(First of two parts)
LOS ANGELES— “I have never met a DP (director of photography) like Matthew Libatique,” Jennifer Lawrence declared about Fil-Am Matthew Libatique, the Oscar-nominated cinematographer of “mother!” her visually entrancing film directed by her boyfriend, Darren Aronofsky.
“I was asked by another director who was looking for somebody (a DP) to hire,” added Jennifer, lovely in a floor-length black Valentino strap dress at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. “I was like, ‘There is no other Matthew Libatique.’ He is so unique and creative.
“He and Darren speak their own language. They have been working together for so long. They both are on a different playing field. It was incredible watching Matthew and seeing his work—even afterward—color timing and all of the touch that he puts in. He’s incredible.”
“mother!” stars Jennifer in the title role with, yes, a lower case “m,” Javier Bardem (as Him), Michelle Pfeiffer (Woman), Ed Harris (Man), Brian Gleeson (Younger Brother) and Domhnall Gleeson (Oldest Son).
Ever since it premiered in the Venice film fest, “mother!” has sparked a lot of discussion and intense reaction.
Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out wrote, “This in-your-face psycho-horror starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem is so much more than a haunted house movie—it’s bold, barmy and brilliant … ‘mother!’ is, without doubt, the most radical studio film since ‘The Last Temptation of Christ,’ and your disbelief at its daring will be part of the fun.
“Matthew Libatique’s camera, hovering close to Lawrence’s brow like an angel of sympathy, helps us into her emotions, but just as powerfully Aronofsky weaves in a savage indictment of ‘artistic’ male ego and entitlement that makes his climax feel self-critical. In an intensely personal way, ‘mother!’ is an apology to anyone who’s ever felt eaten alive by love at its most selfish. Naturally, it’s required viewing for married couples.”
Jennifer said that having Matthew’s camera close to her face most of the time (estimated 66 minutes of the film) did not faze her. “We had a big rehearsal process for three months where we worked with the camera guys. So, I got used to that intrusive black thing.”
The actress, who used to be averse to rehearsals, got used to the process under Darren’s guidance. She explained, “It gave me time to find the character because this character is completely different from anything I’ve ever done before and it’s totally outside my comfort zone. When I first got the script, I tried to say some of the words out loud and nothing even sounded right in my own voice. So, I wrestled with feeling like I had been miscast and that somebody more vulnerable and with a softer voice, less burly than me, should do it.
“The rehearsal process was important for talking and developing all the characters. Michelle, Ed and Javier and all talked about our relationship, the house and the choreography with the cameras. I didn’t really find her until we were in Montreal. I tried on the clothes and, for some reason, the clothes got me there. She just arrived.”
Asked about her quip in a Venice press conference about going for directors of dark films, Jennifer laughed as she clarified, “I was making a joke because Michelle had said, ‘I am just attracted to dark directors.’ And I could not help myself [from saying ‘Me, too’] … I didn’t mean it.”
“He’s brilliant, creative and artistic,” Jennifer said of Darren, whom she began dating after they wrapped “mother!” The director is noted for such acclaimed films as “Black Swan,” “The Wrestler” and “Requiem for a Dream.”
“He has a way of making you completely trust him on set because he’s a genius. His ideas are brilliant. He is very good at explaining why, what and how. So, you feel safer going to different places. I pushed myself to different places further than I ever have before, and that is why I popped a rib out. Next time, I will try to put on the brakes. But yeah, you want to follow how far he wants you to go.”
On “mother!” eliciting boos (and cheers, it should be pointed out) in Venice, the famously frank actress commented as she laughed, “All of Darren’s films have been booed at festivals. They’re polarizing. We didn’t make this film to be a darling. It’s very loud, aggressive—and it’s an assault. What’s most important to us is getting the message out. He had this story burning inside him, and he had to get it out.
“It’s a hard film to watch, and it makes you feel and think. I love it and I’m proud of it. I think it’s most extraordinary.
“For him to take all these massive themes and condense them in a house with a narrative with a couple, I think it is just brilliant. But, it’s not for everyone. So, no, I don’t take it personally at all. I actually find it exciting.”
On the film generating different interpretations, Jennifer agreed: “What’s amazing about the movie is, it can be interpreted in many different ways, which is a good and a bad thing.”
But, she lays out the film’s themes straight to be clear: “It’s important to understand the allegory that we intended because, otherwise, you don’t really know what you’re looking at. So, for audiences to know: I represent Mother Earth; Javier represents a form of God, a creator, a writer, an artist; Michelle is Eve; Ed is Adam; Cain and Abel (Domhnall and Brian); and the office would be the Garden of Eden.
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