One does not simply watch Mother! and be OK afterwards. Love it or hate it, Darren Aronofsky's divisive new film is not the kind of thing you forget, nor is it the kind of movie you'll ever fully understand. As such, fans have been crafting Mother! movie theories obsessively since the film's release. Is it an allegory for how we treat Mother Earth? Is it a Bible story? Is it just batsh*t crazypants? The theories are many, but one thing's for sure: Mother! is more than it appears to be. To get to the bottom of this, here are the six Mother! movie theories that audiences should consider.
Making Mother!, Aronofsky purposely crafted a terrifying, scandalous film with the purpose of getting people talking. This was a movie always meant to inspire theories and think pieces. "We knew that it was divided. That's what so exciting — everybody is going to feel something," star Jennifer Lawrence said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "It's going to create a conversation. It's going to create a controversy." Lawrence is right. Varying interpretations of Mother! have been hitting the presses left and right, some well-reasoned and thoughtful, others just as insane as the film itself. Looking at all the Mother! movie theories, however, it's easy to pick out the six best. Spoilers ahead!
1. Mother Earth
Probably the most likely and popular theory of them all is that Mother! is a movie about the planet Earth (represented by Lawrence's Mother and her home in the film) and how humans (the guests in the film) take advantage of her resources and hospitality, all with the blessing of a selfish God (Him, Mother's husband in the film). This theory is probably the most obvious, but it's also the one that has been confirmed the most by those involved in the film, even the director himself. "I wanted to make a film about mother nature," Aronofsky said in an interview with Variety. "So we're working on an allegorical level, where it's dealing with these big symbols."
This interpretation suggests that Mother! is a movie calling on the audience to realize their damaging effect on the planet. In other words: it's a call to arms, sounding the bell of climate change.
2. The Giving Tree
Like Mother!, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is about a boy who takes and takes from someone else. He needs food, the tree feeds him; he wants to play, she let shim climb. As time goes on, however, the boy becomes more and more demanding, eventually destroying the tree. The book itself is much more forward than Mother!, but the lesson about Mother Earth is still the same. In fact, Lawrence told EW that Aronofsky gave her The Giving Tree to prepare for the film.
3. The Bible
In addition to being a statement piece about global warming, Mother! is also a Biblical story. The film, according to Aronofsky, takes place on the sixth day of creation. "You have the creation of people, you have the creation of religion itself, people reading the same writing and arguing over its meaning, false idols," Lawrence also told The New York Times. Looking at the film through the lens of the Bible, however, has proven tricky.
One reading of Mother! as Biblical sees Him (Javier Bardem) as God, with Man (Ed Harris) and Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) taking the roles of Adam and Eve. Their sons, Oldest Son (Domhnall Gleeson) and Younger Brother (Brian Gleeson), are Cain and Abel — jealous and murderous. Mother's role here is unclear, but for the sake of continuity, let's say she, as an extension of the house they live in, is the Earth. This brings us back to the first theory, only a bit more complete: God created a paradise with Earth, invited Adam and Eve over, and their descendants (the people who storm the house in the film) destroy it.
4. The Virgin Mary
There is another biblical reading of the movie that places Mother in the role of the Virgin Mary. This theory is especially poignant considering the very violent end of the film, specifically the disturbing and barbaric death of Mother's baby at the hands of the guests. In the film, the baby is killed by Him's followers and eaten, which Time noted as a nod to the crucifixion and communion. Meanwhile, Him allows for his son to be sacrificed, not dissimilar to God.
5. The Artist
Probably the most revealing (and disturbing) theory about Mother! is that it's about the hell an artist puts those closest to him through. Him is a struggling poet, looking for inspiration and adoration anywhere he can get it, even if it means the life of his child and the complete destruction of his wife. The idea that artists are difficult to live with is not a new one, but some critics have publicly wondered whether or not Him is really a stand in for Aronofsky. Bardem hinted at this theory, telling the press at the Venice Film Festival, via Variety, "It's about the relation between a creator and his creation — call it a piece of writing or a house or the Earth itself."
If Him is meant to be representative of the director himself, he certainly does not paint a flattering self-portrait. Or, does he? Yes, Him is selfish and reckless and flat out abusive in pursuit of his art, but he is also the last man standing. Where all else dies or fades, Him remains, as does his poetry, just as Aronofsky remains to make another film.
Perhaps the most generous interpretation of Mother! is that it is a statement condemning sexism. Speaking with Variety, Lawrence called it "a feminist movie," noting how the film depicts the horror of a husband taking control of his wife. Throughout the film, Him takes up more and more space in the house, diminishing Mother and belittling her, rendering her helpless. In the end, he consumes her. The story of Mother! is one that all women recognize: we are told to give everything to others, to care for our loved ones, even if it costs us our own lives and personalities. In that sense, Mother! is really just a heightened depiction of an unhappy, patriarchal marriage.
Now, whether or not you choose to see Mother! as an allegory for a tortured artist or global warming is up to you.