Mother! is the newest addition to director Darren Aronofsky’s unique and acclaimed lineup of movies. The film has been critiqued heavily, apparently because many reviewers have failed to remove the movie from the context of the “horror” genre.
Mother! comments on the blind faith and the fallibility of religion using a Biblical allegory. Identifying this allegory requires breaking the characters down into their symbolic meaning in the context of religion.
Jennifer Lawrence plays “Mother.” Some would argue that this character is a literal Virgin Mary, however, it is clear that she represents something far greater and more ubiquitous. Mother is Mother Nature, and is symbolic of the traditional roles that a maternal figure has. She devotes herself to improving their house (which we see has been burned in a fire) as well as providing for her husband, Him.
Him is the Creator, played by Javier Bardem. Bardem is casted perfectly for his role, and never strays from the omnipotent feeling his character is supposed to have. Him is having some writer’s block at the start of the movie. He had once written a novel that brought him fame, but has since been dormant.
Mother, being the faithful caretaker she is, attempts to encourage him to write the literature he is invested in, but he does not seem to overcome his problem.
Man is the first character to show up at the house, played by Ed Harris. He appears fatally sick, and stumbles to the house because he is driven to meet the author of his favorite book, Him, before he dies.
Him’s book is plainly the Old Testament of the Bible, and Man symbolically the first man, Adam. This allegory is reaffirmed as Man lacks a rib from an operation, and soon after this is noticed, Woman appears at the house and the four of them begin to stay together at His permission.
Man and Women lightly antagonize Mother, and these microaggressions are symbolic of the ways mankind has disregarded Earth in blind faith to religion. When Man and Woman’s adult children show up (Cain and Abel perhaps?) to stay at the house, these slight insults at Mother grow more intense.
Throughout this first sequence of the film, there has been sexual tension between Mother and Him. He appears to know something Mother does not, thus putting off intimacy. However, at this later part in film he gives in, and mother become pregnant.
As He learns that he will be a father, he is invigorated with a new will to write, and with ease finishes his second work of literature just as Mother is going to give birth.
His new work is likely the New Testament, and its completion brings hoards of new fans to their home.
The people grasp and tear off parts of the home, just for tangible proof that they were there in their idol’s presence. Him basks in the attention he receives from the crowd and He is obviously revealing in his own greatness.
This vanity is satire of the concept of a benevolent God who looks out for his people. Aronofsky likely set out to make this a central point of his film, that God does not truly care for Man, but rather uses Man to indulge in his selfish need for attention and confirmation.
As the hoard envelops the house, He offers Mother’s child to the crowd. He thinks it will please them and they will feel rewarded by the baby’s presence. Much to Mother’s dismay, the crowd quickly kills the child. A cult-like ritual ensues, complete with some men consuming the baby. It appears that this is so that they can always have a part of Him with them.
This is a parallel to God giving his gift, Jesus, to mankind. Man however is unable to properly appreciate this gift and it is in fact man who kills Jesus, just as the crowd have done to His child.
He comes to Mother after she has been mutilated by the crowd to sacrifice the life left in her to return the house, and thus Earth and reality itself, to a previous state. The entire time, He knew the repercussions of having a child and of writing his book, but did so anyways. He resisted at at first, which caused the sexual tension and between him and Mother, but eventually succumbed. From Aronofsky’s perspective, this is because God is selfish. God is presented as having the ability to create an infinite number of realities, all for him to use to satisfy his own need for confirmation. If any of these fail, He is not concerned because He has a magic “reset” button.
Aronofsky’s film pushes radical and never before seen critiques of religion onto the big screen. His massive risk with these concepts is something he is proud of. To interpret his film as an environmental critique, commentary on overpopulation, or as a discussion on an artist’s relation to his art is not necessarily wrong.
Because of these many possibilities, it is certain that “Mother!” will be continuously analyzed and interpreted.