The internet has been buzzing with reviews, reactions, and opinions of Darren Aronofsky’s newest film, Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer. As a fan of Aronofsky’s films, I was ecstatic when I saw that he was coming out with another, let alone the fact that J-Law is the leading lady (I absolutely adore her). I wasn’t able to see it the day it came out, and when I saw the various reactions that people were having to the film (though not exploring any articles because I didn’t want to see spoilers), I knew I had to see it for myself before drawing any conclusions about it. The film actually received enthusiastic “boos” at its Venice premiere, but Aronofsky had stated in an interview that people will either love it or hate it, which piqued my interest immediately. How could there be no in-between? How could one person in the theater love it, but another person in a different row hate it?
So, Saturday, I ventured to the movie theater with my friend Rachel to devour this film and gnaw it down to its core. And let me tell you, we gnawed it until we couldn’t gnaw anymore. In the time leading up to seeing it, I kept myself far away from spoilers and explanations, because I wanted to figure this movie out for myself. I know Aronofsky’s affinity for metaphors and symbolism, so I was excited for the challenge. Needless to say, I sat in my car for a good seven minutes before driving home after the movie because I was trying to process everything that I had seen, because Aronofsky truly made me think about a LOT of things.
**DETAILED SPOILERS/SYNOPSIS AHEAD – TURN AROUND NOW IF YOU PLAN TO SEE IT FOR YOURSELF**
The movie begins with a vision of a woman burning, and a large crystal on a shelf, and a burnt house being restored to its original beauty. Then, we see Lawrence (Mother) waking up in bed. Mother lives in a massive house in the middle of nowhere with her unnamed husband, Bardem (Him). He is a struggling poet with writer’s block that cannot seem to write something new to save His life, and Mother is attempting to make this home a paradise for them both. We discover that this home is where He grew up, and when it caught fire, Mother decided to restore it for Him because she knew how much the home meant to Him.
Suddenly, an unexpected visitor arrives at the house in the form of Ed Harris’ unnamed character (Man), who is a huge fan of His poetry. He invites the Man to stay in their home, much to the dismay of Mother, who wants to enjoy her solitude with Him. At this point of the movie, Rachel and I were both staring at the screen and constantly whispering to each other, What the hell is going on…? And, sure enough, those questions occurred more and more as this movie began to spiral.
It’s important to note that in His office where He writes is the large crystal in a holder (the same one we see at the beginning), which He says He found in the ashes of His house when it had burned, and it is very important to Him.
Then, Man’s wife, Michelle Pfeiffer’s unnamed character (Woman) shows up to the house and He invites Woman to stay along with her husband. Again, Mother is not happy about this, and expresses more concern to Him after Woman makes Mother uncomfortable with her overly personal questions about His and Mother’s relationship and curiosity about the house and the things in it. Not to mention, Man and Woman’s curiosity leads them to going into His office without permission and breaking the crystal, which enrages Him and results in Mother asking them both to leave. Then, Man and Woman’s sons show up, heated about the will that Man had drawn up in the face of his imminent death (he’s visibly ill and dying in the movie) and the boys end up fighting, and one kills the other in the house out of jealousy before running off. Mother is horrified, and He leaves Mother behind as He accompanies Man and Woman to the hospital. This is the point of the movie where Rachel and I were truly gobsmacked and began analyzing everything.
After this event, He returns to the house, and later, Man and Woman show up again with friends and family to mourn the loss of their son, taking advantage of His and Mother’s hospitality and kindness. Mother constantly expresses her distaste of the situation to Him, but He insists on allowing these people to stay as His way of repaying this Man who is such a huge fan of His, since he is dying. After they leave, Mother and Him sleep together and Mother finally becomes pregnant. He is inspired by the events of life lost followed by the creation of new life, and He begins writing again. When Mother is pretty far along, He finishes His poem and lets Mother read it. She is blown away by the beauty of His words, and when the poem gets published, people from all over flock to the house on the night that Mother makes a celebration dinner for Him. He allows them inside to show His gratitude and kindness, and seemingly in a blink, the house turns into a place of chaos, filled with fanatics for Him and His poetry, who begin destroying the home that Mother worked so hard to rebuild for Him, and soon, the people become violent, rioting, ransacking, and not even realizing that Mother is one of the owners of the house, let alone His wife. There are a small few who actually try painting the house for Mother, but she scolds them as well, saying that it’s not their house to paint.
Now, this is genuinely where Rachel and I were sitting, mouths agape, audibly saying, “What the shit?!” along with all of the other people in the audience, because then the entire landscape of the house becomes a literal war zone, with police in riot gear showing up, soldiers with machine guns bursting through windows, people dying and being shot left and right, and somehow, giant, wire cages have been constructed in various rooms with people being held prisoner behind them. Mother begins to go into labor, and He finally finds her in the mess and brings her upstairs to His office, where she gives birth to a son. The people outside leave gifts of fruit, water, and clean clothes for the two of them, and ask to see the baby, but Mother refuses to let Him take the baby out there, fearing for her son’s safety. But, Mother falls asleep after almost two days of being locked in the office, and when she awakes, she finds Him and the baby gone. She runs downstairs to see the crowd passing her baby over their heads, and He keeps reassuring her, saying that they just want to see him and praise him, and eventually, the baby’s neck is snapped while being passed, and then sacrificed at the front of the room for this crowd of fanatics, who then (prepare yourself) is hacked apart and eaten by the fanatics. When Mother loses control and begins to try and take the flesh away from the people in her grief, they throw her to the ground, beating her up, calling her a “cunt,” and spewing hatred at her.
