A SPOILER REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF MOTHER!
mother! is the newest movie from writer and director Darren Aronofsky. This is going to be a SPOILER REVIEW, so for those who have not seen the movie yet, please go ahead and visit my non spoiler review. Also, this is purely my opinion of the film. All art is up for interpretation, and mother! should be treated as such. So now that you’ve been warned, let’s get into it.
The story is basically God (Javier Bardem) and Mother Earth (Jennifer Lawrence) living in this house only for Bardem to invite a man and his wife into their home. Bardem’s character is trusting of everyone, but he’s also emotionally flawed and kind of creepy. Once he invites this older couple, played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, the peaceful tranquility of this home/paradise begins to decompose.
For clarification, I will be referring to the different characters by the actors who played them, since there is so much ambiguity on who these characters really are.
Environmental Plea for Help?
When the film first started out, I didn’t see it as a biblical allegory, but rather a call for us to be more respectful of this world we live in. Now, before I get into the biblical symbolism let me get into the environmental side. At the very beginning of the film we see a young woman engulfed in flames. Then it cuts to Bardem putting a beautiful crystal on his shelf. Once he does that, the ashes that once enveloped the house, now begin to disappear. This leads to the audience being introduced to Lawrence’s character as she awakens in her bed. This is all metaphorical. The house represents earth. Bardem’s character represents God or a God like figure, and Lawrence’s character is Mother Earth. As for the older couple, this is where you could have two arguments. My first thought of these people were that they were there to represent mankind. Being that the home represents the earth, they felt like it was their home. When Mother Earth asked if they could not do this or please do this, the older couple always did the opposite. I saw them, and the rest of the people who joined them during the funeral scenes, to be parasites of earth. They come in, they change what they want, and they destroy the environment around them. This is a metaphorical call to action on the basis that we have taken the world for granted and now Mother Earth cannot take it any longer. There is no better scene than the scene in where she keeps telling the funeral guests to get off this sink because it is not yet braced. But the guests not only continue to sit on it, but rather start bouncing on it, causing the sink to be ripped out of the wall. Lawrence is so angry by the way people are acting in her home, she explodes and demands that all the guests leave at once. This is one way to look at this movie. However, this theory may not hold as much water as that of the biblical allegory.
The biblical allegory. Where to start? According to director Aronofsky, the film is a metaphorical interpretation of the beginning of creation. This explanation is going to get a little lengthy, so just be patient. Once again, Bardem is God. Lawrence is Mother Earth. However, now the roles of Harris and Pfiefer change. If this is a biblical allegory of the creation of earth, that makes Harris and Pfeiffer, Adam and Eve. This theory is further rooted in the story when “Adam and Eve’s” sons come to fight over the will of Harris’ character. If you go back to your biblical stories, Cain and Abel were the offspring of Adam and Eve. And if you recall, Cain slew Abel in a jealous rage. Therefore, the characters of Harris and Pfiefer would be believed to be that of Cain and Abel’s mother and father, Adam and Eve.
Now, let’s go back to bible school once again. The stories of said Adam and Eve, as well as the stories of Cain and Abel are from the Old Testament, or the early books of the Bible. It’s basically everything before the stories of Jesus Christ. During the film, Bardem is known to be a writer. Harris’ character is a supposed fan of Bardem.
Even stating in the film that the reason he came to the house was to meet this famous writer before his death. So tying into the Bible, one could say that Bardem’s first book was the Old Testament and the book that Bardem writes in the film is the New Testament. Now we’re in the final (chaotic) act of the film, which heavily focuses on the New Testament. First, Bardem writes his book. Then, Lawrence is pregnant. (I’ll get into that later.) We no longer see Harris and Pfeiffer, because we have moved away from the Old Testament. Now, on the night of his book’s publication, Lawrence aims to throw him a celebration. However, now this celebration is interrupted by people who are touched by his book. Bardem even goes into how his book is perceived differently by different people. Therefore, relating to the difference between the plethora of Christian churches, especially here in the United States. The people start to come to the house in droves and Lawrence, who is 9 months pregnant at this time, demands that people get the hell out of her house. As she moves through the house, now occupied by hundreds of people, we begin to see many other signs that point to a biblical perspective. For example, Bardem is seen blessing the people with the ashes of a burned picture. This can tie into the Christian belief of Ash Wednesday where people are blessed with ashes on their forehead. But what caught my eye is this picture of Bardem that people carry with them, and eventually nail to the interior walls of the house. This reminded me of the holy places in the world where people will nail prayer cards, mostly with Jesus’ face on them, to the walls.
As the chaos continues to ensue, war begins to break out throughout the house. People are executed and Bardem’s character does nothing to stop the ruckus. This is most likely a metaphor for the religious wars that have taken place throughout history. But it is here when the film becomes a little over the top. Lawrence gives birth to her baby, which of course, Bardem must show the baby to all the people who have come to their home. Lawrence fights for her right to hold on to the child, but in the end, deprivation of sleep overcomes her and Bardem takes the baby to the crowd. The baby is then passed around from person to person, and in an effort to get her baby back, Lawrence runs after it, hearing the screams and eventual snap of the baby’s neck. Now, things begin to get a little confusing here. Since we are talking about the New Testament, the symbolism of the baby’s neck snapping and eventual baby buffet, could symbolize the offering of Jesus Christ from God. But the pregnancy does become a little fuzzy since it wasn’t Mother Earth who gave birth to Jesus in the Bible, but I can see what Aronofsky wanted to achieve here.
By the end of the film we see Mother Earth torch the house because her anger is just too much to bear. This causes her to become engulfed by these flames and on the brink of death. When Lawrence awakens, she is being carried by Bardem to a room in their house. Lawrence utters, “Why can’t my love be enough?” But because of Bardem’s need to create for mankind, Mother Earth’s love will never be enough for us.
A Metaphor for Fame?
Those of us who aren’t too familiar with biblical stories or terms, may have resulted in thinking that this story is a metaphor for the people we idolize whether it be religious figures or celebrities. The story hints at the worshipping of false idols, or worshipping someone to the point of obsession. However, this theory takes up only a small chunk of the film’s overall narrative, and though interested in this theory, Aronofsky has since debunked this himself.
There were some points where lines were said or confusing scenes weren’t explained by the time the movie wrapped. One part was when Pfeiffer’s character says, “Aw, you really do love him. God help you.” If Bardem’s character is a God, then why would she have to say “God help you”? Is Lawrence’s character that transparent that Pfeiffer insists that Bardem should be helping her? Another part was when Cane comes back into the house. Lawrence find the picture of Bardem from Harris’ luggage torn up on the floor. But if you look close enough, you can see markings of what seem to be horns similar to the Devil’s. Were these markings on the picture due to Cane’s turning away from this God-like character. Does Cane see Bardem’s character as nothing but an evil figure?
What’s the point?
Let’s summarize this point by point:
- This is a telling of the Old and new testaments in the form of a biblical allegory, but mostly the story of creation through the eyes of Mother Earth. You can also take it as Aronofsky beating you over the head with religious symbolism.
- Though some other theories have been brought to light, Aronofsky has said that it was not a metaphor for fame or anything similar to that.
- The title says so much about the overall movie. By saying that we (mankind) are making this planet earth uninhabitable through our own ignorance. By putting an exclamation point at the end of mother, it states, or implies, a cause of panic towards the point that we are abusing the planet/home we live on.
All in all, the point is not so much dissecting every little piece, rather it is the emotions you feel after you watch a film like this. Whether it made you angry or inspired, you cannot deny that a film like mother! lasts with you for days on end.