrestler is actually a pretty good film. It’s sad and moving and rigged in an interesting way (is there any other sports film out there were you’re desperately hoping that it isn’t going to end with the main person doing their sport because you know it’s going to kill them?)
I mean obviously (does this even need to be said?) it’s about a Man being a Man and how being a Man is tough and hard and sad and why can’t everyone else just understand how him? And obviously ends with him Doing Some Man Stuff (altho it nicely undercuts that by the fact that – oh – it’s going to kill him: but oops – also: actually maybe that just makes it worse? You know: it’s like The Dark Knight Rises – or Jesus or whatever: Man must make the sacrifice and etc).
But whoops – that’s not the point I wanted to make.
The point I wanted to make is how strange it was to watch The Wrestler with mother! in mind and how (for me anyway) they both kinda criss-crossed in where they were coming from and the effects they achieved. In that – well – The Wrestler is very much a specific story. It’s set in this kinda crazy world of non-famous professional wrestling where people staple money to their faces and roll around in barb wire. And it’s about a very particular dude – Robin Ramzinski who has experiences which are pretty much unique to him. Like: I’ve never even been to a wrestling match. I don’t have a daughter (estranged or otherwise). I’ve never lived in a trailer park. I’ve never been to a strip club. I’ve never worked in a deli. I’ve never had a chair smashed in my back. etc etc.
But fuck it: watching the film and getting to know all of the idiosyncrasies of Randy’s life: all presented in such a stark and direct way – there’s this strange alchemy that takes place where I end up relating somehow and it ends up seeming bigger than just his life. Where he’s still this one guy – but he’s also me – but he’s also everyone and everything – and he’s a symbol for every struggle. For doing a thing because you love it even if it’s going to kill you and etc etc. And I can’t even put this stuff into words because it’s not something that people ever really talk about. But fuck – the very end of the film when he gets up on the thingie and stands on it…
I’m watching that and I basically had somekind of metaphysical experience or whatever – where I was feeling all of these things and stuff that well.. you only really get with a good film / good bit of art or whatever: change of brain state or etc.
And the funny thing is – is that I think mother! in it’s own way is trying to get to same point. That same place of deepness where we realise that we are all Jennifer Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence is us and we’re all Mother Nature but (and to me this funny): because it starts at a place of such vagueness and whatever the opposite of specificity is: because all the characters are basically just archetypes (trying to think of a more blatant example than “The Man is Adam and the Women is Eve” and my mind is coming up blank…): it never gets the chance to do the alchemy thing and do deeper and further and wider…
It only works when you zoom in.
Tell your children not to walk my way
tell your children not to hear my words
What they mean
What they say
Danzig makes me think of Halloween and how Glen would make a way better Wolverine then Hugh Jackperson. Mother! made me think a lot about story telling, and how story telling is the closest man can get to any kind of divinity, as its the closest we can get to the act of creation. But its a lie! What Fun! And the story telling here, well, some people buy red sportscars when they enter midlife , some make irreversible mistakes. Daren made Mother! I went in to it knowing a fair bit about his aims for the film, having made a better choice of time usage in listening to a podcast where Jodorowski reads his Tarot and they discuss his difficulties in Hollywood. The important lesson for me to take away from Mother! is that allegories have to function multidimensionally. Like the best pop songs, they usually appear simple and silly, but are hiding things that can change your life. No one will ever care enough to see the deeper meaning if the surface one is not enticing , or entertaining, or well executed.
Lets take Jesus. What if Jesus was just a really shit story teller? The underlying virtues of love and forgiveness and rejection of the materialist outlook yada yada would have fallen on deaf ears. Did he cure any deaf people? I guess if you’re dead you’ve lost your hearing , so yea, he can check that off his bucket list.
What I did like about Mother! was the attempt at an Alchemical/ Gnostic allegory, which sadly I can’t even be 100% certain was intended. There seems to be a streak of it lately though, with the new Westworld series, reviving Philip K Dicks works, and Aronofsky’s Noah, and The Fountain. I didn’t see it as Adam and Eve , but of the Creator and the Demi-urge, Lawrence/ Bardem. One claiming to be the creator , whom humans are duped into worshipping, buying in to his version of reality, while the true source works in the background, unknown and disrespected. I can’t really claim to understand the last bit of the film, and can’t be asked to find any deeper meaning in it, as it was too difficult to sit through the first time. I enjoyed the tension built in the early to middle stages, it was the release of tension at the end that felt like a bullshit confused effort. Maybe its actually fucking mind blowingly brilliant on a second watch and the sad sad tragic truth is that no one will ever find out because we can’t find the will to sit through it again. Premise for the sequel, sorted.
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