Hearing an audience gasp, scream or recoil? That's exactly what boundary-pushing filmmaker Darren Aronofsky is going for.
"There'll always be some people who'll think I cross [the line] and there will be other people who don't think it's enough. All my films always have that," he said Sunday, ahead of the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of his latest mind-bending film, mother!
He recalled, for instance, sitting in a TIFF audience watching his Oscar-nominated ballet thriller Black Swan back in 2010. As a shocking scene unspooled — one he had debated with the studio about — "I remember the gasps from the crowd and the screams and the cries and all the weird reactions. For me that was the great reward."
'I remember the gasps from the crowd and the screams and the cries and all the weird reactions. For me that was the great reward.' - Darren Aronofsky, on a 2010 screening of his film Black Swan
With mother!, starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, "there's definitely, more than in any film I've done, we've gotten really close to that line and really are pushing it," he said.
"The objective of this film was to make a unique movie. People, including myself, we keep complaining about how we keep seeing the same movie over and over again. We might have gone too far, but we definitely made a different ride in the amusement park."
The psychological thriller, which has divided critics thus far, stars Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a married couple living in a bucolic home she's lovingly restoring after a mysterious tragedy. Their quiet life is turned upside-down and their relationship tested by the arrival of bizarre, uninvited guests. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer also star.
The role is a complete departure for Lawrence, best known for films like Silver Linings Playbook, Winter's Bone, The Hunger Games series and the X-Men franchise.
"This movie kind of pulled me apart and put me back together," she said of the unnerving, unrelenting mother!
"It was just a completely different character from anything I've ever done and anything I've ever felt was inside me."
Still, Lawrence said she had no qualms agreeing to the part instantly, having been a fan of Aronofsky's work for years. The couple are also now romantically involved.
"Once he told me of the ideas that were floating around in his head, I said yes. I got a script. When I read it, I threw it across the room and told him he has severe psychological problems, but that it's a masterpiece."
Mother! opens in wide release on Sept. 15. The Toronto International Film Festival continues through Sept. 17.