It would seem that the conversation around “mother!” is bigger than the number of people who actually saw the box office flop. Indeed, everyone has their own interpretation about what Darren Aronofsky‘s movie means. Is it an environmental allegory? A Bible story? A tale about the ego of male creatives? A cautionary saga about home renovations? Well, the director himself shares some clues about the film without laying it all out for you.
“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,” he told Collider. “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.”
So yes, it’s a Bible story, but of course, that would be too simple a reading. “mother!” also tackles how we’re treating the environment, fairly head on.
“I started off with the themes, the allegory; I sort of wanted to tell the story of Mother Nature from her point of view. I also realized that making her someone who took care of her home and took care of her man that they were linked, that there was a connection there,” he explained. “So that was like the thematic thing I started with, then I wrote the story, which became a very human story about this couple being invaded by these hordes. And then when you’re executing a film you go back to those original themes always, and you start to figure out, ‘Well how can I express this visually and sonically and with all the different tools I have as a filmmaker?’ So it’s kind of circular.”
Speaking with Vulture, Aronofsky further elaborated on the Mother Nature element of the picture.
“Outside of my film work, all my work is environmental work. So I was interested in doing something in that realm. But I didn’t really want to make a biopic of the guy who founded Greenpeace — even though it’s a fascinating story. But that’s not my style. So I was sort of thinking about how to create this allegory, and then I sort of stumbled on this idea of sort of trying to simplify things to a really basic level; trying to reduce everything to a home and to people in the home,” he said. “And then sort of kind of do a history of where we are right now, and try to sort of do this parallel universe that kind of captures today, in the present, in the world we’re living. And it’s funny: It was written in the eighth year of Obama, and it’s coming out in the first year of Trump. And that, to me, is interesting to see. I mean, the world has changed so much. And it’s just interesting to see how things like that went.”
If you’re not into the movie on those levels, you can also come into “mother!” for the dynamics between Jennifer Lawerence and Javier Bardem, who play a married couple at the center of the escalating chaos, though Aronofsky hopes you grasp the larger ideas too.
“I think I always wanted it to work as a relationship film. We did some early screenings, and people completely only got off on that and had an emotional experience. And then within the room, other people started to see other layers going on. And then it started this really great conversation. I’ve been having a debate with the actors on this because they’re like, ‘Well, you have to let people know the allegory before they go in because otherwise they’re going to miss all these little touches and all these subtle hints you’re giving.’ To me, I think that can impact the conversation afterwards. Because a room full of people, I’d say most people aren’t getting the allegory. And then afterwards, as soon as they hear it, it all starts to click for them, and I think that’s kind of fun. So that’s why I kind of want to keep that on the lowdown. I mean, I’m fine hinting when you write your article that there’s more than meets the eye,” the director stated.
“A big influence was Buñuel, and ‘Exterminating Angel‘ was a big inspiration, where he could basically set up a scenario that comments on something much larger than what’s happening. So I think people sense it,” Aronofsky continued. ” But it’s interesting, because people who just see it as a relationship drama, even though all that crazy stuff happens, I guess they see it as some type of expression of that emotion or something. So I don’t know how it really works that way, but I think it’s okay that if people get it that way and they feel it that way.”
Lastly, for those viewing the movie as a treatise on the creative process, that wasn’t really Aronofsky’s aim.
“I knew people would stumble on that. It wasn’t really autobiographical in that way. I was more basing on the character coming out of how I wanted to portray the character Javier plays. I think that was just a result of the truth of playing out this narcissistic character,” he said.
Thoughts? How did you read “mother!”? Let us know in the comments section.