Director Darren Aronofsky’s says his latest film, “mother!”, a dark, allegorical portrayal of an unravelling couple starring Jennifer Lawrence, was born of despair at the way the world is going.
“Most of my films take many many years to come to life. This one happened in five days,” the “Black Swan” director said Tuesday after his latest horror-infused production had its world premiere in Venice.
“It came out of seeing what is happening around us and not being able to do anything about it,” he said.
A committed ecologist, Aronofsky said his concern over man-made environmental destruction had been compounded by the futility of events such as the siege of Aleppo, generating a rage that enabled him to produce a first draft of his script in days in a process he described as akin to a “fever dream”.
The end result has a trippy, is-it-really-happening quality to it: Lawrence is required to flush a heart down the toilet at one point and there is worse to follow over the course of a nightmarish pregnancy.
“It is a completely different character to anything I’ve done before. I had to get in touch with a side of myself I wasn’t in touch with and Darren helped me do that,” said the 27-year-old star.
– Attracted to dark –
“We did three months of rehearsal. It is the most I’ve had to pull out of myself.”
A by-product of the creative process that went into the film is that its director and lead actress are now a couple, something Lawrence jokingly alluded to on Tuesday after co-star Michelle Pfeiffer said she was attracted to “dark” directors.
“So am I!” interjected Lawrence with a throaty laugh. “So I’ve heard!” shot back Pfeiffer.
The film starts from the premise that there is nothing as ominous as an unexpected knock on the door. Lawrence’s character hears one and never feels safe again.
The isolated wooden pile that she shares with an older famous poet (Javier Bardem) is already haunted by the ghosts of his previous life with his first wife.
Rebuilt from scratch after being razed by fire, she’s trying to transform it into a cocoon of contemporary chic while he locks himself away in an inner sanctum and battles with writers’ block.
They are not quite in meltdown mode but neither is all completely well between the couple.
The arrival late one night of a visitor who ostensibly mistakes the place for a B&B starts to expose the faultlines in their relationship.
Against her better judgement, the poet insists on the elderly visitor, a dying physician (Ed Harris), staying over.
– Whistles –
Flattered to meet a fan of his writing, neither does he object when the doctor is joined the following morning by his overbearing drunk of a wife (Pfeiffer).
Soon the house Lawrence is trying to turn into a home is invaded by their entire family and their tensions over changes the father has made to his soon-to-be executed will.
A scuffle between siblings results in blood being splashed on Lawrence’s lovingly sanded and stained floorboards but Bardem’s poet is a case study in artistic egocentricity and he proves oblivious to her wincing discomfort.
The escape from domestic routine has re-energised him: he starts writing again and Lawrence suddenly finds she is pregnant.
It is what they both wanted but for him it is not enough. And as she nears delivery, the home is once again subjected to an invasion that he, driven by narcissim, encourages, driving the couple’s connection to breaking point and the film to its gory finale.
Despite its stellar cast, “mother!” was greeted with decidedly mixed reviews and a few whistles of disappointment from the international press audience in Venice.
Aronofsky shrugged that off. “Just read the newspaper and try to feel what’s going on,” he said.
“It is a very strong cocktail, it’s a rollercoaster ride. Only come on if you are prepared to loop the loop a few times.”