Mother! – A Movie Layered in Symbolism

“Seeing is believing.”

Mother! is indeed one of the best movies of 2017. There are so many hidden layers that have great symbolism behind them, and I personally feel that it is imperative to share these meanings to better understand the complexity of this masterful movie.

Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is not for those looking for a love story with a happy ending. He believes in trying new things and thinking outside the box, hence creating a shocker! It is, however, a phenomenal film and a must to add to your art-house collection. Mother! grabs you and makes you think outside the box… and perhaps, gives you a different perspective of life or the world around us in general.

Mother! was both written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream 2000), and stars Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games 2012), Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men 2007), Ed Harris (Needful Things 1993) and Michelle Pfeiffer (What Lies Beneath 2000).

Mother! is a story about a young, loving and talented couple, played by Jennifer and Javier, who have their relationship tested to the limit when uninvited guests (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive at their refurbished home, disrupting their tranquil existence and setting their lives in a downward spiral.

One thing that makes Mother! unique is that it’s nonlinear – the movie starts in reverse. I, for one, love nonlinear films. Many critics have bashed the movie, saying that there’s no plot – but that’s not true as characters need to get from point A to point B. In the most basic storyline, you have the young couple being intruded upon by two strangers, who take over their house, representing a home invasion,

By beginning at the end, the story could symbolize or represent the Ouroborus – the cycle of eternal birth, death, and rebirth. The snake eating its owl tail in a never-ending cycle simulates the cycle of life with no beginning or end. This specific theme represents chaos and destruction creating order, rebirth and new beginnings.

In Javier’s character’s room, there is an crystal sitting on the mantel, the only thing left in the ashes after the house is burned to the ground. This could be a metaphor for the fruit in the Garden of Eden – the seed of knowledge and life itself. This is the heart and soul of the house and is what keeps it alive. This is why Javier’s character holds this object so dear and prevents anyone from touching it, in fear of it being destroyed accidentally. Or so we think…

Jennifer’s character could be a metaphor for the Feminine Divine, a life-force that works hand in hand with the creator. She could also be another form of Mother Nature, hence the film’s title.

Javier’s character, known as Him, is the Poet or Creator, and also represents God or the Masculine Divine, a force that needs to work with the Feminine Divine to have life breathed into his creations for them to thrive and have purpose. The more he creates, the more he fills the house/universe he’s created, and therefore attracts humanity’s attention, who then worship him to the point of a cult-like following. As he stands at the top of the spiraled staircase with the skylight roof above his head, he wears a sort of “halo” as he overlooks his creation from above.

The house and its surroundings represent earth with nature surrounding it, as Javier’s character mentions it belongs to everyone… hence the gathering of all the cultures, races and walks of life that come to their house. Each room is a section of earth where all humanity is conjoined, yet divided by their own beliefs and values. The house starts to decay as Jennifer becomes more distraught with her life and surroundings, which represents the damage humanity causes in the world and the negative effect they have. Human thought and emotion play a big part in aiding in the creation or destruction of all animate and inanimate objects around us.

There are moments where you can see Mother connecting with the house, physically touching it. A heart is seen beating within the walls, decaying with each moment of suffering the Mother is going through. This could represent her as the very heart of the house – and with each passing moment of distress she sustains, the house reacts to that as well, where the floorboards rot and bleed as if they are literally alive and covered in gaping wounds. Mother! gives a new meaning to the phrase “Home is where the heart is…”

There are spirals and shapes such as hexagons in the house.  These represent the universe with its planetary alignment – or, with earth being the main focus – with the universe surrounding it in a spiral of everlasting eternity and life.

A shrine is also built to honor the Creator/God, and a wall is visible with an ever-expanding collage of the face of the Creator which could represent the Tree of Life –  rooting with each new follower or creation.

Michelle’s character, Woman, and Ed’s character, Man, could be representative of Adam and Eve as they are the first visitors or invaders of the house, bringing along with them their sons – who represent Cain and Abel, with one son killing the other in a fit of rage.

The ultimate creation at the end of Mother!, is the child that the Creator and Mother conceive. There is a sense that the Creator is never satisfied with what he’s formed and is always striving to make more, to build upon his creations, gaining himself mass amounts of followers. He becomes self-absorbed with his cult status to the point where he loses himself in his work, thus neglecting the most important being in his universe – the Mother and their newborn – who started it all from the beginning by breathing life into his world.

Together, their ultimate creation is a child – and as humanity/cult followers are invading their house by the dozens, obsessed with absorbing every piece of the Creator, they become animalistic and destroy everything in their paths, killing the universe metaphorically by demolishing the house.

The twist at the end is not only sensational but inhumane and shows how greedy and selfish humans can become when blindly following a path and destroying everything and everyone in its way, remaining ignorant. They destroy the sacrificial lamb – the ultimate sacrifice – the gift they have been given by the Creator and Mother, all with no remorse.

Final Thoughts on Mother!

Mother! is at top of my list for its graphic yet groundbreaking scenes and indepth symbolism. It is definitely a memorable movie and a must to watch.

About Samantha Françoise McCabe

Samantha Françoise McCabe is a Capetonian, South African born aspiring artist/photographer and editor who stems from a creative and artist background. She started as a Ballerina and dancer of other mediums, She worked in the film/media industry for a few years, starting as a movie extra and moving upward to producing an African Horror indie film with her husband, who is a British born director and author. She has a small art collection that is ever expanding and has a few years editing experience which involves conceptual art and conceptual writing for ongoing projects with her husband. Teamwork makes for an interesting concoction of creativity and the challenges are rewarding. Other than her art contribution to Brilliant Flash Fiction, she is a freelance literary editor and Intern at Dark Regions Press. Favourite books are written by Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, Clive Barker and Steven Laws. The book that got her into the horror genre was The Devil’s End by D.A. Fowler. When it comes to cinema, Hammer Horror is on the top of the list.

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