Thursday, September 14, 2017


A Poet (Javier Bardem) and his Wife (Jennifer Lawrence) live a quiet existence in the middle of nowhere. The isolation aids him in his creative process as a writer, while the boredom gives her enough drive to restore their house piece by piece after it is consumed by a great fire. Their life of peace is disturbed by the arrival of a Man (Ed Harris), whom they allow to spend the night. The next day, a Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) who claims to be his wife joins him and is welcomed with open arms. As the strangers’ presence quickly transforms the ambiance from uncomfortable to downright intrusive, the Wife must find a way to regain order in what was once her paradise. When the pair’s two sons come over unannounced and prompt a violent altercation in the premises, it becomes clear that a line must be drawn between hospitality and privacy. But can she do it alone when her husband is so inexplicably smitten with their new house guests?

In terms of surreal imagery, there is no shortage of that in this film. Whenever the wife has a migraine of sorts, the environment around her is altered a la Silent Hill. The floor boards change in texture. The walls are suddenly of a different shade. Are we witnessing something mystical or is it a peek into a disturbed psyche? She also has recurring visions of a beating heart in gradual decay. From the get go it is evident that there is this strong force in her, a destructive power that can explode and consume anytime. What makes all of it tricky is the fact that on the surface, she is presented as a mere housewife, even though it is obvious that there is a supernatural twist here hiding somewhere.

The heart as a symbol is persistent all throughout the film. Perhaps we can connect this to the title itself. The Wife wants to be a mother, literally, but she also represents a much bigger mother figure viewed from a larger than life perspective. It comes off as a bit ironic, though. The mother is usually the nurturing force in the family, while the father is often associated with the authoritative stance. Here, it appears to be the exact opposite. In any case, the abundance of close-ups of Lawrence’s face can be a little offsetting. However, one can acknowledge how it helps in highlighting the dilemma that she is facing, as well as accentuating what she must be feeling inside.

The final act is so apocalyptic, so chaotic that it eventually reaches a point when you just have to ask, “What the hell am I watching here, Darren Aaronofsky?” Reading some reviews online prior to your trip to the cinema might help lessen the confusion. There are several that do not give away too many spoilers. Basically, some of them theorize that this narrative is Aaronofsky’s take on the bible creation story. Harris is Adam and Pfeiffer is Eve. The two sons are Cain and Abel. The house is the Garden of Eden. Bardem and Lawrence are two aspects of God: the masculine and the feminine. When the ending leaves you scratching your head looking for answers that just wouldn’t come, this hypothesis starts to make sense.

Even so, no matter how hard you try to put the puzzle together, the piece which is the backstory established in the first half an hour or so simply doesn’t fit. A surface-level analysis just won’t do, you will have to dig deeper for the entire thing to have a more convincing explanation. Why stop at Christianity when you can drag other systems of belief into the equation? Bardem can very well be the Brahma to Lawrence’s Shiva, while the seemingly endless burning and renovation of the house can serve as a symbolism for the perpetual cycle of the creation and destruction of the universe.

Overall, this movie will leave you befuddled, whether in a good way or in a bad way depends on your appreciation for such kind of narratives. If you have seen another Aaronofsky film beforehand, such as Black Swan, then you already have an idea what to expect. The conclusion remains the same. You cannot interpret this story literally. Using either psychology or metaphysics as a lens for better understanding is your best bet. Otherwise, you will just find yourself lost in the layer over layer of overlapping meaning that is quite difficult to decipher.

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