mother earth goddess

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Mother! and the Art of Sacrifice

Published September 28, 2017 by rmpixie

mother! (2017, 2 hrs, 1 min.)

 

Yet another festival film has divided the masses in the way of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film Mother!  Making its rounds in Europe and playing TIFF 2017 in Toronto; and much like previous TIFF premiere The Witch from over a year ago, critics and viewers either love or hate this allegorical masterpiece that confounds the horror genre and elevates the artistic experience.

A married couple live in a secluded house in the countryside. This rambling manor is a restoration project for the young wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and a place for solitude and concentration for her writer husband (Javier Bardem). While she is his muse, he is still looking for inspiration and having difficulty putting pen to paper, but when a stream of strangers come to their door looking for a place to stay, things start to change. These guests are unwanted by the writer’s wife, disturbing her solitude and her vision for the home; yet they fuel and invigorate her husband, creating a fervour that will soon divide them in their lifelong pursuits.

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem).
Photo credit: IMDb

When my boyfriend and I showed our tickets to one of the theatre staff, she immediately let us know that we could get a refund within the first half hour of the film. The staff member felt she had to warn us about the disturbing nature of the film, as many movie-goers thought it was a family drama because of the title. With that red flag waved before we even sat down in the theatre, I wasn’t sure what we were about to witness, but I was scared I might find something to take issue with. This apprehension also came from some earlier discussion during TIFF about the age difference between Jennifer Lawrence’s character only know as Mother, and her husband Him, played by Javier Bardem. The May/December coupling was something to think about as it mirrored the real-life relationship of Aronofsky and Lawrence, but I couldn’t condemn the film simply because of that one detail without having seen it. I tend to avoid any reviews until I’ve seen the film and written my own thoughts about it, and I made an extra effort to avoid as many articles as I could with Mother! I did see a few snippets of review headlines screaming the film’s shortcomings or brilliance in a few choice words, making me even more curious. My final verdict, although I tried in vain to find something to dislike about Mother!, is one of complete adoration for such a brilliant film.

There is so much to say about Mother! and so many layers to explore that I imagine theology, psychology, film and sociology PhD students will have at it for decades. Aronofsky himself has said in several interviews that this film is about Mother Earth and her destruction but you can see other themes based on the artist and religion.  Whether you believe the film to be about the perishing earth, art, or the Bible, there is a common thread that shows the struggle of creating and the sacrifice that the creator and those around them must endure.

*Some may find the next part of this review/analysis spoiler-filled, so reader be warned.*

As a creative person and someone who values solitude, I felt Mother’s horror as intruders destroyed her sanctuary.  Her experiences are very close to a recurring nightmare I used to have about constant, unwanted visitors, and I felt her husband’s frustration with not being able to create, desperately looking for an outlet or inspiration. When the intruders start to fuel his creativity, allowing the floodgates to open and his masterpiece to unfold, it’s a wave that many an artist or writer wants to capture and ride forever, constantly feeding the ego with praise and celebrity.

Mother and her husband are fairly archetypical in nature. The rosy-cheeked, blonde, blue-eyed representation of Mother Earth/Mary/the female side of creativity is young, vibrant and innocent, just the type of personification that is needed to feed the creativity of her older, more worldly husband. Aronofsky has said that Rosemary’s Baby was among the influences for the film, and like Rosemary Woodhouse, Mother is used for her spouse’s gain without her being in on the larger scheme of things, but here there is a cyclical feel to her life and death. She will not be forced to choose to look after her child like Rosemary, in fact, Mother is in constant opposition to what is happening around her even though she is a major part of the cycle. She is there to tend to the home while her husband creates, but her efforts will be overshadowed and thwarted by intruders. Her role is so utterly mired in the feminine and her partner so male, that the yin and yang of their relationship and power dynamics, while stereotypical, are poignant. Her desire to have children and bear fruit like Mother Earth is stunted by her husband’s own overbearing God-like desire to create and be adored, and when she does have a child, it is taken from her for his own egotistical reasons, to placate his worshipers who have supported Him in his work and who treat his writings like scriptures, confirming his role as an all-seeing, all-knowing deity.

Mother’s experience is very relatable as she struggles with her intuition. Her need to restore the house, listening to and nurturing its spirit is acknowledged but not heeded and she is placated by thin excuses or shunned for not going along with the crowd. At times her physical voice is drowned out by the chaos as her hard work is destroyed. The insecurity that comes with the terror of being completely alone in your pursuits needs a strong person to stand up for what they believe in. She does this over and over again, as she sacrifices herself not as a victim but as a martyr and saviour, only to be resurrected in this weird and crazy cycle of life.

Technically speaking, I really enjoyed the camerawork that was reminiscent of the long takes in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and the claustrophobic close-ups and tracking shots of Mother like in Rosemary’s Baby. It gives us Mother’s perspective and we witness the action along with her. We were also in the dark with her, getting no clues as the audience, save for some biblical references like Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel (played by Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brian and Domhnall Gleeson respectively); as well as the birth and devouring of Mother’s son seemingly symbolizing the sacrifice of Christ as one interpretation.

