Mother! and the Dangers of Biblical Allegory

Last night, like many other people across the country, I went to see It, only to find out at the box-office that the last showing of the day was sold-out. I decided, instead, to watch Mother! the latest film by Darren Aranofsky, which has been called confusing, pretentious, and even “the worst movie of the year, or maybe the century.” I will discuss not only the plot of the movie in its entirety, but also attempt to interpret it, so be warned… spoilers ahead.

The audience’s confusion probably comes from the fact that they think they are going to watch a horror film (or a psychological thriller at least), and they are presented with a thinly veiled Biblical allegory depicting the creation of the world, from Adam and Eve, all the way to Revelation and the Apocalypse.

mother poster

On its surface, the film explores the tensions that emerged in a marriage between a poet (Javier Bardem) and his wife (Jennifer Lawrence), who live in an isolated but gorgeous house in the countryside, when a series of unexpected guests come into the house bringing confusion and chaos to their lives. The characters are never named, and it is only in the final credits that we know that Bardem is Him, and Lawrence is Mother. This, though, it is a clear clue that what we are watching is not simply the story (a confusing/chaotic one), and that the characters are standing in for something/someone else.

house
Jennifer Lawrence as Mother (Nature) living in isolated Paradise (Garden of Eden)

It becomes pretty clear midway through the movie that Bardem (Him) stands for God, the creator, and that Lawrence represents Mother Nature, God’s creation. At the beginning of the movie they are alone, isolated, and while Mother tries to take care of God in a devoted but subservient way, God is unable to create again, he is distant, frustrated, and even bored.

mother 2
Him (God) and His creation (Mother Nature)

It is then, when their perfect existence is disrupted by the arrival of a stranger played by Ed Harris, who stands for Adam, the first man, and Michelle Pfeiffer representing Eve, who are childish, driven by their passions, and self-destructive. There is even a reference to their exclusion from paradise after eating the forbidden fruit, which in the film is a pulsing diamond from which Him/God receives inspiration and knowledge. It’s destruction will through the house (creation) into chaos. But that seems ok to Him/God, since perfection is not really fuel for creativity, and Him enjoys the chaos and the attention brought into the house by an increasing number of characters that come to see Him, the famous poet. They adore Him, they want to hear from Him, even though their passion is destroying the house (the representation of Nature) at an astonishing fast pace.

adam
Harris (Adam) and Pfeiffer (Eve) disrupting the Garden of Eden with their passion and curiosity

The movie goes for broke in the final third, when Mother becomes pregnant, which allows Him to create again. This seems to represent the creation of a New Testament, that will culminate in the birth of their son, Jesus, that ends up being killed and sacrificially eaten by an insane adoring crowd that has come into the house to witness Him’s latest creation (a new poem/New Testament and the baby). The sacrifice of the baby spirals down into chaos, with violence and war irrupting into the house that only ends with Mother sacrificing herself by burning down the house with everyone inside (the whole creation). This part of the movie was the most shocking and confusing for the people around me: someone left at the sight of the baby being killed and sacrificially eaten, there was confusion and even laughter when the riots and war broke out inside the house (“what’s happening!?”). I think this is when the movie makes clear that it is not a thriller in the vain of Rosemary’s Baby (which some ads insinuated), and only if you understood it as an allegory made any sense at all.

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Chaos coming into the house

The movie ends with Him holding a burned but still alive Mother and asks her for a final sacrifice: her heart, which becomes the diamond destroyed by Adam and Even earlier in the movie that enables Him to restore the house and play with His creation all over again, this time with another mother who looks just like Jennifer Lawrence.

As someone who writes a blog about religion in popular culture, the movie was a fantastic, going for broke allegory of the horrors that humanity has inflicted throughout history over mother nature. It is, obviously, a Christian allegory, with the Bible serving as its template, which will probably leave audiences perplexed, annoyed, and even furious, if they do not realize this (therefore many of the reviews out there). The film is also an indicment of humanity as a whole, and a prophetic warning of where we are heading if we do not do something about it. Aranofsky’s Mother! is an artistic (pretentious at times) cry for help that is profoundly intellectual and emotional at once.

 

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