Mother! – Darren Aronofsky and the feminie real. (Film Review)
For me, the central question of Darren Aronofsky’s new film Mother! is how a man can get the position of women so right? It’s a depressing thing when you see a woman’s position portrayed with so much horrific accuracy, and yet it is a man ‘showing me,’ using a legitimizing consensus that eludes me as a writer. I had a similar experience in watching George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. I felt a kind of betrayal that a man can tell my story, but I am culturally forbidden; not just by aggression and a refutation of opinion and perspective, but by the spiritual nature of words themselves, the literal sound they make coming out of my mouth. Why can a man tell the absolute horror story of the sacrificial love a woman experiences and a woman can’t?
However, in the same film is that which I have never seen before – the answer to this question. Darren Aronofsky doesn’t get ‘woman’ right, he tells a story that includes the feminine almost as a happy accident. By portraying an archetype that encompasses all victims of the male drive to ‘autonomise’ and ‘create’ we are faced with the accuracy of what a man does, rather than how it is for woman. Darren Aronofsky can tell this story better than Lisa Thatcher because it is the story of white male dominated patriarchy. What he does to woman is the same as what he does to children, to the black man, to environment and to the planet earth. There is a special kind of hell reserved for the woman in his bed, but ultimately, God has been made in HIS image and it is HIS image he understands. Mother! Is what it is because she is the reflection of patriarchy – she is not ‘the female experience,’ but she is the truth of how it is to be woman.
So what then for woman? We see Mother!. We see the disaster wrought upon the earth, upon the global community, upon the family, upon the flesh and blood of females themselves, and how do we counter it? Feminism is the answer to awake, but that only allows for interpretation and awareness – the Michell Pfeiffer character if you like. Feminism is read as envy and bitterness, not just by blind witless males, but more tragically by many females. The mother of the film is countered by two types of feminism; the woke disgruntled wife trying to control her life and her family (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the career woman who acts precisely like a man (Kristen Wiig) and colonises the male space only to discover she can’t affect it. The truth of third wave feminism is that socialism lets us down also. It has turned out to be as much a male construct as capitalism, fascism and democracy. All flawed, all killing humanity. The mother of Aronofsky’s film can’t leave the house, and the more she gives, the more she loves, the more everything around her is destroyed.
If it weren’t for feminism, I would have been the mother of the film – the Jennifer Lawrence character. She is not from the eighteen hundred’s; I was groomed to be her in my youth. Every woman in the gym, decorating her house, or fussing over preparations for her baby is going through the same thing. It is no accident that feminisms great battles are over housework, a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body and equal pay for equal work. But beyond this, feminism ultimate state is in opposition to patriarchy and the war must end in feminisms demise, either on feminist terms or patriarchy’s terms, and that is the battle we fight today. Who are we on the other side of that war?
I stopped reviewing films for two reasons. 1. Films were getting more and more like television (not the other way around as the pop cultural commentators would have you believe) and less able to say anything out of the realm of propaganda, regardless of perspective. 2. I couldn’t stand the ‘debate’ for ‘quality’ being discussed in the thinnest and most feeble of ways by the critical film community. Reading around the commentary on Mother! I see criticism is getting worse. Mother! nails it for feminists, but the thing we need to see is that feminism is in response to patriarchy, and a man can tell the woman’s story so well because he sees it as part of his personal failure. Either way, we are still depressingly in response to patriarchy, and we not yet creating autonomously and coming up with something new. Our focus on symptoms allows problems to perpetuate. But then, who is woman other than a symptom of the male gaze?
For me seeing Mother! was a powerful, liberating experience. I found the referencing to feminism, destruction of the environment, religion, patriarchy, misogyny and the carnivorous male artist to be spot on and evocative. I found the horror of the film an accurate portrayal of my own experiences. I found the depiction of humanity as evil and disgusting reprobates to be powerful and interesting (Indeed this shed some interesting light on Aronofsky’s last film, Noah) I like the homage paid to other films, such as The Shining and many Lars von Trier films. I think it is one of the best films I have seen for many years. The empty landscape I am left to, filled again with male perspective is something I am used to and have been taught to see as The Real. And that is the story of woman.
PS – from a tech perspective, Mother! is a virtuoso of light, colour and sound. Camera work is thrilling and terrifying. This is a film for the big screen, don’t put it off for the small.
I have reviewed other Darren Aronofsky films here: