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mother! Venice review roundup

Darren Aronofsky’s mother! has screened in Venice. The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy calls it, “A ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ for these times.” Variety’s Owen Gleiberman says, “If the only thing we wanted, or expected, a horror film to do was to get a rise out of you — to make your eyes widen and your jaw drop, to leave you in breathless chortling spasms of WTF disbelief — then Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” would have to be reckoned some sort of masterpiece.”

While The Guardian’s Robbie Collin says, “This is a mad, transfixing, rolling thunder-crash of a film – What To Expect When You’re Expecting by way of Goya’s Disasters of War – that holds its considerable nerve until the final cut to black.”

Until today, very little was known about Aronofsky’s latest film with the exception of a tweet from Anthony Bourdain who announced he had seen the film and tweeted his thoughts.

Its official log-line is simple and mysterious: “A couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.”

Here are some highlights of the reviews for mother!

Guy Lodge – Vanity Fair

Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! Is a Spectacular Attack of a Movie.

There are angrily haunted walls, live organs in the toilet bowl, and floor cracks that turn into squidgy open wounds in Mother!, with a blazing inferno consuming the screen in the very first shot. But those might just be bloody, shuddery distractions: with apologies to Sartre, in Darren Aronofsky’s exhilarating, shape-shifting horror-not-horror movie, the real hell is other people…

Fashioning itself as a haunted-house movie is the most brilliant of (Mother!’s many bluffs and rug-pulls. The house itself, a perfectly whorled, shiver-infested creation by production designer Philip Messina, may heave and rumble like a stomachache, but it’s not the primary problem, even as its eerie false walls reveal themselves and floorboards turn inexplicably to kindling. For this is the nightmare of a haunted marriage, with the threatened male ego as its rampaging ghost: “I am I,” utters Bardem without a glimmer of irony, as Lawrence—who’s never been quite so nakedly disempowered on screen—transitions from uncomprehending panic to all-too-comprehending terror…

It’s been a long time since a big-studio movie leapt this recklessly into the void, but nothing in Mother! feels wanton or for-the-big-burning-hell-of-it. Aronofsky’s subtext is as sharply pointed as his formal means are outlandish, with every collaborative contribution, from Lawrence’s catgut-taut performance to Matthew Libatique’s anxiously dimmed, snaking camerawork, on the same charred page.

Jessica Kiang – Playlist

‘mother!’: Darren Aronofsky’s Scorchingly Brilliant Thriller Is Visceral, Go-For-Broke Madness

Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” uncoils from a murderously tense, tricky and claustrophobic first hour into some of the most sustained escalating insanity (and scorchingly brilliant filmmaking) ever to burn down a cinema screen. An incendiary religious allegory, a haunted-house horror, a psychological head trip so extreme it should carry a health warning and an apologia for crimes of the creative ego past and not yet committed, it’s not just Aronofsky’s most bombastic, ludicrous and fabulous film, spiked with a kind of reckless, go-for-broke, leave-it-all-up-there-on-the-screen abandon, it is simply one of the most films ever. Seldom has a title ever earned its exclamation point in more emphatic fashion. In fact it deserves a few more, so here they are: !!!!!!!!!

…This literally ain’t the half of it, but it should give you some idea of the bravado of Aronofsky’s maximalist approach that his film can refer so directly to schlockbusters and old classics alike, often in the same shaky breath: There’s “The Innocents,” Poe‘s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Repulsion,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Rebecca” scattered throughout, but there’s also a good helping of “Pacific Heights” and “The Skeleton Key.” At least, there is in the first hour before Lawrence’s character gets pregnant and the film moves into its defiantly uncategorizable second half, when you’re too busy trying to work out if you’re having a heart attack to think about what anything reminds you of. The only way to warn you without spoiling is to say that foolhardy is the soul who believes that, having witnessed what you’ve just witnessed, the film cannot possibly get any more insane. It can always get more insane, and it always does…

…“mother!” is something truly magnificent, the kind of visceral trash-arthouse experience that comes along very rarely… it spits you out into the daylight dazzled, queasy, delirious, and knock-kneed as a newborn calf.

