UPDATED, writethru with press conference details: Darren Aronofsky hit the Venice Film Festival today to unveil his latest, mother! Previously shrouded in secrecy, the psychological horror pic plays out like a dark, twisted fever dream and is alternately being compared to The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby. Response was divided at this morning’s first press screening, while the first reviews are widely positive.

During the afternoon press conference, Aronofsky responded to a question about the morning’s mixed reactions saying, “If you asked if all those people were engaged by the film, I’m pretty sure what the answer would be. There is always going to be a level of taste… It’s a very, very strong cocktail. Of course there are people who are not going to want that type of experience. I’ve said it before: This is a roller coaster ride, only come on it if you’re prepared to do the loop-the-loop a few times.”

Academy attention will almost certainly focus on Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the title character, and through whose perspective — and on whose face — Aronofsky lingers throughout.

She said her character showed a “different side of myself I didn’t really know yet… It was the most I’ve ever had to pull out of myself.”

The film opens with Lawrence awaking in a mid-renovation octagonally-shaped country mansion, which she shares with her writer-husband, HIM (Javier Bardem), who is suffering from writers’ block. When a sick fan (Ed Harris) visits with his wife (Michelle Pfieffer), the couple’s stilted isolation comes crashing down with HIM welcoming the new arrivals and Mother desperate to restore her sanctuary.

To say any more would be to spoil the journey Aronofsky takes the audience on from there, which both delighted and baffled the Sala Darsena this morning.

The movie is clearly a thinker, because what follows is at turns a metaphor for a crumbling world, and a deep and personal reflection on the creative process, full of apocalypse imagery and echoes of Goya and Bosch. Tweets reflected a sense that mother! might have to sit with viewers to be fully understood.

Aronofsky said mother! just “poured out” of him. “It was a strange experience. Most of my films take many years to come to life. Black Swan was 10 years, Noah was 20. This film happened in five days. It came from living on this planet and seeing what’s happening around us and not being able to do anything. I wanted to channel that rage and anger into one emotion.”

The filmmaker called America “schizophrenic” in its climate-change waffle. “We go from backing the Paris climate accord to backing out. In many ways we’re revealed who the enemy is and now we can attack it.”

Some of Aronofsky’s inspirations came from Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel, Susan Griffin’s Woman In Nature and also Shel Silverstein’s wonderful children’s book The Giving Tree.

Bardem noted, “There are many readings in this movie and you pick up the one that means the most to you.”

Paramount is releasing on September 15 domestically.