Mother! is a movie, but it’s also a nightmare. It’s also an idea, an examination, an experience, an eye-of-the-beholder exercise, a poem, an allegory, a satire, a societal critique, an occasion for Jennifer Lawrence’s dad Gary to be horrified by seeing his daughter braless in a sheer cotton night dress, a personality test, a dare to dream, an … opera? Maybe! In a new Reddit AMA with Darren Aronofsky, the director was asked by a commenter named chickenmagic (of course) if he considered staging his new movie as a play, to which he responded, “johan johansson and i are thinking about turning it into an opera.”
Let’s really consider our options with this for a minute, because chickenmagic made a good point when he/she observed that Mother! “seems like it’s perfectly built” for the stage, and Aronofsky, who calls the movie his “howl,” certainly built a monument to theatricality in the final act of his movie. Imagine those last 30 minutes playing out as a full, three-dimensional costume drama with a stage being nearly burned to the ground each night as a blonde woman in a bad wig cries out about how “No one is listening!” But what would the musical accompaniment be like for a story that was originally presented as aggressively devoid of music? Would Lawrence’s pleas to her savage houseguests to spare the poor, unbraced sink get its own aria? Would the leitmotif of Ed Harris’s character just be a deep, aggressive cough?
Given the religious themes, would this be more of an oratorio than an opera? And as long as we’re here, why not make Mother! the opera be an immersive presentation à la Sleep No More? After all, audiences really should experience this work in a semi-controlled environment where they can participate in the destruction of Lawrence’s home, ripping boards off the walls, painting the molding without permission, or locking people in cages. Whether or not you decide to join the dozens who gleefully hop on top of the structurally unsound sink could be the decision that truly prompts Mother! audiences to examine their interior morality versus their enforced adherence to societal norms.