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In-Depth Analysis of Darren Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’

Although it’s tanking at the box office, Darren Aronofsky‘s mother! is getting a lot buzz, becoming the most talked-about film of the weekend.  People seem to hate the film as it is a new member of the infamous F-graded films club on CinemaScore.  That score probably comes from so many having trouble comprehending its bizarre storyline that deals heavily in metaphor and allegory.  Hell, even Aronofsky himself has exclaimed that he isn’t too sure what it is about anymore.

I’ll probably be wrong, but let’s take an in-depth look at what the film really means.  For those who want to see the film, this is your spoiler warning.  However, considering the film’s miserable box office return, it appears that no one will seem to care.  So let’s get started!

Who are Our Characters?

Practically everything in mother! has some type of allegory or metaphor attached to it.

To start, it appears that Javier Bardem’s character is a representation of God.  He has a fascination with creation that trumps about everything else.  When people begin to invade the house (more on that in a second) they destroy everything, causing chaos.  However, Bardem as God continues to love them and want to forgive them as any benevolent God would.

As his counter part, Jennifer Lawrence is most likely a representation of Mother Nature (hence, mother!) or Earth itself.  The film takes an incredibly dark look at humanity, showing them barging into the world and basically ruined what she created.  Lawrence’s character seemingly built this perfect paradise for herself (in this case the house equals Earth).  Unfortunately, people barge in, claim that the place is theirs, and destroy it.

Got It, But What’s This Movie About?

In essence, mother! is an unwieldy look at the creation and ultimate destruction of the universe.

We see the house come back to life after Bardem puts a jewel on the mantle in the study.  From there, Lawrence literally springs to life in the bed, signaling the dawn of a new universe.  This action is basically a representation of The Big Bang.  From here, we get a mix between the biblical past of Earth and documented history that follows it.

The film has essentially two main parts.  The first section follows the creation of man with Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer’s characters representing Adam and Eve while their sons are clear allegories to Cain and Abel.  From there, even more people come barging into the house and begin to ruin it.  Two people ended breaking Lawrence’s sink which ends up breaking pipes and causing the house to flood, making everyone leave.  This action is like the great flood from the Bible, cleansing the house (Earth) for a brief moment.

Where Does the Film Go From There?

Bardem and Lawrence then love each other in the biblical sense, causing Lawrence to become pregnant.  God (Bardem) now has the ability to create and love once again, allowing him to write his “perfect” poem.  Word of his poem get around, causing more and more people to come to the house, mirroring the explosion in population in recent centuries.

This is where mother! becomes crazy.  As people fly into the house, Lawrence (who has had a connection to the house via a heart that has been fading to black) breaks down, unable to handle the destruction.  The house begins to change, showing the fall of man through the new age with wars breaking out and zealots murdering each other in the name of Bardem (God).

Unable to continue on, Lawrence burns herself alive, causing the house to be destroyed.  Bardem then rips out her heart and uses a new jewel to bring the house back to life with a new girl in the bed this time, essentially creating a new universe from another single entity.  The movie is cyclical, just like the universe.

Problems with This Representation

This interpretation makes some sense, but it leaves out a tone of other ideas in the movie, and this is where mother! probably lost a lot of viewers.

Bardem is also a representation of Aronofksy himself.  This is clear as he is a tortured artist that creates beautiful pieces of art that transcend just about everything.  From one perspective, mother! is basically Aronofksy stroking his own ego.  However, there are also shades of the devil in Bardem as well, as he destroys the universe and brings hate into the world.

Lawrence is also very clearly Mother Mary as she gives birth to a Jesus-like child in some of the most on the nose allegory you could ever imagine.  The final nail goes in the coffin when the zealots (ahem) eat the child to signify the body of christ that many forms of Christianity offer as part of their service.

The film is also presented through the lense of a bad relationship between Bardem and Lawrence.  There are certainly some metaphorical items to this piece (God not taking care of the world), but in its true form, the relationship also has discussion of the rightful place for a woman in this world, which is sure to ruffle some feathers.  The relationship isn’t really given enough time to blossom in the midst of the metaphorical destruction of the universe, making the entire effort feel hollow.

I also have no explanation for the elixir that Lawrence’s character drinks to help soothe her body (predominantly her heart), what the hell a heart was doing in the toilet, or the purpose of the bloodly hole in the floor boards that continues to grow.  Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to these moments (leave a comment down below!).

So What Message Does mother! Have?

