Mother! Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
A nightmare straight from the subconscious
You never loved me. You just loved how much I loved you.Mother! is an enigmatic watch. It is also an uncomfortable and, at times, difficult watch. Director Darren Aronofsky is no stranger to twisting the knife, Requiem for a Dream (2000) is an astonishing film that can only be viewed once. Whist not quite as powerful, Mother! is nevertheless just as tragic and just as inevitable. It does, however, stand up to multiple viewings as you want to figure out and understand the driving force. But Aronofsky does not make it easy. There is a real sense of disorientation as the film develops, just as Mother is left frustrated and out of sorts, so too as the viewer. Even the shocking climax does little to relieve the tension.Much has to do with the filming style, centring on close ups that provoke claustrophobia and unease. Just as Mother is helpless in her story, so the audience helpless in their fate, the driving narrative, whist meandering in story structure is heading in one direction and we are pulled, kicking and screaming, towards inevitability. It is a nightmare straight from the subconscious and would sit happily in David Lynch’s oeuvre. The fact that you question the reality, trying to bring sense to the madness, means the film touches you in ways few films ever do. It helps to ignore the director's intent and religious overtones. It is an uncomfortable and difficult watch. Mother! is an enigmatic watch.
Picture QualityMother! was shot using Arricam LT, Arriflex 416 Plus and Red Epic Dragon cameras on both 16 mm (the director’s preferred format) and 35mm film and, 6K resolutions, but ultimately finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate. The disc presents an upscaled to 3840 x 2160p resolution and in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for both HRD10 and Dolby Vision.
Muted, dark, grainy and soft
If you are expecting a clean, bright image, you’ve come to the wrong place; this Ultra HD Blu-ray remains faithful to the director’s intentions by being muted, dark, grainy and soft. Optimum word there is grainy, which gives the film that organic, documentary feel, but some might find it distracting as it does permeate throughout the run time (unsurprisingly since the majority of the film was shot on 16mm). Detail is reasonably tight, skin, for example, has some texture, Lawrence’s face shows some features, eyes and hair lines are reasonably distinct, while background edges are ok; wood grain, plaster features, kitchen utensils etc. When the action looks outside the house, the fields, grasses and trees are well defined – but there is that grain that covers everything.
Colours are incredibly muted, drained even, meaning there are very earthy hues throughout; even flesh tones tend toward the brown/orange and, at times, have an ‘artificial’ feel to them. Sunlight through the windows or on the grasses outside add a splash of brightness, likewise flames (especially in the climax) are fierce, otherwise it’s very sombre. Brightness and contrast are set to give deep shadows and gloom; there is plenty going on in the darkness and HDR really ‘shines’ in this department allowing for far more depth. Digitally there are no issues and the source is clean, so what is presented is what is meant to be; dark and grainy to the fore!
Sound QualityThe Dolby Atmos surround track is an exercise in sonic excellence; the sound design being used to produce a sense of unease and discomfort – it succeeds. Since there is no score, it is left to the effects to create the atmosphere; it does this by placing sounds all around the room from the perspective of Mother, so as she walks into a room, you hear voices, house movements and other effects behind, above or in front of the picture. Bass is phenomenal; thick, deep and door rattlingly pounding. The dynamic range is quite excellent as well. Dialogue is natural sounding and given loads of directionality depending on the on screen action. The climax is aural magnificence, you really feel like you are drowning in the mayhem – quite astonishing. Adding to the grim picture, the sound design really pulls you through the ringer.
ExtrasAll the extras are located on the included Blu-ray.
Mother! the downward spiral – A thirty minute behind the scene feature that looks at facets of the film making process, right from rehearsal, in quite some detail with plenty of interviews form cast and crew on the indefinable nature of the subject matter.
The Makeup FX of Mother! – This short 6 minute feature has special effects maestro Adrien Morot explaining his trade and contributions.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictDarren Aronofsky’s Mother! is a difficult watch. Playing out like some David Lynch nightmare, Aronofsky assaults the senses with his nuanced camera work and effective soundscape. The story of a young mother living with a poet slowly spirals out of control and such is the effectiveness of the narrative that you are pulled along, kicking and screaming, into madness. Best viewed by ignoring the director’s intent and forgetting about the religious allegory.
A difficult watch
As a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray package, the set from Paramount is a faithful representation of the director’s intention; so the picture is dark, grainy and grim, but effectively nuanced with the higher dynamic range giving rise to plenty of depth in the shadows and fierce flames; while the Dolby Atmos track is a triumph of sound design to produce an eerie and foreboding experience that is sombre and weighty. The extras, whilst few, are of good quality and make this an interesting package overall.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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