Tag Archives: Darren Aronofsky

Many Mansions


by Hope Madden

Darren Aronofsky is grappling with some things.

For those of you who know the writer/director primarily for his streamlined, intimate films like The Wrestler, mother! may come as a bit of a surprise.

For the rest of us, mother! may come as a bit of a surprise.

How do you feel about metaphor?

Jennifer Lawrence stars as the very young wife of a middle-aged poet with writer’s block (Javier Bardem). While he stares at a blank piece of paper, she quietly busies herself restoring every room and detail in his remote, fire-damaged home—now their home.

Their peace is disturbed by a man (Ed Harris) knocking at the door, soon followed by a woman (Michelle Pfieffer—look for her name come Oscar time). The poet is only too happy to offer the strangers a place to stay, and this is bad news for the poet’s wife.

Between Aronofsky’s disorienting camera and his cast’s impeccable performances, he ratchets up tension in a way that is beyond uncomfortable. This is all clearly leading somewhere very wrong and the film develops the atmosphere of a nightmare quickly, descending further and further with each scene.

Many a horror film has been built around writer’s block, but Aronofsky has more on his mind than that. The larger concept of creation and all its complications: male versus female, celebrity, consumption, art and commerce. Also maybe the self-destructive nature of humanity as well as its tendency toward regeneration and rot. And being God.

Aronofsky picks up many of the themes that have run through his work, from Requiem for a Dream to The Fountain through Black Swan and Noah.

God as creator, god as creation. Gender politics and the nature of man.

Or is it all just one man’s frustration at not being able to give birth?

Hard to say, really. It’s a big stew, and it’s equal parts self-indulgent and self-pitying. Aronofsky is a daring filmmaker and an artist that feels no compulsion to hide his preoccupations.

Like most of the filmmaker’s work, mother! will not be for everyone. But if you’re up for an allegorical descent into hell, meticulously crafted and deftly told, and if you like your metaphors heavy and your climaxes absurd, this mother! is for you.

Waiting for a Sunny Day


by Hope Madden

The last time Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel wrote a screenplay together, they came up with the filmmaker’s grandest, most epic misstep, The Fountain. Gorgeous and heady without enough beneath the surface to ground the visual display, it was a film about self-destruction, madness and commitment to the ideal of love.

Well, after two gritty, intimate tales on those same themes (The Wrestler, Black Swan), Aronofsky goes grand again with the biggest tale of human self-destruction, madness, and commitment to an ideal he could find: Noah. Amid the recent flood of Christian themed films (Son of God, God is Not Dead, and the upcoming Heaven is Real), it’s tempting not to take Noah very seriously. Aronofsky is serious.

An IMAX spectacle worthy of its subject matter, the effort is epic in scale and sometimes dizzyingly powerful to look at. And though the approach is 100% earnest and absolutely respectful of the Old Testament tale being told, he’s not only emphasizing parallels between the damned of Noah’s time and our current culture, but slyly asking  whether saving humanity was really the best idea.

It’s an admirable attempt, and though he nearly lost me with the biblical rock monsters (I swear to God), on the whole, the storytelling is as almost strong as the imagery.

He’s not getting the kind of nuanced, career-high performances from this cast that he enjoyed in his previous two efforts, though. Perhaps the reason is that these characters are far more broadly drawn, but their one dimensionality doesn’t help the film generate a lively, resonant quality. It tends instead to feed the film’s feel of a bombastic take on a musty, old story.

Russell Crowe scowls and looks conflicted, as does Jennifer Connelly (veteran not only of Crowe’s onscreen relationships but of Aronofsky films).

Ray Winstone delivers (as always) in the role that animates man’s wickedness, and with him Aronofsky scores the most points in articulating modern society’s connection to the parable without offering a sermon.

It’s a tremendous, impressive feat of cinema, the kind of epic biblical tale not attempted since Charlton Heston had his own hair. Aronofsky has entrenched himself in Noah’s story, considered what it really meant to him as a human, and by extension, what it meant to humanity. He doesn’t entirely pull it off, but it’s a hell of an effort.