It's said to be one of the strangest – and most theological – films of the year, and its director has underlined both of these elements with an unusual audience gift at early screenings. Darren Aronofsky's Mother!, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, is a quirky, R-rated horror movie about which very little is known, and when critics arrived for its first ever screening at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, they were handed a suitably unsettling surprise. Like attenders at other preview screenings, they were given a piece of card with a new version of the Lord's Prayer apparently printed on it.
On closer inspection however, this is not simply a new translation or rewording of the sacred passage from Matthew 6. Credited as 'adapted by Rebecca Solnit', the prayer is aimed at 'our mother who is underfoot', rather than a heavenly father, and seems to use the famous format to address 'mother earth' instead of God (Solnit is a noted American writer and justice campaigner whose books include Men Explain Things To Me).
It includes a call to 'lead us not into selfish craving and the destructions that are the hungers of the glutted' which, while oddly archaic and aimed in an unfamiliar direction, is fairly consistent with Jesus' actual prayer to 'lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil'.
Aronofsky, who directed the controversial retelling of Noah which starred Russell Crowe, personally handed out the cards to critics at the first screening and has shared the 'prayer' several times on social media. It's not entirely clear why the prayers were produced, but given that so little is known about the movie – and preview audiences are being sworn to secrecy – perhaps that's understandable. One movie-goer suggested after seeing a pre-screening that a prayer was necessary because the film is so unsettling.
Meanwhile, an intriguing preview of the film on culture website Slate suggested that the prayer is by no means the film's only connection with the Christian faith. Sam Adams wrote that 'rewriting the Lord's Prayer is far from the movie's most audacious gloss on Christian theology', and 'suffice it to say that you'd be well-advised to brush up on the books of both Genesis and Revelation before you see it'.
Martin Saunders is a Contributing Editor for Christian Today and the Deputy CEO ofYouthscape. Follow him on Twitter @martinsaunders.