Darren Aronofsky‘s psychological thriller mother! is not what you expect. Whatever loose expectations the purposefully confusing trailer gives you will be shattered by the film’s assaulting final act, as it twists your sense of reality until you no longer know which way is up. ‘Batshit’ just about describes it.
If you’ve seen it, you know what we’re talking about. You’ve also probably been left with about a million and one questions, some of which Aronosky has taken the time to answer.
Here we go.
Why is there an exclamation mark in mother!?
He just liked the look of it, apparently. Talking to Entertainment Weekly, he said:
“The very first thing I wrote — before I started on the script — were the six letters of ‘mother’ and then I paused for a second. I remember this so clearly: I pressed shift-1 and put the exclamation point. That title was there before I wrote a word.”
And why is the film’s title uncapitalised?
mother! is a grammatical pain in the ass to write. In a recent Reddit AMA, Aronofsky said to look to the film’s credits for answers.
“To find out why there’s a lowercase ‘m’ read the credits and look for the letter that isn’t capitalised. Ask yourself what’s another name for this character?”
(Yes, Aronofsky sounds like an English short answer question. Moving on.)
All the leads in mother! are nameless. Jennifer Lawrence‘s character is called ‘mother’, her husband, played by Javier Bardem, is called ‘Him’, a married couple who intrude on their apparent domestic bliss, played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, are ‘man’ and ‘woman’, and their two sons, played by IRL brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson, are ‘younger brother’ and ‘oldest son’.
Essentially, it sets up Bardem, as the only actor with a capitalised name, to be God (referred throughout the Bible as ‘He’ and ‘Him’).
Wait, it’s all a religious allegory?
Yep. And a word of warning: from here on in, we’re going to be getting into some spoilers.
Speaking to Collider, Aronofsky said:
“There [are] completely Biblical elements that I’m surprised—some people are really picking up on [them] immediately, other people have no clue, and I think that’s just how people are brought up. But that was the structure of the film was the Bible, using that as a way of discussing how humans have lived here on Earth. But it was also meant to be sort of ambiguous because that’s not really a story, it’s more of a structural thing. A lot of people aren’t picking up on all of it, there’s lots of little things and Easter Eggs and how things connect, and I think that’s the fun of unpacking the movie.”
In fact, the crystal that’s oh-so-precious to Bardem is meant to represent the apple on the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Once its broken by Harris and Pfeiffer (representing Adam and Eve), Bardem boards up his office from out the outside world.
The Gleeson brothers are stand-ins for Cain and Abel (in the Bible, Cain murders Abel, much like the Domhnall kills Brian). And Lawrence’s baby, which is ripped from her, paraded, and eventually killed and eaten by the hoards of fanatical worshippers that have invaded her and Bardem’s home, is Jesus.
During one screening, Aronofsky was literally handing out ‘the mother’s prayer’, an adaptation of The Lord’s Prayer.
But it’s also an allegory for climate change.
On top of the religious allegory is a film about how we are destroying our home planet. In this reading, Lawrence is also mother nature.
“I wanna make a metaphorical connection to not your home, not my home, but OUR home,” he said on Reddit.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, he said:
“We are telling the story of Mother Nature turning into a female energy, and we defile the earth. We call her dirt. We don’t clean up after our mess. We drill in her. We cut down her forests. We take without giving back. That’s what the movie is.”
And speaking to Variety:
“[The idea for this film] came out of living on this planet and sort of seeing what’s happening around us and not being able to do anything. I just had a lot of rage and anger, and I wanted to channel it into one emotion, into one feeling. In five days I wrote the first version of the script….It just sort of poured out of me.”
He told The Hollywood Reporter to think of the film as beginning on the sixth day of the Bible, when God created all living things, including people. Huge if true.
And finally: what was with the golden liquid Jennifer Lawrence kept drinking?
Aronofsky is staying tight-lipped on that one. “That’s the one thing I have not shared with anyone,” he told Thrillist. “But if you see it a couple more times you’ll get a vibe for it.”
If you can watch mother! several times without needing a really good therapy session in between, more power to you.
When we spoke to Lawrence about the film, she told us that her first thought upon reading the script was, “I need to get this script out of my house.” TBH, we can understand why.