Another take

In last week's review of Mother! ("Mother! only masquerades as feminism," Sept. 13), MaryAnn Johanson begins: "I cannot recall the last time a film made me as angry as Darren Aronofsky's Mother! has." I can relate to that, because never before has a film review made me so mad!

Johanson's complaints are as follows. 1) The characters are one-dimensional. 2) The story is misogynistic. 3) The film makes no sense. 4) The director is bad at making movies and/or hates women? (This one is purely my conjecture, based on the otherwise unsupported, ad hominem claim that "Aronofsky's head wended further and further up his own cinematic ass..."

It's true that Mother! isn't easily pinned down. Read 50 reviews and you will find 50 interpretations. Instead of pat lessons, Aronofsky has given us the messy unfolding of an archetypal woman's psychological nightmare. To unlock its secrets demands repeated viewing. Is Mother's subservient relationship to her older, poet husband a critique of traditional gender roles? A cautionary comment on the sin of co-dependency? Does the blood seeping from the floorboards constitute a Lady MacBeth-esque breakdown or a literal event? Perhaps it's a biblical allegory, but careful with that: If anybody's giving away their rib in this picture, it's Eve. Not understanding a film does not mean the film has no meaning.

I think Johanson incorrectly assumes that Aronofsky believes he's making a feminist movie. I see Mother! as apolitical, if anything. The film shows humanity at its worst, and neither gender escapes that judgment.

It's true that Mother never leaves the house, and of course women should be allowed to do that. What I don't understand is why Johanson is so scandalized to find a horror film filled with horrible things. What is art for but to exorcise our demons, in lieu of tearing each other apart? Again, I must insist: Putting bad things on screen and condoning bad things is not the same thing. Conflate the two, and you risk missing out on a modern masterpiece.

Molly Laich

Mirroring life

At the heart of it, this movie is really about an abusive relationship. All your points are accurate and the movie is horribly misogynistic, but perhaps where we differ is in our interpretation of the meaning behind it.

Perhaps I perceived it wrong, but this movie in many ways acts as a mirror of our society and its casual mistreatment of women. The film is uncomfortable, and I think that's why I liked it. You feel tension. You feel anger. It's an intense roller-coaster acid trip of a film, and you're along for the ride with Jennifer Lawrence's character the whole way. I will not say it was a satisfying film, but I'm glad I saw it once, though I will probably not be watching it again any time soon.

Kyle Fordham

Move on, Daines

By the time I finish writing this letter, the rains may have arrived, bringing relief to western Montana from record-breaking dryness, fires and smoke. We all need a break, especially those individuals and families who may have suffered losses this fire season.

There's been talk about "the need for forest management reform," especially from Sen. Steve Daines. Part of the senator's pitch is blaming "extreme environmentalists" for the severity of this fire season. While blaming other Montanans may feel good, it's actually incorrect and unproductive.

If we as a society are going to address the risk of fire to our homes and communities, we need to focus on the facts. Montana's largest fire, the Lodgepole Complex Fire, burned more than 270,723 acres of mostly grassland in eastern Montana, and large wildfires raged in British Columbia with no pesky federal laws standing in the way of "management." Leadership requires real solutions, not scapegoating.

University of Montana forest scientist Andrew Larson said recently, "climate and weather drive fire." Sen. Daines has said nothing about how climate may have contributed to this year's fire season. However, most people know what they have seen: an extremely hot, dry and long summer that is at least in part due to climate change. It's that obvious.

A Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation forester told me just yesterday that forest fuels are drier than ever. Large fuels (downed trees) may have 10 percent moisture content. Smaller fuels (twigs and branches) may be at 4 percent. That's really dry.

Over the last 10 to 15 years, Montana's national forests have authorized numerous timber sales in the wildland urban interface. Millions of board feet of timber have flowed to Montana mills as a result of these sales that have simultaneously reduced fire risk to private property lying next to public forests.

In addition, the 2014 Farm Bill provided new authority for the Forest Service and Montana to work together to identify priority treatment areas of our national forests.

In addition, localized and specific forest thinning can help protect private homes or structures. The North Fork Landowners Association has promoted a very successful "Fire Wise" program that has helped North Fork Flathead landowners reduce the risk to their property. Their progress serves as a model for other communities and neighborhoods.

But no amount of timber cutting or lawsuits would have stopped this year's fires, driven by extreme dryness, wind and other local factors.

Let there be no doubt, we have a long-term fire problem on our hands, and it's driven by climate and weather. Summers will be hotter and longer on average. That's what climate scientists have been saying and predicting for years. Now we know that those predictions—based on sound science—have been accurate.

Most Montanans get it. The climate is changing. Bigger fires are here to stay. It's past time to plan for this reality—for our kids' sake. Blaming others is so yesterday. The people are ahead of the politicians, and it's time for Montana's junior senator to move on too, and deal with the reality of climate change.

Dave Hadden

Director, Headwaters Montana


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