The main character in Darren Aronofsky’s film, who is not named, said of the audience’s reaction to his new book:
They’re thrilled. They all understood, but every single one understood in his own way.
So did the audience of the film. Each has got this movie in their way. Or hasn’t at all.
Those who gathered to see the horror film announced by the distributors waited for a zombie to pop out of the basement or any kind of vampire. Those who were expecting a classic thriller (a term that also appeared in the film’s description) suspected in vain that the strangers who appeared on their doorstep would take the house owners as hostages. But the viewers simultaneously experienced a personal drama, a verbose parable, and a sweeping allegory. The deciphering of all the metaphors embedded in the film would have resulted in a volume as long as “War and Peace.” If we had to limit the film to a genre, there would be several ones. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
This film is about love.
Do you remember what the apostle Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians?
Love is long-suffering
love does not envy
love is not exalted
doesn’t mess around
not looking for his
thinks no evil
does not rejoice in iniquity,
but rejoices in the truth;
That’s how the protagonist of the film behaves. The epitome of apostolic love. “Without a name, and therefore without a destiny” (a formula borrowed from the hit song about “Harlequin”). Like the nameless clown of the song, a young woman has no destiny. There is only love. To the Artist. Or to the Demiurge. Or to God. Emphasize as appropriate. It doesn’t matter which one. She loves her husband. And all she does is serves her lord. She reconstructs the house after the fire. She cooks. Washes. Sweeps. And worships before his poetic gift.
And what does he do? Nothing. He takes her adoration for granted. What’s more, he prefers the crowd’s admiration, ignoring his wife’s quiet raptures.
This film is about a perverse narcissist.
The world is not overflowing with perverse narcissists. The percentage of the total humanity is only from one to eight. But the young lady in the movie got just that one.
He loves only himself; everyone else – is a pawn, which he arranges on the chessboard of his ego. You may say, let the Poet neglect the needs of his humble wife, but he’s happy to have people coming into his house in ever-increasing numbers; he is pleased to see them, and he even offers the most precious gift — a newborn son. In fact, he is enjoying his own cult built at the hands of his flock. And the constant rebuilding of a burnt-out house with another loving Muse is also a characteristic of a perverse narcissist: having destroyed the actual victim, he begins a cycle of sacrifices to himself anew with a new contender.
This film is about a man and a woman.
The woman in the film is an ideal, a genius of domesticity as if she stepped down from the pages of the poem “The Angel in the House” (1854) by the Englishman Coventry Patmore. A nineteenth-century poet paid tribute to his domestic (one is tempted to say: tame) angel:
Or any eye to see her charms,
At any time, she’s still his wife,
Dearly devoted to his arms;
She loves with a love that cannot tire;
The Poet in Aronofsky’s film takes the angelic character of his gentle and hard-working wife indifferently. He cares more about the strangers flooding the house, new impressions, and the raptures of the audience. When, after the release of a long-awaited book, his wife changes her work clothes into an elegant evening gown for the first time, does her makeup, and sets a lavish table, her husband ignores her attempts to throw a party for two by inviting an unbridled crowd into the house.
This film is about the incompatibility of a creator and a housewife.
That could be what it’s all about. Well, he doesn’t need dinners/clean shirts/washed floors… Oh, yes, he does, but without the demands to return the attention and affection. She’s just his “smart home” that functions properly but doesn’t satisfy his needs for public adulation. He can’t get enough worship in the person of a one and only woman.
Let us recall two characters from the Bible, the sisters Martha and Mary. While Martha was busy with the household preparing a feast for Jesus, Mary was idly listening to the guest’s speeches. Our Poet married active and selfless Martha, and he should be glad of such a circumstance. If his wife were the spirited Mary, there would have been a struggle of two egos in one in the same house.
This film is a retelling of the Bible.
This interpretation of the story has the most significant number of followers. Once upon a time, there was a God, and he was the only one named with a capital letter — Him. God got bored. Plot twist: there were four knocks on the door: knock-knock-knock-knock. Just like Beethoven’s “Theme of destiny.
Adam came through the door, and God built Eve out of his rib at night. And further on in the text: the couple brazenly broke into paradise (God’s study) and cracked the crystal, of which the viewer knows nothing yet. After the expulsion of the parents from paradise, the grown-up sons of Adam and Eve fulfill their roles – Abel is killed by Cain. Then there was a worldwide flood, embodied by the loose kitchen sink, which was unceremoniously rocked by the cheeky guests who filled the house.
The book finally written is the New Testament, and the child mauled by the crowd is the Son of God, whose flesh and blood are still symbolically consumed by believers during the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
We usually see two powers in the Bible: an almighty God and an endlessly forgiving humanity. But humans do not hover in space; they trample on Earth, their only planet. Aronofsky wrote the film’s script in just five days (two days ahead of God and his creation of the world!), and he introduces a third force into the narrative. – The Earth, tormented by the irrational offspring of Adam.
And here, we come to the subsequent interpretation of the story.
This film is about ecology.
The Earth, our Mother, cannot endure the wickedness of human beings, encouraged by the connivance of God. The Mother has long tried to be discreet; in the opening scenes, she politely begged the uninvited guests to leave the house, not to break into the study, not to climb on the sink, while timidly muttering: “Would you please come down from the sink?” But the last straw overflows the cup of patience. The husband waits for the tired Mother to fall asleep and kidnaps the newborn, presenting the baby to his admirers. The woman’s tolerance runs out with the last act of ritual cannibalism. The Earth’s reaction is a shard of glass in her hand and painting with it on the cheeky faces of visitors. This is an analogy of earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and other attempts of the long-suffering planet to free itself from the tormenting of human crowds.
The director himself insists on precisely this interpretation of the story. Hence the cyclical nature of the narrative. At the film’s beginning, a close-up of a burnt woman’s face is in flames, and a man’s hands clearing the crystal from the ashes and placing it on its pedestal.
A little later, another woman wakes up in bed, performed by Jennifer Lawrence. At the end of the film, the desperate housewife throws a lighter into the oil spill and blows up the house. And everything repeats all over again. Javier Bardem’s character removes the heart from his dying wife’s chest, extracts the crystal, and puts it on a pedestal. The new woman wakes up in the matrimonial bed. A new planet? Or Earth, free of humans who have yet to appear and disfigure it?
Mysterious Yellow Powder
The number of puzzles that make up the film could be multiplied and multiplied. However, there is one small riddle that keeps everyone who has seen the movie. What is that yellow stuff the Mother pours into her glass in critical situations? The same powder from a bottle tastelessly labeled ” Yellow” she adds to the plaster to stain the walls.
When Aronofsky was asked about the yellow powder, he said the following: I think Jan has a better answer than I do. I’ll just say that it’s a return to Victorian novels and the idea of a deeper connection between Mother and home.
What kind of Victorian novel is meant? It turns out that in 1892 Charlotte Perkins Gilman published a short novella, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” about a woman locked in a yellow room.
Like the film’s protagonist, she doesn’t leave the place, staring at the walls of her room to the point of stupefaction. The idea of the story is to confine the woman’s life to the house, and yellow is a symbol of madness.
The puzzles can be multiplied to infinity: the film is layered like a pie. There is no single interpretation. And not every question is answered unequivocally.
– Who are you?
– I am me. And who are you? You were my home.
– Where are you taking me?
– To the beginning.