Ben Croll Indiewire

“mother!” begins as a slow burn and builds toward a furious blaze. Awash in both religious and contemporary political imagery, Darren Aronofsky’s allusive film opens itself to a number of allegorical readings, but it also works as a straight-ahead head rush. Not just another baroquely orchestrated big-screen freak-out in the vein of “Black Swan” (though it is very much that), the film touches on themes that — if too hazily figurative to be in any way autobiographical — at least tread on factors in the director’s own life…

…It also forces us to confront specific political overtones. As characters swarm the Bardem and Lawrence home, they bring with them the fissures and ongoing conflicts of the outside world. “mother!” does not try to evoke specific images, as Alfonso Cuaron did in “Children of Men” or even Bong Joon-ho in “Okja,” but it has a similarly bracing effect. As rioters, protesters, and refugees overtake the house, Aronosfky’s political message becomes clear.

Try and hide all you want. You’re still a part of this world, and it’s coming for you.

Owen Gleiberman – Variety

To ask for a film like this one to be more than it is — to ask for it to connect to experience in a meaningful way — may, at this point, seem quaint and old-fashioned and irrelevant. Considering the number of cruddy recycled horror movies made by hacks that score at the box office, the film is almost destined to be a success, maybe even a “sensation,” because Aronofsky is no hack — he’s a dark wizard of the cinematic arts. Yet his two greatest films, “Requiem for a Dream” (2000) and “The Wrestler” (2008), are both steeped in the human dimension, whereas “mother!” is a piece of ersatz humanity… By all means, go to “mother!” and enjoy its roller-coaster-of-weird exhibitionism. But be afraid, very afraid, only if you’re hoping to see a movie that’s as honestly disquieting as it is showy…

“mother!” is a nightmare played as a hallucination played as a theater-of-the-absurd video game that seems to descend, level by level, to more and more extreme depths of depraved intensity. You could say that Aronofsky is drawing on “The Shining” (the isolated setting and Bardem’s stony resentment) and also on “Rosemary’s Baby,” the greatest of all paranoid horror films. If so, however, he heads right for that film’s in-your-face, party-with-the-devil final scene (“Hail Satan!”), which director Roman Polanski took an entire two-hour movie to work up to. That movie was a bad-dream vision of pregnancy in which Rosemary paid the price for her trust and naïveté. But what, exactly, is the sin Lawrence is paying for?

Todd McCarthy – The Hollywood Reporter

Writer-director Darren Aronofsky wants to have his commercial cake and chomp down on some vexing personal issues, too, in mother!, a very Rosemary’s Baby-like intimate horror tale that definitely grabs your attention and eventually soars well over the top to make the bold concluding statement that, for some creators, art is more important than life…  Aesthetically resembling Black Swan more than any of the director’s other previous work, but with touches of Requiem for a Dream, this Paramount release could score solidly with the public on the basis of the genre elements and the star’s drawing power. It opens Sept. 15 after festival bows in Venice and Toronto…

The film’s demented final stretch is a madhouse bacchanal, a circus-like inferno which seems welcomed by Him and simply horrifies mother. This quasi-hallucinatory, disco inferno-ish climax is multilayered and ambiguous enough to accommodate multiple interpretations; it’s a mother’s worst nightmare, a vision of the contemporary world coming apart while the oblivious masses treat it as the ultimate party, a view of primitive hedonism trumping educated civilization, the destructive mob prevailing over the constructive individual, all perhaps an intuitive sign of the times as envisioned by Aronofsky.

Fionnula Halligan – Screen Daily

Darren Aronofsky’s churning fever dream mother! is a devouring and restless experience: a creative surge that’s like the lancing of a boil, releasing a torrent of despair and disgust for the greedy chaos of society today as well as a self-loathing portrait of the artist as an emotional succubus. Part-couched as a horror but also a wicked allegory, this is as formally provocative as it is thematically insistent, draped in horror tropes and religious overtones.

mother! is a personal, end-of-days statement which expresses the angst of these times as well as a deep-seated and bloody loathing for them. It’s an unusual studio picture from Paramount: like much the rest of Aronofsky’s work it will divide and stimulate audiences and critics, but should still be hailed as an original, strikingly unconventional piece on its US commercial release September 15. Awards play seems likely, particularly for Aronofsky’s muse Jennifer Lawrence, embodying and responding to all his considerable neuroses, fears and desires, as an artist, a lover, and a citizen of the planet.

mother! arrives on September 15 and will screen at the Toronto Film Festival