I must mention a wonderful surprise (at least for me!). Stephen McHattie appears as the zealot; a rabid follower of the writer’s work, stirring up the masses to worship the word of the writer. Those who know me, know I love Mr. McHattie, so to see him in such a spectacular pageant of a film made me love and respect him even more. And speaking of pageants, I had the sense that Mother! could somehow work as a stage play with the exaggerated chaotic action, and I would love to see that in the future.

I really can’t tell you how to react to Mother! only what I’ve seen and experienced as I immersed myself in this film. Yes, you can see obvious influences of the Bible, Rosemary’s Baby, Birdman (in my opinion for the cinematic style), and all the other films mentioned by Aronofsky himself, but these influences melded to create something that is unique, new and quite simply brilliant. Whether you see it as a creationist story, an 11th hour commentary on the state of the earth and environment as the director intended, a modern-day scripture about the artist ego, sacrifice and their art, there are allegories and symbolism for days in this film. It’s not to be missed.

 

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Face Off Season 5 Episode 5: Earthy Mamas!

Published September 12, 2013 by rmpixie

I loved the opening scene for this episode!  Scott and Roy discuss their close call as the worst looks last week.  Scott made me laugh when he felt there were going to be 2 middle-aged men with heart attacks on elimination day.  Roy took it in stride despite his feeling embarrassed over the whole thing and pledged to get serious in the upcoming weeks.

The gang all convened at the L.A. Arboretum and Botanical Gardens seen in movies like Jurassic Park, and Tarzan.  The Spotlight Challenge this week was to create a Mother Nature goddess and incorporate features that represented the contestants’ mothers.  The special guest this week was Anthony Kosar, winner of last season’s Face Off!  It was so good to see him and he gave them great advice.  He  told them to make sure their designs had feminine features, that were subtle, soft and elegant.

Alana went for a big hair feature as her mother was all about her hair (big surprise!).  She created a gorgeous giant flower headpiece with a subtle colour palette.  Eddie incorporated thorns to create a warrior goddess that represented his mother’s strength.  I personally did not love this creation.  I thought it was too bulky looking and not refined.  The judges thought it looked like a big rubber suit and that he didn’t execute a beauty makeup.

Laura really showed her confidence in her choices this week.  She used roses, music and Buddhism to represent her mom, and came up with a beautiful colour palette and sculpt that was pretty breathtaking.  the judges were floored by how beautiful it was, and her “sublime palette” inspired Neville!  Miranda also created a gorgeous leaf inspired goddess that had another great colour scheme.

Lyma came out of her shell this time around.  She created an interesting concept because she really bonded with her mom when she was pregnant.  She made a see-through pregnant belly with a rabbit in it and a huge hair piece with branches.  It was really beautiful and the judges really felt it was a bold design choice that really paid off.  Roy also impressed them with his tree goddess.  They thought he made smart decisions and that it was a balanced and elegant design.

Laney and Frank had their own individual struggles this episode.  Laney’s mannequin broke in the mold.  The head was torn off by Tate who was lending a hand, so he had to fix it on the fly.  Then her costume was not exactly what she wanted.  Then her model felt ill with all the paint spraying, but her butterfly design looked great in the end.  And poor Frank!  I really felt for him, as he was dealing with the recent death of his father, and his ailing mother.  It proved to be too much for him as he couldn’t focus, but he created a simple and effective design with some nice colour choices and a good sculpt.  On a personal note, I understand the pain he is going through and wish him the best.

Tate came up with a doe-eyed goddess because his mother raises deer.  It was a tad odd-looking and not really my taste, but he ended up being safe.  R.J. really screwed himself this week.  Because he had created an earth goddess for the show in a previous season, he went completely opposite to the challenge, which is ALWAYS a bad idea.  Always.  Every time!!  He used his quirk to create a 60’s inspired beehive goddess that the judges hated.  Words like “unnerving”, “curiosity” and “total failure” were bandied about as they looked at his design.  Oy vey R.J.!  Scott also came up short with his wood and farm inspired goddess.  It was all orangey-red and the judges did not like the chest plate.  They thought it had more of a horror look.

The top looks came from Roy, Laura and Lyma.  The judges loved Roy’s colour palette and overall balance of his smart design.  They felt Laura seamlessly blended colours and her makeup was stunning.  Lyma impressed them with her bold choices, and I am glad she finally made it to top looks this week.  I think she just needs to keep making smarter choices and her position this week will boost her confidence.  Laura ended up with the win, which I thought was well deserved.

Bottom looks came from Eddie, Scott and R.J.  Eddie just went for too much and he didn’t give them a beauty makeup.  Scott’s design wasn’t feminine enough for the judges and they felt he didn’t have experience with beauty makeup…and R.J.?  Well, they said he dismissed the core elements of the challenge, so of course, he was the person to leave.  I think we all know that he is talented, and I admire him for thinking outside of the box.  He will definitely go far!

This was my favourite challenge so far, and I would like to note  that I really like the maturity of the artists this season.   Age means nothing when looking for this character trait, and it’s nice to see that they all have a great camaraderie, decency and friendship while they compete.  It gives the show a totally different vibe this time around, and I am relieved that there aren’t any major squabbles…well, so far.  There are a few episodes to come, so we just have to wait and see!

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