What mother is really about

Leave it to Darren Aronofsky to lob a cinematic concussion grenade right in the middle of September. The writer/director’s latest film, mother!, is layer upon layer of allegory and metaphor, a movie that almost demands a long conversation afterwards to process what you’ve just seen. It’s earned a rare “F” Cinemascore, and Paramount even had to issue a statement defending their decision to release the film (read that here), which is a move that strikes me as crazier than anything that happens in the actual movie.

Aronofsky and his star Jennifer Lawrence have spoken about how they intended the movie to be about Mother Nature, and in a new interview, the filmmaker answers more questions about what mother! is really about. But do his intentions matter any more?

What mother! is Really About

Speaking with Collider, Aronofsky explained that he structured the film using the Bible as a foundation:

“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.”

But he also talks about the movie being a cautionary tale involving the way humanity is treating the environment:

“The reason it’s hard for people sometimes is I’m pointing the finger at all of us about what’s going on and what we’re doing and how we’re treating Mother, but it is a cautionary tale too and I’m an optimist. I feel like the final chapter of Mother hasn’t been written yet and we can still write our way. All that said, at the core of it I wanted to make a film that was really intense and entertaining and filled with stars and weird stuff and things that just sort of spin people out. So it’s got a bunch of stuff because I think you can’t really go out and make that movie—unless you’re making a documentary—if you’re just trying to make it entertainment. So the first and foremost thing is to entertain people, to get people to come to the theater. If on top of that you could hang some cool ideas that actually affect people deep inside, sure that’s great. That’s been my goal always.”

Aronofsky admits that the “Mother Nature” metaphor falls apart during the movie’s closing moments (which I won’t describe here), which is part of the reason that I personally find the movie more interesting to engage with when you think about it as a treatise on toxic relationships and the things women have to endure in their everyday lives (being alternately ignored and relied on, getting attacked when they express an opinion, etc). And on top of that baseline reading, I also found it fascinating to consider what the movie is saying about the relationship a creative person has with his or her art and how that can overshadow the human connection with a loved one. Aronofsky says he planted those seeds as well:

“People are getting the more traditional muse and the creator marriage, suddenly being invaded by all these outside forces and the terror of that—that’s like a good level to get it on. But then it really goes bonkers, the film, and unless you sort of have a sense that we’re talking about other stuff or you allow yourself to take a ride on that, you’re gonna resist it and not have a good trip.”

Update: Twitter user David Ramon shared this tweet with us, and after having seen the film, these posters are definitely worth a closer look.

Do Aronofsky’s Intentions Matter?

The writer/director can talk all day about what he was attempting to say with his movie, and those comments can certainly provide some focus for the audience if they’re looking for guidance in dissecting the film’s themes. (Head to Collider to read even more of his comments if you’re interested.) But ultimately, the movie belongs to the public now: mother! means whatever you want it to mean, as long as you can point to enough textual evidence from the film to make a compelling argument.

In his spoiler review of the movie, /Film’s Josh Spiegel explains a handful of allegories – including a Biblical reading, an exploration of the muse/creator relationship, and a meta-textual commentary on the nature of celebrity – clearly and distinctly, and I’d encourage everyone to read that piece if you’re still searching for some insight into Aronofsky’s ambitious, swing-for-the-fences thriller.

mother! is in theaters right now.

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