Darren Aronofsky Introduces His New Film 'mother!' at Deauville

Photographed by Mike Rosenthal
Darren Aronofsky

"The pain that she's feeling is the pain I wanted to capture in the film," the director said of the movie's tough premise.

Presenting his latest film, mother!, at the Deauville Film Festival, Darren Aronofsky made it clear he was keenly aware of what a difficult film he is serving up, and warned the audience in advance.

“I just want to apologize for what’s about to happen. Everyone’s laughing and really liking me right now, but you will not remember a word of this in two hours,” the director told the packed house.

He spoke about bringing The Fountain to Deauville after it had been “deeply misunderstood” in Venice, where mother! also had its world premiere, and thanked the festival for its warm reception to that earlier film. But reaction to mother! was more mixed, with muted applause and a few scattered boos from a usually very enthusiastic audience — Aronofsky is a festival favorite and was on hand to get a career honor.

He addressed the scattering of boos the film also received at a press screening in Venice. “It’s exciting to have such strong reactions,” he said. “I’m always about making films that push the edges of the comfort zone, and with that always comes the result of some people being extremely thrilled and other people having a hard time.”

The film, which THR’s Todd McCarthy called “an intimate horror tale,” is an allegory for Mother Earth and the damage humans are causing her, and was written to "capture [her] pain."

“I was just trying to be truthful to what’s going on and the reality is that we defile the earth, we steal from the earth, we rape the earth, we take from the earth, and you know we don’t clean up after ourselves. And for the first time in human history we are seeing the limit of her bounty and the seas are emptying and filling with our waste,” he said. “It wasn’t a pleasant thing; it was about concern.”

He also said that while he wrote the script in five days, that version was more a story outline and structure without character. He developed the characters during a three-month rehearsal in a Brooklyn warehouse with stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. In the end, they filmed what they had there and cut it into a two-hour test movie before going on to shoot the final film.

While the film explores environmental and religious issues, he said he was not “leaning as much into the gender issues” and that the disparity in age between Bardem and Lawrence is a key point. “Of course Hollywood gets critiqued a lot for casting male movie stars with a young ingénue without addressing it, but the entire film addresses it, and it’s a big point of the allegory and a big point of the movie.”

Aronofsky also added that while the final product does not have music, save the closing credits song by Patti Smith, he worked with Oscar-nominated composer Johann Johannsson on a score that did not ultimately fit with the film.

“The audience is supposed to be unsure of where they are and they are supposed to look to Jennifer and her character of mother to understand where they are, so if we gave the audience a little bit of a hint of how to feel, it kind of tipped those scales,” he said. “So for me Jennifer is the music.”

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