Breaking down Mother! - Making sense out of the most controversial movie of 2017
For anyone who has seen Mother!, you've probably spent every waking moment since then trying to make sense of it.
We have already called it the best film we've seen this year, but with the big pulsing asterisk that it absolutely WILL NOT be for everyone.
A horror film quite unlike any other, possessing a proper nightmare-ish quality with more shocking imagery than just about any mainstream film this or any other year, Mother! has already completely divided audiences, with as many people falling in love with it as those who absolutely hated it.
Regardless, pretty much everyone came away from the film with a different interpretation of it's possible definition, and while there are definitely shades of environmental damage, artistic creation, the fear of parenthood, the traps of marriage, the fearful of miasma of celebrity culture and/or dating a famous person (writer/director Darren Aranofsky was previously in a relationship with Rachel Weisz, before she left him for Daniel Craig), there is most definitely one undeniable meaning behind the movie...
And it case it wasn't clear, there will be SPOILERS ahead...
RELIGION VS MOTHER NATURE
At the movie's end credits, we are finally told Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem's character names, as they are never called anything throughout the film.
She plays 'mother' (with the lower case 'm') and he plays 'Him' (with the capital 'H'), and it is the final piece of evidence needed to prove who they are and what they represent.
Lawrence is some variation on a representation of Mother Nature, and Bardem plays some interpretation of God, as he is known and referred to in the Bible. While not every single detail of the movie aligns to this reading, the majority of the actions of the film have essentially taken the Book Of Genesis and made a horror movie out of it.
GARDEN OF EDEN
The film kicks off with Lawrence and Bardem alone in their idyllic home, just the two of them, as she attempts to make it perfect, and he completely enveloped in his impotent lack of creation.
Soon afterwards, we're introduced to Ed Harris, and on the first night in their home, Lawrence walks in on him getting sick in the bathroom, and we see a scar on his back... where one of his ribs has been removed.
From that we should read that Harris represents Adam, and from his rib - and arriving the next morning - we are introduced to Michelle Pfeiffer, who represents Eve.
They are both expressly forbidden from entering Bardem's office and going near his intriguing crystal (much like the specific apple tree Adam and Eve were warned away from), but they do it anyway, and Lawrence orders them away.
Instead they have sex (Original sin!) and soon afterwards we meet their sons, played by Domhnall and Brian Gleeson. They follow in the footsteps of Cain and Abel - the sons of Adam and Eve - fighting over the betrayal by the father, resulting in a physical altercation that ends with the murder of one by the other.
It is only after the blood is actually spilled that Bardem is capable of impregnating Lawrence, which brings us to...
THE NEW TESTAMENT
We jump forward nine months, and Lawrence is very heavily pregnant.
Meanwhile, Bardem has finally written and published his new work, but it conjures up such a sense of hysteria in the readers that it isn't long before things take a turn for the worse.
All of this can pretty much be seen as the birth of Jesus, the popularisation of the Bible, and the violence that religion seems to inevitably breed.
It is around here that the definition of Lawrence's character seems to blur somewhat - is she still Mother Nature? Or is she Mary, Mother Of God now? - but either way, she gives birth to a son, who God essentially takes from her to give to the people, and before long he is killed by them.
Later we see that his father's followers have begun to eat him, in what seems like a violent parallel to Jesus's body and blood becoming the blood and wine for those who believe in him.
However, while Bardem/God may be understanding of his followers' actions, it isn't something that Lawrence/Mother Nature is willing to forgive...
Reaching deep down to the depths of her home, Lawrence destroys the lot with a tanker of oil (i.e. fossil fuels at the centre of the Earth), and it results in wiping the slate clean, and leaving nothing behind except Bardem, and Lawrence herself on death's door. In her final act before turning to ash, she wilfully gives her heart to him - which then turns into another crystal - which Bardem uses to restore the home, and another Mother! appears to wake up in that bed.
Now... again... there is a lot that is open to interpretation, but the biggest take-away here is that Aranofsky is basically saying that Mother Nature will only put up with so much before doing us all in and hope things go better next time around.
She did warn her guests that the sink was broken, and they ignored her, and it broke and the water levels rose in the house, which could be either a metaphor for Noah's flood, or for rising water levels due to the current climate change issue.
Also, much like the Hindu religion - in which God has created and destroyed the world over and over again - things begin again, once more awoken with nothing but hope.
Like we said, there are a few things in the movie which don't line up perfectly with this reading, or if they do, then we've simply missed the connections.
Does Ed Harris being a doctor mean anything? What exactly was the yellow tonic that Lawrence keeps drinking? Did the heart in the toilet have any significance? Who did Kristen Wiig represent?
Regardless, Mother! doesn't necessarily mean any one thing. Or maybe it does. Or, to you, it might mean nothing. Maybe it is just a nightmare-ish horror movie with no further definition required.
Whatever you think of it, if you have seen it, then you already know you'll be thinking about it for a while.
Clip via Paramount Pictures