Avoided all the hype and finally saw it tonight. Have not read the thread. I made a mistake in my first post that started this thread where I said DA was going back to Black Swan territory. I had only seen a trailer at that point.
No, mother! has more in common with his first film Pi and to a certain extent Requiem for a Dream than any of his other films. But it's also a film that couldn't really exist without DA's other work, as it builds upon the ideas presented in the rest of his filmography. I feel like in order to understand mother! you kind of have to understand the evolution of his filmography.
Pi was all about point of view filmmaking, putting the audience in the shoes of the main character. Requiem built upon this idea by dividing points of view among the main characters and adding a vivid surrealism in order to starkly convey the disintegration of someone's reality. The Fountain brought a larger thematic element into his work, with bigger and bolder ideas and subjects, but ones that remained intimately tied with the main characters, making both elements parts of the same whole. After that he switched gears from the very geometric style of mise en scene into a more cinema verite kind of docu-filmmaking with The Wrestler, to provide a more naturalistic kind of window into the characters. Then Black Swan combined that verite style with the surrealist elements from Pi and Requiem which resulted in his most popular film to date. Noah was kind of an anomaly, where it went back to The Foutain's style of filmmaking and borrowed some of its bigger, heavier themes, but this time with a more political message in mind.
All of his previous films are relatively straight forward and easy to engage with. They are bold, and innovative, but they are also audience friendly and fairly open about what they're trying to convey. mother! is a different beast entirely. No matter what your opinion of the film is, you have to give DA credit for crafting something so singular and uncompromising in its unfolding of the narrative. It is relentless in its pursuit of keeping the main character the center of attention, at all times, no matter what is going on around her. Virtually every shot in the movie is from her vantage point. It took a while to get used to this, but it soon begins to make its usefulness obvious... really the only way to tell a story like this.
mother! combines all the elements of DA's previous films (POV, verite, thematic sophistication, political idealism) into one cinematic molotov cocktail. A film almost guaranteed to turn off even the most ardent fan of the man's work. It's a tough watch. But one that is almost necessary to admire from a distance than engage with on a personal level.
Probably the only other American filmmaker with such a brutally uncompromising method of telling a story is Stanley Kubrick. Not because his style is so specific. Lots of filmmakers have specific styles. But Kubrick's films are almost comically matter-of-fact. They give you everything while also giving you nothing. All the information is presented, but in such a way that is completely neutral.... they are not trying to make you feel one way or another about what you're watching. And that forces you to dig deep and work to understand them. And that's why they've had so much staying power. It's a unique gift he had that almost no one could mimic.
mother! is similar in that there is no "moment" in which the point of the film becomes obviously decipherable. There is no audience surrogate to hammer home how weird everything is. There is no Mr. explainer to tell you what's going on. There is no third act deus ex machina. There is no scene early in the film that makes you aware of any reality outside the house, or that this couple is like you and me and therefore relatable. The verite style DA adopts for the film is not just used visually, it extends to the plot. We drop in like a fly on the wall in a stranger's house with no context but the point of view of the main character. And that point of view never wavers. The film challenges an audiences's need for clarity and understanding. The only thing that is clear are the things that happen. Why, how, when and where aren't presented and therefore irrelevant. There isn't even a music score to tell you what to feel (a first for DA).
If that isn't enough to convince.... NONE OF THE CHARACTERS HAVE NAMES.
The only character with a name is the person who's point of view we're in. Veronica. Everyone else is a cipher. An idea. A concept. Once you accept the fact that the film isn't going to give you anything, it becomes a reactionary experience. You're forced to bring your own point of view to the point of view of the main character. In that sense it is the ultimate point of view film. Like staring into an abyss. Like 2001 A Space Odyssey, it bypasses the conscious mind and engages the subconscious. There are some pretty tell tale religious, spiritual and geopolitical parallels going on, but what they add up to never becomes obvious so trying to decipher it almost feels silly and pointless.
So, at least for me, the film's "meaning" becomes more important to the filmmaker than us. Because that's what personal filmmaking is. You're just a visitor in someone else's house. A tourist without a tour guide... there to admire the architecture. And there is alot to admire. The films looks gorgeous. The production design is stellar. The sound mix kicks ass. There are some frightening moments. The mystery is intriguing. The acting is great. I think mother! is going to be misunderstood until it ages quite a bit, and then you might start seeing people come around to how important this film is. It really is a work of art. Right now, I really cannot think of a single "flaw" in it.