This is where the main problem of the movie comes into play.  There’s a general retelling of the universe here, but it’s mixed with other out of place allegorical messages that directly conflict with others (how does the connection between Mother Nature and Mother Mary work?, for instance).  There’s so many pseudo-political statements and shade thrown at climate change denyers that mother! eventually caves in from its own ambition.

In this critic’s mind, there’s nothing that accents this choatic mess to make you leave with a lasting idea or message.  You’re left asking, why?  These questions will probably never be answered as Aronofsky has described the film as a vomit of ideas, and that’s probably the most accurate thing about this article.

I guess when it comes down to it, everything in the world sucks in Darren Aronofsky’s eyes.  Darren, I hope you got whatever hate you had in you out of your system.  Do you need a hug?

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Thanks for reading!  What’s your interpretation of mother!?  Comment down below!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

19 Responses

  1. Bptr says:

    He basically tried to do too much at once.

  2. Iesha Ashberry says:

    I think the bleeding floor may have represented how the earth is showing the signs of being injured, such as climate change, melting ice caps, ect. And instead of the people changing their ways to fix it, we just keep coving it up. Like putting a band-aid on a gun shot wound

  3. Jeff says:

    Great analysis. It was too hard to make sense of while watching, mainly bc like you said there were multiple different allegories that confused me (mother mary or Mother Natureet). I’ve actually enjoyed finding meaning in it after watching it more than watching it. I will say this about it, what I thought was cool was his depiction of a god that needed to create. He somewhat went into the mind of this omnipotent being to show how he would have the need for such chaos, pain, etc to fuel his purpose to create. He’s anthropomorphizing god, which is what Christianity does, and showing a vulnerability that’s is reflected in humans. Like the hole that needs to be filled to be given purpose just like he fills the hole in humans when he created them. It’s in his reflection and in that they have this vulnerability. Like one big cesspool of needy beings. Aside from that, it was just not fun to watch it was almost silly how the people kept coming and coming at certain times, the war zone was so over the top, it wasn’t an awful movie and I appreciate the thought out into it but it was just not that interesting to watch.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I was interested in the depiction of Bardem as God until it was obvious that it was obviously a stand-in for Aronofsky himself. After that, the movie just came pretentious to me.

  4. Tricia says:

    Yeah…this is a lot of vomit. Without getting too lengthy into psycho-analysis, it troubles me when artists as well as those who are dedicated to a specific discipline, share with the rest of us and forget that we are not all of like mind or practice. Due to my open and compassionate character, I want to be able to support them through having some comprehension of what is being conveyed. But when it is presented in such a fashion which doesn’t help in the making of a guesstimate at best(personally speaking), the probability of an exploratory visit of other works is low.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I think this film is something that should be taught in film school but not shown to the public lol. There’s really nothing here for mainstream tastes.

      • Tricia says:

        Yes, I agree.

      • I agree, it is way above the heads of main stream movie goers. I have a Love Hate relationship with this movie as I feel it had huge conceptual promise, but failed miserably on the delivery due to overkill of the mass destruction on the house. In film school it will flourish among students eager to create a meaningful metaphorical piece for the world to adore.

      • Nick Kush says:

        See I don’t think it delivered much at all. To me, it was just a retelling of the Bible and the universe without much to say. Something can stand for something else, but I didn’t feel like it had a point

      • well it was certainly a different approach and now over a month later, I feel the female character is one which brings hope in this day and age a extremes (much as this movie manifested extremes of violence and mayhem…..)…

      • Nick Kush says:

        Quality representation is always a great thing!

  5. Aimer Boyz says:

    Great review, thanks. Think I’ll sit this one out 🙂

  6. Bryan Caron says:

    Great interpretation, Nick! As I say in my own review, I wasn’t sure what to make of the film… on one level I enjoyed it for the insanity and the interpretiveness of it all, on the other, it was a mess that didn’t make a lick of sense. This voices that conflict pretty well!

    • Nick Kush says:

      I was there with you too. When you take a step back and look at it, you need to give the film some credit for trying something different considering we get so much generic crap at the movies these days. However, when you have something as mean spirited and discombobulated as mother!, you can’t really recommend the film on any other level besides its inventiveness.

  7. notdonner says:

    Thanks Nick. I was not planning to see this odd movie. At the movie yesterday “IT”. one of the trailers was Mother. I did not really understand it and was disappointed that movies with generally good actors turn out to be turkeys…

    • Nick Kush says:

      No problem! It’s a bizarre movie that a select few of people will love but a lot of people will end up hating.

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