I shall be digging deep and exhuming all of mother!, so don’t read any further unless you’re ready to see mother! completely naked.
This post is simply a crib sheet to the film. I shall do a proper review when the DVD release date approaches, but I sense there are a lot of readers with many questions on this film, so I thought I’d address them here. Much of my analysis was gleaned from Collider, Vanity Fair, The Telegraph U.K., and Time, though I’ve also added my own 2 pence as concerns the ending. I haven’t seen this perspective mentioned elsewhere, so I thought I’d publish it here.
The General Idea: The film is about the Bible, especially Genesis and bits of the New Testament. Him (Javier Bardem) plays the poet/creator, and Jennifer Lawrence plays Mother, meaning Mother Earth.
The Initial Guests: Man (Ed Harris) represents Adam and Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) represents Eve. They arrive in the Garden but partake of the forbidden fruit (by breaking the crystal) and so are thrown out of the house. Before they can be exiled, however, the Oldest Son (Domhnall Gleeson) kills his Younger Brother (Brian Gleeson) in a retelling of the tale in Genesis when Cain kills his younger brother Abel.
The Staircase: The massive, spiral staircase in the house represents the border between Heaven (the upper rooms where, later, the guests are discouraged from going) and earth (the rooms in the bottom where the people live). One reader, likka, has mentioned in the comments that it is also a symbol of the Tower of Babel, which people wanted to create in order to reach Heaven, but then God dispersed them to the four corners of the world (which would explain the Poet’s separating people of different origins). [Heartfelt thanks to Simon, likka and John in the comments who’ve developed this idea.]
The Bloody Floorboard: The earth is a living being, not an object. When she’s hurt, she bleeds.
The Sink: The sink that collapses represents the flood. Humans are mucking about and not doing as they’re told, so a flood is sent to clear them all out of the earth.
The Basement: The hidden room in the basement represents the entrance to Hell.
The Poem: After the Flood has cleared everyone away, the Creator makes a new creation which is idolized by the world. Unfortunately, the creation is so beautiful that everyone comes to the house and destroy it by their sheer number, greed and selfishness. This new creation? Simon (in the comments) realises this is the New Testament! The New Testament of the Bible caused people to arrive en masse to the Church on Earth, and then to treat the planet badly, using their love of God as an excuse.
The Baby: The Baby is Jesus, and is sacrificed by the adoring masses and then eaten in a parallel to the Communion, where Christians eat the body and drink the blood of Christ.
Peeing Jesus: [Brought up by Squilliams in the comments] The image of Jesus peeing all over the people that pass him around is meant to symbolise baptism, I’m convinced.
The Yellow Powder / Liquid: No clue. Please leave a comment explaining what it is. [In the comments, one reader (thank you, John), points out that the powder is a sort of elixir to calm her shattered nerves. I’m just wondering if there isn’t a more allegorical meaning. What would the planet earth take if it were feeling stressed?]
The Crystal: The crystal represents Love. In the final sequence, the Poet desperately asks if she’s still in love with him and she begrudgingly admits that she does. Then he asks her for one more thing before she goes and she says she only has one thing left to give. Following that, he reaches into her chest and pulls the crystal from where her heart would be. [A shout out to Simon, who explained this in the comments!]
Here are some questions that I and other readers have which are still considered to be unanswered. Will you be the one to solve the mysteries of the womb?
The Yellow Powder: As mentioned above. Yes, it’s some sort of elixir, but what does it represent in the film? If Mother is the planet earth, what does the earth take to feel better? The more I think about it and read the generous comments below, I suspect the powder/liquid might be happiness. Why Mother Earth would need artificial/outside happiness is beyond me, but the powder does make her happier and, as brettrubicristian points out in the comments, she disposes of he powder once her baby/Jesus is born. Maybe she no longer needs the artificial happiness once she has a baby? Do any of you dear readers agree or disagree with that analysis? Do you have any alternative ideas?
Adam’s sickness: A dear friend of mine recently asked at a dinner party, “Saint Pauly, Adam is constantly sick and coughing in the film. What The Fuck is up with that?” Good question! I’d completely forgotten how important it is to the first act. Would any of you have an idea as to what the first human might be ill with? I could offer that it’s to symbolize he is mortal, thus is fatally ill with the human condition, though this feels a bit vague. Any better ideas?
Earth’s exile: Jennifer Lawrence’s character cannot leave the house. If Mother Earth is Eden / the planet, this would be logical, but then begs the question where does the Poet / God go when he walks around? And from whence come all of the other people / fans?
[What follows is my personal interpretation] I think that Darren Aronofsky strays from his initial outline in the third act. Rather than continuing to focus on the Biblical aspect of the film, he opens it up to include aspects of his own, personal story in the movie.
Aronofsky sees himself as God, in a sense and, as he’s an atheist, this doesn’t trouble him all that much. After all, God and film directors are both creators who are looking to please the masses. Aronofsky realizes here that he’s drawn to the adoration of fans, to the point where he unwittingly lets them distract him from his personal life. Like the Poet in the film, he finds it difficult to turn away admirers, even when they are invading his privacy.
That adoration can be more important to a creator than the love of a partner. After all, what is the logical outcome when presented with a choice between the love of one or the love of many? For someone who craves love and attention, that choice is an easy one.
When the creator turns his back on the person who loves him the most, she then destroys the relationship between them. She’s the one who demolishes the house, not the others. That she leaves saddens him, but also prepares the way for a new relationship where he’ll continue to make the same mistakes. My personal take on the ending of the film, then, is that it’s autobiographical. Aronofsky recognizes his own need for attention and admiration can interfere with his personal relationships, going so far as causing some of them to end. Yet he doesn’t learn from this, because when one relationship ends, he simply moves on to the next.
That’s it then! What do you think of my analysis? Do you have any questions about the symbolism? Does my interpretation of the ending ring true? Please feel to leave a comment with any questions or observations of your own! I’d love to hear what you think!
Also, if you know somebody who has seen or might want to see the film, please consider sharing it on Facebook or other social media! The more of us there are, the merrier it will be when we decipher the entire movie!
After having seen the film a second time, I have some new questions and observations!
Why is Adam a doctor? It’s mentioned several times in the film that Adam is a doctor / orthopaedist; too many times for it not to have meaning.
What was the thing in the toilet? The day after Adam is sick in the toilet, She notices there’s a beast which resembles a heart which is clogging the bowl. She prods at it with the plunger, it screeches and then emits an inky substance before disappearing. Does anyone have a clue as to what this could mean?
The lighter: Adams cigarette lighter is a major symbol in the story, as it appears several times. First, when Adam smokes in the house. Then, we see it again when he lights a cigarette knowing she doesn’t want him to smoke in the house. We then catch a glimpse of it during a later riot scene, and finally she uses it to light the oil on fire. The lighter, then, would seem to symbolise humanity’s destructive capactiy.
The symbol on the lighter: It has been misidentified as a Pisces symbol, but I think the article at Popsugar successfully identifies it as a Wendehorn. The symbol represents life’s great opposites (man / woman, fire / ice, night / day, life / death…), which leads me to conclude Adam has introduced a balance into the house. The home was only heaven when he arrived, but he brings a sense of death, disorder, chaos, sickness, mortality to a place where none existed before. Does this interpretation ring true for you?