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posted 8 Jan 2018, 04:25 by Scene Alba Magazine

Insatiable love and renewal are the themes of this claustrophobic, dark psychological thriller with supernatural undertones that plays out like a bizarre dream in a David Lynch movie. Darren Aronofsky's films always push the boundaries and here, our guide is Jennifer Lawrence's vulnerable protagonist, who unwittingly sinks deeper and deeper into an emotional quagmire. Lawrence is superb - her expressive face effectively captured in tight close ups throughout. We know what she is thinking and feeling and Javier Bardem's pairing as her poet husband with terminal writer's block works exceptionally well. Bardem, whose face can reveal or conceal a multitude of facets, is enigmatic and the push-pull between them is the best part of this tense, surprising and ultimately shocking film.

Best to know as little as possible about the plot or where the story is headed; just prepare to enter a mysterious world filled with the unexpected. The film begins with a series of images: a close up of a face, an exquisite crystal positioned carefully on a stand ('a precious gift'), a sprawling home once destroyed by fire now rebuilt and renewed. None of the characters have names. We first meet Lawrence bringing life and love back into the house and her marriage. She is loving and giving; he is preoccupied and detached.

We contemplate the complex relationship between Lawrence and Bardem's characters. She is warm and loving; he is detached. The arrival of two strangers (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer) changes everything; Harris and Pfeiffer are wonderful. We squirm with discomfort as Pfeiffer interrogates Lawrence on personal issues involving passion and procreation. The passion is ignited, although not in the way we might have imagined. Life doesn't work out the way you want, we hear.

Aronofsky grapples with issues he has dealt with before: love and death (The Fountain, 2006), obsession and perfection (The Wrestler, 2008; Black Swan, 2010). Aronofsky builds the tension slowly and effectively through its soundscape and imagery plus the ever-changing setting and perceptions of the protagonist, as more strangers enter the home and events spiral out of control. The result is dizzying and shocking. Audiences will be divided. Is the film an allegory? A masterpiece? A load of bunkum? Somewhere in between? Be the judge. In any event, the film is unforgettable.

Patti Page's poetic, melancholy The End of the World during the end credits is a poignant and jolting juxtaposition to a disturbing, thought provoking and ultimately devastating cinematic experience.