Movie Mixtape: 6 Messed-Up Movies To Watch After Darren Aronofsky's 'Mother!'

I'll be honest, I have no idea what mother! is about. I watched a trailer, I've read reviews, and it all looks like Darren Aronofsky will dose every audience member with ayahuasca before conducting Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Esperanto.

This response seems to be standard:

So, let's figure out some movies to watch this wild animal.

Funny Games (1997 and/or 2007)

Experimental home invasion thriller? Michael Haneke has us covered on at least two fronts. First with the audience-aggravating 1997 version wherein the preppy Peter and Paul (Frank Giering and Arno Frisch) terrorize a wealthy family at their vacation home on an Austrian lake; then with the experiment on the experiment of an English-language remake shot in the same house with the same props. In both, Haneke succeeded in making an aggressively violent, yet meaningless, film to point out our own tolerance of brutal spectacle for spectacle's sake. The cards aren't only stacked against the home owners here. They're stacked against us.

 Persona (1966)

A triumph about identity and estrangement from Ingmar Bergman, this film focuses on actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) recovering at a beach house after going mute during a performance. In charge of her care, the nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) finds that she has someone to listen to her for the first time in her life. She reveals some dark personal secrets, and their relationship becomes a tangled, metaphorical mess. It also opens with a smash-cut montage featuring animal butchering, self-immolation and erect penises, so Bergman was not. Playing. Around. Imagine having your name in the credits over that thing.

Most amazingly, Bergman, Ullmann, and Andersson allow us to sink totally into their world while regularly pulling out to remind us that it's a movie by revealing the construction of its component parts. If you can figure out "what it's about," feel free to claim your prize at the first window, but it at least shares elements of feminine identity, sexuality, and motherhood with mother!.

Requiem For a Dream (2000)

Perennially at the top of every "Great Movies You Never Want to Watch Again" list, Requiem proves that Aronofsky has been obsessed with obsession since the beginning. Those obsessions are drug addiction, the dependency on broken friendships, and the desperate longing for the past that exhibits itself as a mania for losing enough weight to fit into an old red dress. The cost of all of these obsessions is high – be it sexual humiliation for Marion (Jennifer Connelly), incarceration for Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), or electroshock therapy for Sara (Ellen Burstyn). It's a combative film, showing us how these lives dedicated to the pursuit of the extreme cannot settle into normalcy.

 Rosemary's Baby (1968)

It's difficult not to see Lawrence's fraught expression from mother! as a reflection of Mia Farrow's justifiably paranoid Rosemary Woodhouse. Here is another woman on the cusp of motherhood beset by strangers taking over her life and agency. She's surrounded by a Greek Chorus of ill intent. Blend some old timey religion into the mix, and you have a claustrophobic scenario that leaves you scratching at the walls of your cell to break free. Not today, Satan.

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

In search of sweaty brained freakouts, it would be easy to hang around the 1960s with Seconds and Last Year at Marienbad and Persona, but the 1990s weren't slouching either. Adrian Lyne directed this script from Bruce Joel Rubin (whose other release that year was Ghost, so he was crushing the genre-blend thinker in 1990) about a Vietnam vet (Tim Robbins) dealing with familial traumas, war wounds, and dancing lizard monsters. There's a gorgeous amount of hallucinatory imagery that guides us on this pathway through hell.

The Skin I Live In (2011)

Look. You wouldn't read this list if you didn't want therapy. Pedro Almodóvar's stunning treasure of soap opera, science fiction lunacy will do everything but book the appointment and pay the bills for you. It stars Antonio Banderas as the renowned plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard, who is forbidden from conducting research after admitting to using human subjects. He's also keeping a young woman named Vera (Elena Anaya, aka Doctor Poison from Wonder Woman) against her will at his estate. It's a lush and terrifying film about (what else) obsession and revenge with the best end reveal this side of Oldboy.

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The Mix

It's a week to treat your brain to a horrifying vacation. Time to rethink identities and shift your soul one foot to the left. Admit your suspicions and confess your obsessions. Watch some bonkers, divisive stuff and remain comfortable scratching your head. Clear answers are for another week. Another person. A different you.

And if you crash through all of these and still feel hungry, throw on El Topo, you maniac. It should get you squared away.