September 21, 2017

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Mother of a mystery

Be prepared for anything -- because the director and star aren't spilling any secrets

Toronto — Looking at the trailer and poster for Darren Aronofsky’s new film mother! and you might suppose the film is some kind of cross between Rosemary’s Baby and The Amityville Horror.

We can ascertain all the action is set in a single, rambling, rustic house. The disturbed heroine, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is doing her best to make a good life with her brooding poet husband (Javier Bardem). But the serenity of this idyllic existence is under siege, whether by the poet’s secretive ways (he refuses to let his wife into his office when he’s not there) or his casual disregard for her feelings. When the couple receive a visit from a sickly surgeon (Ed Harris) and his bristling, bitchy wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), the menace becomes very real. Then, just when the danger seems passed, an apocalypse reckoning waits in the wings.

So… is it really a horror film?

At the Toronto International Film Festival last weekend, Aronofsky and Lawrence engaged in a press conference to talk about the film, and for his part, Aronofsky tried to keep the subject ambiguous.

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Toronto — Looking at the trailer and poster for Darren Aronofsky’s new film mother! and you might suppose the film is some kind of cross between Rosemary’s Baby and The Amityville Horror.

We can ascertain all the action is set in a single, rambling, rustic house. The disturbed heroine, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is doing her best to make a good life with her brooding poet husband (Javier Bardem). But the serenity of this idyllic existence is under siege, whether by the poet’s secretive ways (he refuses to let his wife into his office when he’s not there) or his casual disregard for her feelings. When the couple receive a visit from a sickly surgeon (Ed Harris) and his bristling, bitchy wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), the menace becomes very real. Then, just when the danger seems passed, an apocalypse reckoning waits in the wings.

So… is it really a horror film?

At the Toronto International Film Festival last weekend, Aronofsky and Lawrence engaged in a press conference to talk about the film, and for his part, Aronofsky tried to keep the subject ambiguous.

"The whole (marketing) campaign has been about mystery and I think the film plays out very much like a mystery," says the director of equally enigmatic fare such as Black Swan and The Fountain. "You’re watching it and you think you’re watching one thing and then it shifts and becomes something else, and shifts and becomes another thing."

Aronofsky admits he likes that and says he doesn’t want to give too much away about what it is, so he-encourages people to avoid spoilers.

"And if you’re up for the roller-coaster ride, come take it," he says. "It’s really weird and different and so just tell people it’s an experience to have. That’s what I want."

Paramount Pictures</p><p>Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence star in the thriller mother!.</p>

Paramount Pictures

Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence star in the thriller mother!.

The film does come with a warning, however.

"It’s a very intense ride and only take it if you want to see something very new and very different," he says.

Perhaps it’s because Lawrence is an actor that she is inclined to be less ambiguous when it comes to what the movie is, as much as she too was admittedly nonplussed by it initially.

"When he told me the ideas that were floating around in his head, I immediately said yes. Once I got a script, I read it and threw it across the room and told him he had severe psychological problems," she says. "But it’s a masterpiece and I didn’t have any hesitations."

Lawrence says the film is allegorical with huge universal and biblical metaphors; and Aronofsky has created a narrative through them, placing them all in the house.

"It was just incredible and unique and I had never heard anything like it," she says.

Jennifer Lawrence in mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.</p>

Jennifer Lawrence in mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

Certainly, for Lawrence, the film was as punishing as a horror film when it came to making demands on its star. Lawrence is literally the focal point of almost the entire film, which was shot "either over her shoulder, on her face or what she’s looking at," Aronofsky says.

"I’ve never been on a movie where the camera is so close to my damn face," Lawrence says.

"Sixty-six minutes of a two-hour film is a close-up of Jennifer," Aronofsky helpfully interjects. "And you’re never bored and you’re never claustrophobic and that’s all because of her."

"This movie kind of pulled me apart and put me back together," Lawrence says. "Working with Darren, it was just a completely different character from everything that I’ve ever done and it was just inside me."

mother! opens in theatres on Friday, Sept. 15.


randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Read more by Randall King.

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