Movie Review: “mother!” Explained

Genre: Horror

Year: 2017

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Xavier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Synopsis: The movie starts with Jennifer Lawrence (mother) and Xavier Bardem (her husband) living in a cozy and peaceful place, until uninvited guests (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris) arrive and disrupt the harmony. Scene by scene the movie gets harsher, which leads to an absurd conclusion.

Review

 

 

If you are not familiar with Darren Aronofsky’s other movies (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, etc.), then “mother!” is definitely going to be an emotional rollercoaster. This is not the standard thriller/horror movie you think it is, nothing can prepare you for this. The cinematographer knows his job and keeps you captivated for two long and disturbing hours. The whole movie is shot from first-person’s perspective, which transmits the characters’ horrendous and terrific feelings to you. It is hard to imagine that one can make such a mesmerizing masterpiece without even giving names to his characters. The perfect cinematography and flawless representation of the characters by brilliant actors brings life to this utterly horrifying masterwork. The Oscar’s season is here, and I can’t believe we did not see Aronofsky’s and Lawrence’s names there…

 

Explanation

Spoilers ahead!

I saw the movie in a cinema, and even after the hall was completely empty, I still couldn’t move my muscles. I was totally paralyzed. If you just finished the movie and have no idea how a simple two-hour film can put you in such misery, then make sure to give yourself some time to digest it in. “mother!” is not a movie one can instantly perceive. Every character, every scene needs to be thoroughly explored, there are so many hidden “Easter eggs” that can blow your mind when you find them.

The movie can be interpreted in different ways. Director himself states that the whole movie is filled with metaphors, and its main theme is climate change. However, if you look closely, you can spot many scenes from Bible, so in a way the movie can be considered Bible allegory as well.  Let’s analyze a few interpretations of the movie.

 

Mother Nature + Humanity + God

As I mentioned before, Aronofsky stated during his interviews that the main theme of the movie is the Mother Nature. He wanted to shoot a film from her perspective to show how cruel and inhuman we are towards the Earth. The movie was originally called “Day 6”, but the director renamed it “mother!”. There are many mysterious scenes that seem meaningless at first, whereas they carry the hidden messages Aronofsky was talking about. Let’s go scene by scene and explore the metaphors I found in the movie:

  1. Keep in mind how the movie starts. It may seem meaningless, but don’t worry, I will come back to this scene after a while and connect the dots.
  2. If you pay attention to the information about the cast and characters in official websites, you will see that Xavier Barden’s character, He, is the only one that is capitalized. Coincidence? I don’t think so…
  3. There are some scenes that illustrate the house as a living creature with a beating heart, which only the Mother feels. You’re right, the house is the Earth, which the Mother builds from ashes and gives life to it.
  4. Mother unconditionally loves Him and creates the house (which she calls “a paradise”) with the intention of sharing it with his husband. However, He is not satisfied with what He gets from her wife and wants to add more “creatures” in the “paradise”.
  5. Everything seems perfect and peaceful until Ed Harris’s character arrives. Pay attention to the toilet scene, there is a major hint that reveals Ed Harris’s metaphorical character. After a while his wife arrives and starts to act very persuasive and controlling, which leads them to “eating the forbidden fruit”. Typical thing Eve would do if she could return to the Eden, right? Despite to breaking His rules, He forgives the guests and lets them stay at his home. After a while their children arrive and start a fight, during which one of the children kills his brother. Familiar, right?
  6. Things seem to be stable for a little bit, until uninvited guests pour into the house and start making a mess. That’s when one of the water pipes breaks in the kitchen and Mother tosses out the strangers. I am sure most of the watchers guessed the allegory of this scene – Noah’s Ark. Everything calms down and the peace seems to be restored in the house.
  7. The movie plot shows that He is a creator and is working on a piece, but He can’t find a motivation to finish the work, until She gets pregnant and becomes “The Inspiration”. The writing is referred to be about people, the creation of everything, which brings to the conclusion that the writing is actually the Bible.
  8. Again, things finally seem to be at peace, until He gives his writing to people, and fame starts to gradually consume Him. Crowds come to His house and start fighting for lands and things that are not theirs. This scene resembles our reality, the cruel behavior of humanity, the way we treat Mother Nature. As Aronofsky stated during one of his interviews, “one doesn’t throw garbage when he/she is in someone else’s house, but it’s not the same when that same person is in public”.
  9. Things get worse. The fame turns into a cult, a violent and inhuman religion, where people fight and kill for Him without a particular reason. Wars, riots, false idol-ship, it’s the reality, nothing more. After being pushed to her limits, Mother realizes that He is a goner, that fame consumed Him and his loving husband does not exist anymore. Aronofsky wanted to show that God sees this inhuman acts towards nature, and does not stop it. What kind of God would let this much happen to Earth?
  10. Mother somehow manages to give birth to the child. The news make the violent crowd turn into kind creatures, and they even bring gifts for the child. However, they refuse to leave, and demand Him to show them the child. Going against Mother’s will, He hands the baby over the crowd. You know how the story goes in Bible, God gives Jesus to people, and they kill him. It’s different to see Jesus being crossed, and a child being killed (I still remember that cracking sound when child’s neck broke). It’s different when people eat bread and drink wine as Jesus’s flesh and blood, and  when people literally butcher and consume a newborn child. Definitely Aronofsky was not too kind while filming these scenes.
  11. Mother is a very kind and tolerant character, she keeps giving everything she has, but when the crowds take her child, she gets pushed to her limits and destroys everything she has ever built. Probably that’s exactly how our world is going to end, if we don’t change our attitude towards Mother Nature. The movie doesn’t end here, Aronofsky also illustrates how he imagines life after the end of the world. The scene shows that everything turns into ashes, and He finds another “mother” who gives life to the world, again. Remember how the movie started?

 

This is such an allegorical movie that one can find numerous different interpretations and metaphorical connections between the scenes and our reality. If there is anything I forgot to mention, or if you see a scene differently, please share your ideas in the comments.

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