by JUDITH SACAL
The art of Cinema has the potential to configure reality, unfold it, disfigure it and
transform it into a myriad of imaginaries that give us the opportunity to explore
existence from another place.
Year 2020 began in our lives as if we were part of a movie, watching from mobile and virtual devices, we are currently part of a story that has no filters or mediations, that reveals us our fears, uncertainties, and a kind of disorientation towards our own reality.
As in many films, we continue to search for answers and explanations that we do not understand.
It is so, that in this section, I am going to share a plural spectrum toward those visual works that lead us to reflect and explore different realities through new perspectives of the possibilities of cinema.
1. "MOTHER!": The dark side of humanity
“Mother!” (2017) by Darren Aronofsky is a film about a humanity that lives in a world that rises from the ashes, using the biblical metaphor as the language to propose a story that already has been told for the times, and must be rewritten again.
By compressing into two hours an ambitious and risky speech, Aronofsky manages to provoke and detonate a reflective and emotional response that leaves the viewer with the restlessness and shock of a staging, whose result is the emergence of endless questions that, once the film is finished, they accompany the viewer for a long time. It is interesting that “Mother!” has been inserted into the category of horror, although Aronofsky constructs a fiction about the history of humankind, with the rawness of a face to face approach, he shows us the dark side of humanity, that is, as you will see, definitely terrifying.
The original title of the film was “Day Six”, the sixth day of the biblical creation, when the human being was created, when religion already existed since the divine word of the Creator has been reflected in the scriptures, and when the false idols persist coexisting within the structure of what makes up our humanity. Erected with a false pride that has forgotten its place of harmony with nature, humankind find its place, located itself on it through the domain of the word. This creative force of the word has its potential in its immateriality, in its ability to name what is beyond the organic and material world, in its ability to generate metaphors and humanize the
world until he manages to contain it and reduce it to its own proportion, to his own image.
But this word, by which we name the world, needs to "inhabit" and occupy a place in order to give meaning to human existence. Now, the complexity of Aronofsky's story appears, since it resides in the construction of a plot that meticulously weaves chapters interpretations, beliefs, metaphors and allegories that behave like a living organism that operates at its own will. The result is a hallucinatory effect of a reality that is driven by an excess of subjectivity, where
fantasy is established precisely as the possibility of overflowing reality. The dialogues are precise and concrete, detonating in each named word the energy that arouses all the creation and all the destruction. This will have an effect in each of its viewers with different reactions, some may feel confusion or discomfort, but they will never be indifferent to what Aronofsky presents us, since “Mother!” is an emotional film.
Along with a powerful aesthetic of the image, distinguished by an immaculate cleanliness and a precise ordering of every visual element on the screen, the intimate spaces will be inhabited and slowly transformed to drag us step by step to the last of the corners where we can breathe the suspense of the breath of each of its characters, but always through Mother's eyes.
A characteristic feature of Aronofsky's films is the construction of his characters, whom confront the viewer by showing with absolute rawness and frontality their passions, tensions, weaknesses, and the inflection point of the main subject of the film, those qualities appear integrated within each of them.
We have seen him pointing the brutality of addiction as part of a system that cracks into a psychedelic perception in “Requiem for a Dream” (2000), as well as the ruthless self-rending as sacrifice in “Black Swan” (2010). With “Mother!” he takes a leap forward by deconstructing the personality of the individuality of each of his characters, they have no names in order to confer them with a universality gesture, that is why his characters are: Mother, Him, Man and Woman. Establishing a conceptual structure throughout the plot, the roles that have each one of his characters dissolve into categories, definitions and prejudices that activate a way of breaking up our belief apparatus and given prejudices.
The first scene of a woman charred in the flames generates a first impact that we will forget soon, as it all begins with a stone rescued from the ashes. Carefully placed on a shelf, that stone is the only trace of the memories and the recollections of a story that ended and began again. This new life made up by Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem), takes place in the apparent calmness of a couple in their country house. While Mother dedicates her days to remodeling the interior of her home, filling every corner with love and harmony to turn it into an earthly paradise, Him, a famous writer, suffers from “writers blocks” and wanders in search of a
moment of inspiration to carry out that task that makes up his personal, self-absorbed and obsessive universe, he has not yet found the spark that gives him the breath and energy of life, his words. From the first moment the polarities are present, coexisting in an apparent tranquility, intimacy and exteriority in synchronicity, Mother is Mother Nature, his life partner, his wife, while Him is the Creator of the word.
The uncertain and slowed-down tone of a forthcoming monotony and sterile atmosphere gets interrupted with the sudden appearance of Man (Ed Harris), a doctor who is a fan of Him's books, and shortly after his Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Slowly, the balance and harmony of that unity gradually cracks, Man's immediate show of admiration for Him's words transforms that which began as a gesture of hospitality of an unconditional act before a foreigner seeking refuge, into a deformed relationship that becomes an adulation that provokes in Him a narcissistic selfrecognition that intoxicates and blinds him, up to the point of being unable to see beyond himself, much less, he is unable to see Mother.
