SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers from 2017’s Mother! So if you haven’t seen the movie, tread lightly!
By just watching the trailer, Darron Aronofsky’s Mother! seems like a creepy horror movie, and it’s not far from that. However, it’s much deeper than you might anticipate. At first, you’ll think it’s just a story about a couple, their house and some uninvited guests. But when things get really weird, you’ll start to notice that it’s all metaphorical. Though it’s hard to figure out what the metaphor is really for, everything starts to make sense once the movie is over and you start to dissect it bit by bit. And with a film like that, even the least analytical person will be forced to theorize, otherwise they’d have wasted their time and money. The goal of the film is not to entertain (I wouldn’t say that it’s very entertaining), but to make you question not only your own existence, but the existence of humanity as a whole. Mother! is a movie about many things, but above all, it’s a totally different take on the most important story ever told: the story of God, nature and us.
The main difference is that the film doesn’t look at the world through our point of view, and not through God’s either; but through the perspective of nature itself, personified in Jennifer Lawrence’s titular character. She is a woman who loves her husband deeply and spends all her time renovating the house he lost to a fire. We follow her around for the whole movie as she never leaves the house and is gradually distraught by the strangers who keep arriving. Her husband, played by Javier Bardem, is a poet facing writer’s block who doesn’t value her as much and cares a lot about his admirers. He is an embodiment of God, particularly the God of the Old Testament. His love for his fans is the reason why he allows so many guests inside the house despite how uncivil and disturbing they are and how uncomfortable that makes his wife.
The guests represent us humans, as one by one, they increase in number, starting out with a man, then his wife (Adam and Eve) and their two sons (Cain and Abel). There are two instances when the house is flooded with people. The first one wasn’t as intense as the second, and ends when Mother loses it and kicks them out after the guests break a sink, spraying water all over her. This scene, I believe, symbolizes the story of Noah’s Flood and how humanity was rebooted, and so does the relationship between the couple as they’re left alone to make love after everyone else leaves.
That night, Mother Nature and God conceive a child, which inspires God to write again, accomplishing his best work yet (the Bible?). Months pass and several strangers appear at their door, hoping to meet the great poet. Inconsiderate of his pregnant wife, he lets them in and things get out of hand. A lot more people start to arrive until the house turns into a warzone and everyone starts breaking apart the house to collect proof that they were there. Although the scene, like all the other scenes, are filmed within the house, you feel like you’re taking a tour through how the whole world is right now. Cults are formed, shooting starts and people get blown up, all for the adoration of the poet: God. We experience this through Mother Nature’s eyes as she is unable to make sense of what’s going on, why the people are so spiteful and why her husband is allowing all that to happen. On top of all that, she’s going into labor. When she horrifically gives birth, her husband stoops to a new low when he takes the baby without her permission and hands it over to the mob as they accidentally kill it and then decide to eat it. This doesn’t sound really strange once you relate it to the story of Jesus and how he was given to humans by God to sacrifice, and how it’s a custom for some of today’s Christians to consume bread and wine as stand-ins for his flesh and blood. At that point, Mother starts killing them and sets the entire house on fire. Her husband, as the omnipotent God he is, survives and starts the renovation process once more with a new wife.
What the filmmaker is trying to say is that we are all selfish intruders who care so much about God’s approval that we are insensitive to our own planet and the resources it provides. However, the way he says it is what makes the movie extremely effective. The film’s biggest accomplishment is making you feel as frustrated as nature feels when humanity’s recklessness destroys everything for a petty, unfounded purpose. And once everything is destroyed, the cycle starts again. But what of God? The film seems to point out that without both nature (his house and wife) and humans (his fans), God will be left unsatisfied.