I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about, why this film is so contentious, and why this film has so many theories around it. Mother! is quite simple, really, and once you realize its basic allegorical framework, it’s a pretty darn good film.
First off, Darren Aronofsky makes intense films, but they are always simple, high concept, and unidirectional. My one qualm with him as a filmmaker is that his films are one-dimensional and hold so close to their concept they don’t allow anything else to affect their narratives. Requiem for a Dream is about addiction; Pi is about Obsession and so on. Mother! is about Inspiration. It is about the inspiration of creation, of an artist’s constant feel that nothing is ever enough, that one must perpetually create no matter of success or failure.
The artist in Mother! is God, played by Javier Bardem, known as Him.
Inspiration (Mother Nature) is played by Jennifer Lawrence, the Mother.
Earth, which was created by God when inspired by Mother Nature, is the House.
Adam is played by Ed Harris, the Man.
Eve is played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Woman.
The Apple is played by the Crystal Stone which Eve/Michelle Pfeiffer breaks/eats.
Cain is played by Domhnall Gleeson, The Older Brother.
Abel is played by Brian Gleeson, the Younger Brother.
Jesus is played by the Baby, born of God/Bardem and Mother Nature/Jennifer Lawrence.
The rest of the cast is known for their actions. They are humans in the world. They are Fools, Philanderers, Thieves, Priests, Damsels, Cupbearers, and anything else you might imagine.
When God/Bardem writes his Word, the genesis of life is born; Bardem plays a poet who writes with words and creates. God creates life when inspired by Mother Nature; Bardem is inspired to write when inspired by his wife. God’s act of creation bestows the Earth; Bardem’s act of creation bestows the House. Mother Nature takes care of the Earth; Jennifer Lawrence takes care of the house. Mother Nature won’t allow the Earth to be torn apart by the actions of men; Jennifer Lawrence won’t allow the visitors to destroy the house, even if it is in the name of her husband/Javier Bardem/The Poet/God.
God first brings Adam into the world; Bardem invites Harris into the house. Adam is dying so God brings Eve into the world; Bardem invites Pfeiffer to join Harris at the house. Eve bites the Apple and the Garden of Eden is transformed due to God’s wrath; Pfeiffer breaks the Crystal Stone and Bardem’s wrath transforms the state of affairs. The Apple symbolizes the purity of God’s creation, Love. The Crystal Stone symbolizes the purity of Bardem’s creation, Love–presented as a heart transformed into crystal. When purity is wrecked (Apple bitten/Stone destroyed), Love is lost on Earth.
Abel is born and says Cain is mad; Brian Gleeson is born and says Domnhall Gleeson is mad (Aronofsky cheekily cast real siblings–see how simple his conceit is?) Cain kills Abel; Gleeson kills younger Gleeson.
Upon seeing murder, God gives more family to Adam and Eve, extending their family into the world (brings more men into the world) in order to prove his creation is good and he is noble; Bardem invites Adam and Eve’s extended family into the house to prove that his art is good and he is noble. As more and more men come into the world, more and more sin occurs, but God doesn’t care, it is his creation and the men are witness to his creation; as more and more people show up at their house, more disruption occurs, but Bardem does not care, they are his fans and witness to his art. Mother Nature tries to prevent men from destroying the Earth; Jennifer Lawrence tries to prevent people from destroying the house. God ignores the Earth’s disintegration and refuses Mother Nature’s needs by holding fast to his creation of life; Bardem ignore’s the House’s disintegration and refuses Jennifer Lawrence’s needs by holding fast to his art and the creation of a fan base.
At a certain point, God intervenes by writing the First Testament, or perhaps the Ten Commandments; Bardem writes a masterpiece after the first bout of chaos. In spite of his word, the men continue to destroy the Earth and Mother Nature; in spite of Bardem’s poetry, the men continue to destroy the House and Jennifer Lawrence. Men misinterpret God’s word; people misinterpret Bardem’s poetry. A barrage of various things occur over time, men form groups and say they are true witnesses of God, people steal and adulter and fight and so on and so forth until War occurs on Earth; chaos ensues in the house, gangs are created by various fans who say they are greater fans than other fans, loot and destroy and so on until War occurs in the House.
It’s at this point that perspectives of the environmental activist theories of Mother! come to the fore. They are not wrong, the film is certainly in defense of environmentalism and activism, but this is incidental to the story of Mother Nature’s destruction by the evils of men. It just resembles men destroying the earth because of the plain fact that it is an allegory. It’s during scenes in the house that our day and age is depicted.
Men steal land on Earth; visitors steal items from the House. Men steal land because it’s a piece of God’s creation; visitors steal things from the house because they are owned by Bardem. Men prove their own existence through their activity on Earth, but their activity destroys the Earth; visitors prove they were at the house by carving into walls and such (remember the lines “what are you doing?”- Jennifer Lawrence, “Proving I was here”– Visitor’s response). In spite of the Earth’s destruction and how Nature informs that it is being ruined, men continue to destroy the Earth; in spite of the House’s destruction and Jennifer Lawrence’s information that two people jumping on a banister will ruin the house, these two people jump until the house explodes. Once all hell breaks loose, things get worse and worse, with people doing more and more evil shit, destroying the Earth, killing each other, attempting to kill nature and so on; once the banister is destroyed and people go batshit in the house, chaos gets worse and people do even shittier things like steal and destroy and one woman starts shooting people up, says Jennifer Lawrence is next, and so on.
God tends to Nature and for a moment there is peace on Earth; Bardem sees Lawrence in her room and for a moment there is peace in the house. God’s son Jesus is born; Lawrence’s son is born. God lets the world be witness to Jesus, an extension of God, a piece of God himself, but the people instead kill Jesus on the cross then eat his flesh; Bardem lets his fans see the baby, an extension of himself, but the people literally kill the baby and eat his flesh. It’s this kind of crazyness in Mother! that people sometimes get lost on, but it’s this kind of crazyness where the allegory becomes even more blatant than before. And yes, viewing this is brutal, but so is everything you hear about Jesus in the Bible.
After Jesus is killed, Nature get even darker, the plague occurs, and things get worse on Earth; after baby is killed, Jennifer Lawrence gets even more mad, but people wreak even worse havoc in the house.
We now reach our current point in time, circa 2017, so what happens next can be considered Aronofsky prophesying the end of the world. At a certain point, Nature will no longer be able to contain the violence on Earth, or believe that God still loves her, and she will collapse–the apocalypse occurs; at a certain point, Jennifer Lawrence can longer contain the people in her house, or believe that Bardem still loves her, and she collapses–self destruction occurs.
After Nature and the Earth is destroyed, God remains unblemished, tends to Nature, and is inspired by Nature’s Love that it was not enough, he must try again, and Earth must be created anew; After Jennifer Lawrence and the House is destroyed, Bardem remains unblemished, tends to Lawrence, and is inspired by Lawrence’s Love–presented as a heart transformed into crystal–that it was never enough and that he must try again, and the House must be created anew.
Rinse and repeat.