mother3

One reviewer predicted it would be the most hated movie of 2017. As I walked out of the theater, I agreed. It was, as another reviewer said, as though Jesus had told an extended parable but withheld its meaning. I didn't get it at all. But after watching comments from director Darren Aronofsky himself (what would we do without youtube?), I have changed my mind. Mother! is quite a thought-provoking film after all. 

Spoiler alert! I don't know how to go further without revealing the film's allegorical nature. According to Aronofsky, the lead actor ("Him" in the credits) represents God and the lead female actor ("Mother" in the credits) represents Mother Nature. Aronofsky had originally titled the movie, "Day 6," certainly an allusion to Genesis 1.

The tale begins in an octagonal home in the middle of nowhere that has mysteriously refurbished itself after a fire. "Him" is an author of a best-seller, now suffering from writer's block. "Mother" has set about redoing the house, with which she has a unique bond. All is fine until a stranger shows up on the doorstep. Him invites the stranger in, much to the discomfort of Mother. Let's say that in a number of ways, the man, his wife who follows later, and their two sons create a disruptive mess. Mother wonders why Him does so little to stop them and pays so little attention to her fears. In the course of an inheritance argument, one son murders the other and leaves the house. Various clues (the man has a scar on his back over his rib cage) suggest that these characters are Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. When tons of people show up to mourn the death of the one son, a party breaks out and a couple causes a water pipe to break. This "flood" is the last straw and the guests are made to leave (finally!). While Mother is cleaning up, she notices that the blood stain from the murder has reappeared on the floor. The blood itself has dripped through the floor into the basement, uncovering a room with a fuel oil tank for the furnace. Mother, however, still is bothered by Him's eagerness to take in all of these people who invariably have hampered her restorative work.

But the death and the mourners have inspired Him to write and his block ends. (Does Him's writer's block signify the silence between the two Testaments?) Him's publisher gushes over his new poem and all of a sudden, hundreds of people have come to meet him. He goes out to receive their praise and spend a lot of time with them, much to Mother's frustration. She finds herself pregnant with Him's son, but even then Him spends way more time with the crowds. Him finally comes back in the house to assist with the birth. While barring the door to prevent the crowd's onrush, Him goes outside several times, returning with gifts given by the people outside. Him wants to take the baby outside to show the child to the now increasing crowds, but Mother refuses, fearing the worst. She cradles the child to her breast until she falls asleep from exhaustion. When she awakes, the baby is no longer in her arms. Him has taken the baby outside and has passed the baby around among the ecstatic crowd. "mother!" has been labeled a horror film and it is at this point that the horror really begins. It is where I am going to stop with the narrative!

It has been said that millenials are fond of cafeteria approaches to religion and often take from many sources. If you are expecting a faithful Christian parable or allegory, you will be disappointed. The Biblical allusions – and there are many – are put into service along with snippets of other religions to tell a different type of redemption story. Yes, it speaks to the corruption of religion. Yes, it presents Mother Nature in terms of a gaia – earth mother of feminism. Yes, it presents an Indian cycle of nature philisophy as well. With these pieces, Aronofsky presents a humanity bent on destroying its home, which it does frighteningly well. The ending offers hope, but can the Christian really call it hope? I found it interesting that the Biblical allusions are all put in service to describe what's wrong, but the "hope" comes from the cyclical nature of Eastern religion!

Mother! baffles those who are biblical illiterates and it is fun to read their interpretations of what they've seen. The film is probably one of the clearest examples of cafeteria religion to date.