Filed in: Blog the Line, Columns, Community, Featured, Film Trailers
|

Mother! – A Triumph of Production Design and Editing

January 11, 2018 | By
Director Darren Aronofsky on the set of mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

Director Darren Aronofsky on the set of Mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“When I read the script, I had never read anything close to that in my life,” revealed Phillip Messina, production designer on Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, a project of great debate amongst cineastes as to its allegorical leanings. Concerning a young wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and her xenophobic nightmare, the narrative posits her in an old house she is remodeling when unwanted visitors invade her space.

“’Can you believe they are letting us do this?’” Messina wondered aloud. “This doesn’t come around at all. I’ve designed 15 movies and been in the business 25 years. It was something not to be passed up on any level. Even if the art department mandate hadn’t been as strong as it was, I still wanted to be a part of it.”

Left to right: Jennifer Lawrence and Director Darren Aronofsky on the set of mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

Left to right: Jennifer Lawrence and Director Darren Aronofsky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildly open to interpretation, Mother! has been described by critics in biblical terms, but not by its creator. “Darren never really described it for us,” Messina said of the $30 million feature. “It was never spelled out. He was looking for people to bring their own thoughts about it.”

In the screenplay, Aronofsky describes Lawrence and her husband, played by Javier Bardem, as a couple renovating a Victorian house. “We talked about using a location,” Messina explained. “The idea of an octagonal house came from a scout that Darren and I did in upstate New York. We knew from the beginning that it wasn’t the right house. We decided in the middle of the process to build a house, which I designed based on a lot of different references and the octagonal house that we had seen: every room had different angles in it. As it unfolds, the house is a character—it starts out partially renovated to fully renovated to a refugee camp to a war zone to a shrine.”

Left to right: Director Darren Aronofsky and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique on the set of mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

Left to right: Director Darren Aronofsky and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique.

Messina built the first floor of the house in a field in Montreal. The second version was constructed on stage, including the first floor and study and second floor bedroom. “We didn’t build it as theatrical flats,” Messina described. “We put in real electricity and plumbing, glass and plaster. We essentially built a real house.”

Set decorator Larry Dias noted that he went from location to stage almost immediately. “We finished on a Saturday morning on the location of the field in Montreal,” he explained, “and had to have it standing on a stage on Monday morning. A lot of the pieces weren’t doubled; we dismantled the whole set out on location and trucked it in into the Montreal studio and reassembled it.”

Behind the scenes on the set of mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

Behind the scenes on the set of Mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dias delineated how the entire movie was oriented from Lawrence’s point-of-view. “People who were on-set dressers were moving things with the camera on several long tracking shots,” he described one sequence the crew labelled ‘The Fever Dream.’ “We transformed the whole place into this otherworldly environment. You only see a fraction of what we really did. You build a set and give the illusion of reality.”

According to editor Andrew Weisblum, cutting the film together became as unorthodox a procedure as it was to shoot. “Because there were so many rules about how we were filming, it pushed me to manipulate the footage in ways that I normally wouldn’t,” Weisblum said, noting that he often had to invent methods of combining disparate shots. “I did have to think more about what information was being presented visually, and what we didn’t have: a master, a two-shot. As you’re putting it together, you don’t have a way to take things for granted as you do when editing normal coverage. I never felt daunted because I knew we would get there.”

Left to right: Director of Photography Matthew Libatique and Director Darren Aronofsky on the set of mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

Left to right: Director of Photography Matthew Libatique and Director Darren Aronofsky.

Due to Aronofsky’s unconventional method of achieving principal photography, Weisblum relied heavily on point-of-view shots from Lawrence’s perspective throughout her often-tortuous journey. “It was an unobstructed vantage on anything going on or anything to react to,” he divulged. “When Darren and I watched it, there was a different experience; not having geography and wide shots, we needed to pull back over-the-shoulder shots which were our masters. It was a very first-person virtual experience.”

BTL Production Listings
null

Video of the Day

The PA 101 for Military Veterans workshop is a 3 day free workshop created by Navy Vet Mark August.