7 Deadly Theologies and Mythologies on Darren Aronofsky’s Allegorical Horror Movie ‘mother!’

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mother! is an allegory for climate change

Aronofsky himself hasn’t been shy about his intentions for the film as an allegory for man’s destructive nature towards the environment, casting Jennifer Lawrence as Mother, the spirit of Mother Nature herself. She is an all-loving, all-caring feminine being who is trying to make her rural house an idyllic home, while everyone else around her seems intent on doing the exact opposite. Powerless and compliant Mother watches as everything she has given gets destroyed. In the final act she sets the house alight, a metaphor for global warming, perhaps.

mother! is about the Bible

There’s power in the religious symbolism in this movie from the director who gave us ‘Noah’ (2014). It seems safe to interpret Javier Bardem’s “Him” is God, who is an esteemed poet in the film, representing scripture. Lawrence is the Virgin Mary slash Mother Earth whose sacrificed child is the Messiah. Their home is Eden. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are Adam and Eve. The feuding sons (played by real life brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleeson) are Cain and Abel. The kitchen sink collapse is the Great Flood and the furnace in the basement is Hell. The structure itself is a timeline of everything up to the present day. In the span of the final half hour, Aronofsky charts the biblical plagues and the history of the world in a dizzying sequence.

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mother! is about the temptations of fame

This movie is perhaps intentionally pretentious and is cast with some of the biggest stars on the planet. Lawrence is arguably the most famous and most talked about actress right now. Her character struggles with the attention Bardem’s character garners, possibly mirroring her own experiences on being famous. However, Bardem gives in to temptation unable to resist the admiration and adoration of his worshippers, inviting all of them into their home. The crowds get bigger and so does his ego. Even as they begin to destroy his home and his marriage he seems to be bathing in adulation. He even gives in to their demands and offers up his own flesh and blood to them.

mother! is a home invasion horror

Superb home invasion movies that hang high in the hall of horror include ‘Straw Dogs’ (1971), the Austrian original ‘Funny Games’ (1997) and how ‘bout those opening ten minutes of terror Drew Barrymore endures in ‘Scream’ (1996). You see the comparisons in mother! beginning with the arrival of an unexpected houseguest, which turns into a couple more, then more, and more and more. Stranger danger this territory certainly is. “I thought the home invasion movie was very interesting, because everyone relates to having a bad guest who won’t get out of the house when the parties over,” said Aronofsky. “So, I knew turning that into a nightmare would be an interesting place to start.”

mother! is a portrait of a relationship

Artist Monika Crowley suggests that the narrative is about “the cycle of relationships in general, the shifts of power, each person having different needs from it,” Crowley goes on to say, “the fact that love fades or goes bad, but still exists even after going on a path of self-destruction. And then it begins again.” The story then is a depiction of love and it’s consuming nature. That may explain the ultra-violent scene where Mother is getting knocked about as a metaphor for how it feels to be heartbroken. In Hindu religion it states that God created and destroyed the universe over and over until it was perfect. In the movie He asks a defeated Mother for the love she has left for him, and she agrees to give it to him so he tears open her chest and removes her heart. The heart disintegrates, the house rejuvenates, and the cycle begins again.

Mother! movie artwork

mother! is about an older man dating a younger woman

The movie explores the concept of an age difference in a relationship and how it can or can’t work. Javier Bardem is pushing fifty and Jennifer Lawrence is in her twenties. The twenty-year age gap between the two is addressed by Ed Harris where he says to Bardem after being introduced to Lawrence: “Your wife? I thought it was your daughter.” In an interview Aronofsky says, It’s just a story about an older man with a younger woman. A creator and a caregiver and the inequality of that and their marriage falling apart.”Aronofsky (48) also started dating Lawrence (27) during production. Life imitating art imitating life.

mother! is about introversion versus extraversion

Those who have introverted tendencies tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being social and find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. Ne’er were these two personality types portrayed so blatantly than in these two lead characters. Lawrence would like to single-handedly refurbish the house in peace while tending to the needs of her husband. By contrast, Bardem welcomes interruption no matter how bombastic it becomes. Once the pressure of being around people for too long gets to be too much, Lawrence burns the house down.


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Author: 7 Deadly Things

Voted “Best Arts & Culture Blog” by you the people (thank you!) and was a finalist in the “Blog Awards Ireland 2018.” Catch our podcast Fridays on Dublin Digital Radio 11 – 12 noon.

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