He makes His way through the crowd to Mother, who is bloody, bruised, and beaten, and He begs her to not let their son’s death be for nothing, but Mother blames Him for their son’s death, and finds a piece of glass and begins stabbing the fanatics around them. She finds her way to the basement, where she punctures the old fashioned furnace, allowing oil to spill onto the floor. He finds her downstairs and sees her standing in this oil with a lighter in her hand, and He begs her not to do what he knows she is going to do. But she drops the lighter, and the house ignites, killing everyone in it. We then again see the vision of this burning woman that we saw at the beginning.
Then, we see Him, unscathed, carrying a burnt Mother through the ashes of the house, and Mother asks Him, “Who are you?” He responds, “I am I.” He makes a comment about starting again, that He is taking her to the beginning, because He must create, for that is what He does. He places her on a counter and puts His hands on her chest. She tells him to “take it,” and so He opens her chest, removing her heart. She crumbles into ashes herself, and He crushes her heart in His hands, like coal, and puts so much pressure onto it that it turns into a crystal, just like the one that was in His office. He goes upstairs, places it in the holder, and the montage from the beginning begins again, but with another woman in place of Lawrence waking up in bed.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. What. The. SHIT?! It was at the point of the rioting that Rachel and I looked at each other because we had figured out the metaphor/allegory of this movie (thank you to all of our English teachers/professors who taught us to analyze), but I also realized that for people who are not able to analyze deeply, this movie is going to seem like a complete mess that makes zero sense, and could explain Aronofsky’s statement about people either loving or hating this movie.
To start off, I have to say that the acting in this movie was magnificent. Lawrence is so raw, real, and emotional that it’s crazy to think that she went from being The Girl on Fire to this. Pfeiffer is so deliciously creepy that she gave me goosebumps multiple times, and Harris is brilliant as always. Bardem’s acting parallels and compliments Lawrence so perfectly, and I truly enjoyed every moment of their interactions on screen.
Now, on to the overall metaphor of this movie. This is where people are probably missing the genuine genius of this movie and its meaning, and are walking away from it booing or thinking it’s stupid and has no point. But Rachel and I sat in the theater for a good amount of time putting all of the following pieces together, and even had epiphanies come to us hours later via text message.
Mother and Him are quite clearly Mother Nature and God, who lived in harmony together before the creation of humankind. The Man, who shows up first, is Adam, and the Woman, who shows up soon after, is Eve. Remember, God created Eve for Adam, so Adam came first. God does not ask Adam to leave like Mother Nature wants, because Adam is his own creation. Eve is tempted by the crystal (the “apple”), and because of her, they both are tempted to handle/look at it and end up breaking it. Their children, who show up after, are Cain and Abel. Cain kills Abel out of jealousy and flees, and so sin forever plagues the Earth. These fanatics of His poetry are worshipers of God, and there are examples ranging from regular Christians to cult followers (the baby flesh eaters) in the movie. Mother Nature has to watch helplessly as humans destroy her home (Earth) that she has created, while He (God) continues to excuse their behavior as His creations, giving them opportunity after opportunity to absolve their sins, because God forgives. The baby she gives birth to is a representative of Jesus, Rachel and I thought, because people brought gifts to Him and Mother and wanted to see His child and praise him. They then took this child and sacrificed him (like Jesus on the cross) for themselves.
There is one point in the movie where Mother Nature is cleaning up the blood from Abel’s death, and the blood rots the wood in the floor, creating a hole to the old basement, right above where the furnace is. She eventually replaces the boards, but when all of these people show up to the house and wreak their havoc, the hole shows up again. Rachel and I concluded that this hole is a symbol of sin, because of its location and its appearance during this chaos; Abel’s death is also the first death on Earth, so it only makes sense to us that the hole represents sin and a portal to Hell. Mother Nature almost falls through it into the basement during the chaos, but is able to pull herself out. Rachel and I then decided that the furnace area was Hell, because sin leads a person to Hell. It is also where the flames ignite at the end of the movie, adding only more visual confirmation as to what it is a symbol for. This mass of chaos (war, riots, etc.) is the apocalypse, and after Mother Nature decides to take out the entire house (Earth) with fire, He (God) must begin to try and create the world all over again, from ashes, using her heart as its core.
If you don’t think that’s genius, then you probably need to watch the movie all over again. Aronofsky is definitely right in saying that this movie won’t be for everyone, but for those who appreciate the symbolism and the message, it is going to speak to you and make you feel a level of uncomfortable that you have not experienced yet in life. I know that I have given a full synopsis, but there are small details that Aronofsky includes that I didn’t discuss that prove the true genius of his creation of this screenplay, and prove just how much attention he puts into making sure this allegory is picked up on by those who are willing to look for the symbolism he includes.
I was also immensely proud of Rachel and myself after looking up if we were correct in our analysis, because we are, so this is my virtual high-five to my English major partner-in-crime for figuring this movie out with me.
Overall, this movie made me think very deeply about what we, as humans, have done to our planet, both in regards to our harm of the environment and our harm of one another, and the direction we are headed in. I think that Aronofsky’s timing in directing this movie is relevant and important, and while the way he chose to represent this story is definitely shocking and at first confusing as all hell, the moment it clicks, it is definitely something that does make you feel a wide range of emotions.
When I got home from the movie, my dad asked if I liked it, and I was still speechless. Saying that I “liked” the movie didn’t feel like the appropriate answer, but saying that I “disliked” it also wasn’t true. The movie reached me, it moved me, it made me feel uncomfortable, and it shook me to my core. And while I’m sure many people will scoff at the fact that I did, in fact, love this movie, I feel as though those are the people on which the message of this film is lost, or the people who until now, did not realize for what this movie was a metaphor.