This invasion of his home is the biblical allegory of Adam and Eve, whom with their presence, begin to narrate the history of humanity, which is affirmed as such from the praised word and the forgetfulness of nature itself. Showing then, the instant of the subsequent division that was established at the time in the humankind. Man and Woman gets installed in the house, making an uncomfortable atmosphere by their exacerbated exhibition of passions while generating disproportionate tensions.
Completely ignoring their condition as guests, their arrogance is taken to the excess of the limits of privacy and display. Situation, that being in fact uncomfortable, is enhanced by the violent appearance of his two children who break into that home to jealously discuss the discord of the terms of Man's unequal inheritance, this, unleashes a ruthless fight between them, with all the blind fury that is guided by ambition, we will witness the recreation of the scene that we understand as the first great conflict of humanity, the murder of our brother. Once the death of the “other” is founded, chaos becomes present. in the imminent presence of the arrival of family and friends at the funeral of the son in their home, the patient and tolerant attitude of Mother can only be understood by the unconditional love that she has for Him.
The first great key of the film is evident now, we understand that death is the common thread of the entire film, the fratricide and the funeral social ritual operate as the sign that always accompanies humanity, “Crying is the sound of life and humanity” Him says. But the offering and the sacrifice, are not enough to redeem humanity from the suffering from the acts that are committed in the name of a constructed ideal. That leaves us as witnesses of the deformation of a faith that seeks to find the answer to its own existence by yielding the hope and the own responsibility to the “other”.
But death cannot be understood without life, the eternal cycle of beginnings and endings becomes real with Mother's pregnancy and Him's sudden inspiration to write. Fertility is present in both of them, the Mother and the Creator, pregnancy and gestation, both places us in the transcendent dimension where the human ultimate sense of existence is being realized with the arrival of a child in her, and the writing of the book for him. As nature itself carries the unconditional wisdom with the transcendence that brings us the gift of the continuity of oneself through the flow of life of Mother, the inspiration of Him, gets carried out as the gestation of a creative process through his work, by his words, determining in a sense, a way to become
immortal, knowing that his art will persist, the artist imposes himself as the bearer of a superhuman value that will remain beyond his life, even through death.
The climax of the film dislocates the polarities to turn the plot into an explosion of intensities and hallucinations that seem to never end. While Mother starts with labor, that announces the becoming of the birth of the child, the recognition and obsession for Him's written masterpiece publication explodes at the door of his home by a mob of fanatical people who have turned him into an idol. Him, intoxicated by the flattery and devotion of the crowd that worships him, gets transfigured himself into a fallacious self-believe of being somehow divine, allowing himself to be adored by the invasive crowd, he gives them his words, his belongings, his own home.
A blind and violent humanity, guided by false ideals and desires, that tramples each other, is an evidence through the violent scenes that have written the history of our humanity. Social movements, political wars, radical ideologies and confrontations that fly the false flags of men without a reason. We witness once again, through a mind-blowing mosaic, the horror of destruction and chaos that has been walking along with us in the path of human history.
While the pain takes on many faces, Mother is immersed in this nonsense that happens during the moment of the imminent delivery. Her pain, that one of the Mother Nature who is struck by a humanity that has forgotten her, makes her realize that her long build paradise has become an apocalypse, where annihilation and barbarism have no end, where horror is real.
Suddenly, calm is established, we can finally breathe, as if when we can open the eyes to wake up from a nightmare, the child is born and the silence reigns. The uncertainty of that calm is suspicious, is frightening. The newborn is jealously protected by Mother, she has taken shelter in the office, escaping from the hell of the human horror that has invaded her home provoked by Him's vanity. Through their gazes we can see the breaking of the bond that united them. He is no longer the father, Him ceased to be him, he became an I, now he is the public figure who will end up being consumed by those who deify him. Him’s blindness is capable of illusively sacrificing his son as an authentic act of gratitude and goodness to a humanity that will devour him as the only way to possess him, the flesh of his flesh and the blood of his blood, the self-destructive life. The paradigms of life and faith that remains within each one of us, struggling deep inside, waiting, until we can be able to open our eyes as if it were the first time to live a true life.
Horror is the silence that remains when there is nothing more to say when the only thing left is to start over.
We do not own the rights to any of the pictures in the article. All the rights go to the authors of the pictures.
List of the sources:
Jennifer Lawrence in “Mother!”, Paramount Pictures (2017). Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris in “Mother!”, Paramount Pictures (2017). Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in “Mother!”, Paramount Pictures (2017).