The protagonist of Darren Aronofsky’s film, unnamed, said about the public reaction to his new book:
They are delighted. They got it all figured out
but each understood in a completely different way.
So are the audience of the film. Everyone understood the picture in their own way. Or didn’t understand. Generally.
Those who had gathered to watch the horror announced by distributors did not wait for a zombie or at least some overwhelming vampire to jump out of the basement. Those counting on a classic thriller (this term also figured in the description of the novelty) in vain suspected that the strangers who appeared on the doorstep would take the owners of the house hostage. A personal drama, a verbose parable, a large-scale allegory unfolded in front of the audience at the same time. Deciphering all the metaphors included in the film would result in the length of War and Peace. If we squeeze the tape into genre frames, then there will be several of them. Let’s take a look at some of them.
This film is about love
Remember what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians?
Love is longsuffering
love does not envy
love is not exalted
does not commit atrocities,
not looking for his own,
thinks no evil
does not rejoice in untruth,
but rejoices in the truth;
This is how the heroine of the film behaves. The embodiment of apostolic love. “Without a name, which means – without fate” (the formula is borrowed from the hit about “Arlecchino”). Like the nameless clown from the song, the young woman has no destiny. There is only love. To the Poet. Or to the Demiurge. Or to God. Underline whatever applicable. However, it does not matter to whom. She loves her husband. And she only does what serves her master. Rebuilds a house after a fire. Cooking. Washes. Sweeps. And bows down. Before his poetic gift.
What does he do? But nothing. Takes her adoration for granted. Moreover: he prefers the worship of the crowd, dismissing his wife’s quiet delights.
This film is about the perverse narcissist
The world is not particularly crowded with perverse narcissists. The percentage of the total number of humanity is only from 1 to 8. But the young lady from the film got this very daffodil.
He loves only himself, all the rest are pawns, which he places on the chessboard of his self-esteem. Say, let the Poet neglect the needs of the uncomplaining wife, but people who are breaking into the house in ever greater numbers make him happy, he even gives them the most precious thing – a newborn son. In fact, he really likes his own cult, built by the hands of his flock. And the constant restoration of a burnt house with another muse in love is also characteristic of a perverse narcissist: having destroyed an actual victim, he starts a cycle of sacrifices to himself again with a new pretender.
This film is about a man and a woman
The woman in the film is the ideal, the genius of the hearth, as if descended from the pages of the poem Angel in the House (1854) by the Englishman Coventry Patmore. The poet of the nineteenth century paid tribute to his domestic (one would like to say: tame) angel:
His wealth is the grace of a virgin.
Struck by the greatness of the genuine,
And despising the tunes of sweet dreams,
He lives with her smile.
The poet from the film Aronofsky indifferently takes on the angelic character of his gentle and hardworking wife. More important to him are the newcomers flooding the house, new impressions, the delight of the public. When, after the release of the long-awaited book, the wife first changes her work clothes for an elegant evening dress, puts on makeup and sets a rich table, the husband ignores her attempts to arrange a party for two, letting an unbridled crowd into the house.
This film is about the incompatibility of a creative person and a housewife.
Maybe that’s the whole point? Well, he doesn’t need dinners / clean shirts / mopped floors … No, no, he does, but without the pretense of the woman providing all this for reciprocal attention and affection. For him, she is just a “smart house”, functioning properly, but not meeting his requests for mass admiration. He has little admiration in the face of a single woman.
Consider two characters from the Bible, the sisters Martha and Mary. While Martha was busy with the housework, preparing a treat for Jesus who had come to the light, Mary was idle, listening to the guest’s speeches. Our Poet married an active and selfless Martha, and he should have rejoiced at such a combination of circumstances. If the spiritualized Mary were his wife, there would be a struggle between two conceit in one house.
This movie is a retelling of the Bible
This interpretation of the plot received the largest number of supporters. Once upon a time there was a God who in the credits is the only one named with a capital letter – Him. God got bored. Plot opening: there were four knocks on the door: knock-knock-knock-knock. Just like Beethoven’s “theme of fate”.
Adam entered the door, and at night God made Eve out of his rib. And further in the text: the couple brazenly broke into heaven (God’s office) and cracked a crystal, about which the viewer still does not know anything. After the expulsion of their parents from paradise, the grown-up sons of Adam and Eve played their roles – Abel was killed by Cain. Then there was a global flood, embodied by a loose kitchen sink, which was unceremoniously rocked by the impudent guests who filled the house.
The book, finally written, is the New Testament, and the child torn to pieces by the crowd is the Son of God, whose flesh and blood are symbolically still eaten by believers during the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Usually in the Bible we see two forces: the almighty God and mankind infinitely forgiven by him. However, people do not hover in space, they trample on the Earth, their only planet. Aronofsky, having written the script for the film in just five days (two whole days ahead of the Creator himself with his creation of the world!), Introduces a third force into the narrative – the Earth, tormented by the unreasonable descendants of Adam.
And here we come to the next interpretation of the plot.
This film is about ecology
The earth, our mother, cannot withstand the atrocities of people, encouraged by the connivance of God. Mother tried to be restrained for a long time, in the initial shots she politely begged uninvited guests to leave the house, not to burst into the office, not to climb the sink, while timidly muttering: “Could you come down from the sink?” But the last straw overflows the cup of patience. The husband waits until the tired mother falls asleep and kidnaps the newborn, handing it over to his admirers. With the last act of ritual cannibalism, the heroine’s tolerance dries up. The reaction of the Earth is a shard of glass in hand and painting with it the arrogant faces of aliens: an analogy of earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and other attempts of a long-suffering planet to free itself from the burden of human crowds tormenting it.
The director himself insists on just such an interpretation of the plot. Hence the cyclical nature of the story. At the beginning of the film, close-up – a burnt woman’s face in a flame and man’s hands, cleaning the crystal of ash and placing it on a pedestal.
A little later – another woman waking up in bed performed by Jennifer Lawrence. At the end of the film, the desperate mistress of the house throws a lighter into the spilled oil and blows up the house. And everything repeats itself again. The hero of Javier Bardem takes the heart out of the chest of his dying wife, removes the crystal from it and puts it on a pedestal. The new woman wakes up in the matrimonial bed.
New planet? Or the Earth, free of people 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 puzzle that haunts everyone who has watched the tape. What is yellowish the heroine pours into her glass in critical situations? She adds the same powder from a bottle with an artful yellow inscription to the plaster, painting the walls.
When Aronofsky was asked about the yellow powder, he answered the following:
I think Jen has a better answer than me. I can only say that this is a return to Victorian novels and the idea of a deeper connection between mother and home.
What kind of Victorian novels are they talking about? It turns out that in 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman published a short novel The Yellow Wallpaper ( Yellow Wallpaper ) about a woman trapped in a yellow room. Like the heroine of the film, she does not leave her dwelling, looking into the walls of her room to stupefaction. The idea of the story is to restrict a woman’s life to the house, and yellow is a symbol of madness.
Puzzles can be multiplied indefinitely: the film is layered like a cake. There is no single interpretation in it. 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?
– At the very beginning.