How bad is “Mother!”?

Darren Aronofsky's Mother.

Dar­ren Aronof­sky’s Moth­er.

So just how bad is the new Dar­ren Aronof­sky film, Moth­er!? Well, and at the risk of bam­boo­zling you with arcane tech­ni­cal jar­gon, it is what we in the indus­try refer to as pants. Which is extreme­ly dis­ap­point­ing, because for a while Aronof­sky seemed as if he might be the great white hope of inde­pen­dent cinema.

He made his impres­sive debut in 1998 with Pi, and fol­lowed it up two years lat­er with the gen­uine­ly daz­zling Requiem for a Dream. Here glo­ri­ous­ly, form is con­tent, and con­tent form, as Beck­ett had defend­ed Joyce with. The high­ly stylised explo­ration of the lan­guage and gram­mar of cin­e­ma was the per­fect way to delve deep into the top­ic of addic­tion. The result was the film of the decade.

Jarred Leto and Jennifer Connolly in Reqiem for a Dream.

Jared Leto and Jen­nifer Con­nel­ly in Requiem for a Dream.

Next up was The Foun­tain in ’06. And, suf­fice it to say, we all put that film down to the immense pres­sure he must have been under to pro­duce a wor­thy fol­low-up to what had come before. So he was for­giv­en that.

Then came The Wres­tler in ’08. So okay, before earn­ing the right to go back to mak­ing the sorts of films that he real­ly wants to make, he need­ed to accom­mo­date the bean coun­ters in Hol­ly­wood. And as nice as it was see­ing Mick­ey Rourke back on the sil­ver screen, it real­ly is lit­tle more than your runofthemill, feel­go­od Hol­ly­wood film.

The dream master, David Lynch's Mulholland Dr.

The dream mas­ter, David Lynch’s Mul­hol­land Dr.

But then came Black Swan, reviewed ear­li­er here, a fur­ther a n oth­er Hol­ly­wood pic­ture. And then, worse again, Noah in ‘14 which couldn’t have been more Hol­ly­wood had it been direct­ed by Cecil B DeMille and starred Charl­ton Hes­ton. So just what kind of a film mak­er is Aronofsky?

Well let’s just hope that Moth­er! isn’t the answer to that ques­tion. True, for peri­ods of ten, even fif­teen min­utes, the film trun­dles along inof­fen­sive­ly enough. And you begin to won­der what all the fuss is about. But then there’ll be a plot point, a quote devel­op­ment unquote in the ahem, sto­ry, that’s so implau­si­ble and so com­plete­ly uncon­nect­ed with what had gone on before, that your only response is an almost over­pow­er­ing urge to get up and leave.

I don’t remem­ber ever see­ing a film that left me so per­ma­nent­ly on the edge of my seat, about to leave, only to remain where I was on the assump­tion that any moment now, it was sure­ly going to improve. It was like re-liv­ing the 2016 elec­tion night all over again.

Jodorowsky's most recent pair of comeback films, Santa Sangre and the Dream of Reality.

Jodor­owsky’s most recent pair of come­back films, San­ta San­gre and the Dance of Real­i­ty.

For a while there, you won­der whether what’s being explored here might per­haps be some sort of dream­scape. But as Freud so mem­o­rably summed up, dreams are about “the trans­for­ma­tion of man­i­fest dream mate­r­i­al into latent dream con­tent”. The whole point of dreams and their read­ing in oth­er words, is the con­nec­tion between what you dream about, and the stuff of your every­day life. The dif­fer­ent ele­ments need to be con­nect­ed, oth­er­wise they are lit­er­al­ly mean­ing­less. And if what we’re being offered on the oth­er hand is some sort of metaphor, alle­go­ry or para­ble, then we need to be able to iden­ti­fy with who­ev­er it is that is expe­ri­enc­ing the les­son to be learned.

There are no con­nec­tions between the begin­ning, mid­dle and end of Moth­er!, or for that mat­ter, between any of its major scenes, and you could­n’t pos­si­bly iden­ti­fy with any of the char­ac­ters involved. There are the same two prin­ci­pal actors, poor old Jen­nifer Lawrence and Javier Bar­dem, on the same set, of the same house, and all the props are the same. But there is almost noth­ing to con­nect what hap­pens in one scene with what hap­pens in the next.

Fellini's 8 1/2.

Fellini’s 8 1/2.

Dreams have been cen­tral to cin­e­ma, which is hard­ly sur­pris­ing for a medi­um designed to pro­duce illu­sion. Fellini’s 8 ½, Bunuel’s the Dis­creet Charm of the Bour­geoisie, Polanski’s Repul­sion and, more recent­ly Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky’s the Dance of Real­i­ty, reviewed ear­li­er here, and, of course, David Lynch’s Mul­hol­land Dr., where, as David Thomp­son astute­ly point­ed out, D R stands first and fore­most for Dream, and only sec­ond­ly for Dri­ve.

If there are any of those films that you haven’t seen, do so now. If how­ev­er you’re curi­ous about what hap­pens when you try to make a film with­out hav­ing a script or, there­fore, a sto­ry, then if noth­ing else, Moth­er! will put you right on that.

Here’s the trail­er to Mul­hol­land Dri­ve. And for the record, you can see the trail­er to Moth­er here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every month, on All the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music.