A number of people have asked me what I think of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film. A few of them have asked me what I think it means.
For me, Mother! is built around layers of meaning, some of which resonate more holistically for me than others, but all of which are defensible and even persuasive interpretations.
Now that I’ve seen the film (my first trip to the movies since foot surgery a month ago, which merits my own enthusiastic punctuation!), I let myself read an article published last week in the New York Times revealing the interpretations expressed by Aronofsky and stars of the film Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.
I think most viewers will pick up on the fact early in the movie that it is an allegory, but there are at least three major interpretations floating around as to the particular morals of this story: the two main characters represent Mother Nature and God; the two main characters represent Poet and Muse; and, the two main characters represent, more broadly, the masculine and the feminine where the public (constructed) world disrupts the private (natural) world.
In each case – and the power and beauty of the film for me is that I think all of these layers work in tandem – the power dynamics are gendered and clearly delineated, and themes speak directly to issues that have been important in various iterations of my own work.
The unfolding relationship between the poet and the muse has the strongest coherence (to me) as a narrative through line for the film, and it suggests a cycle that is recognizable and ongoing in the larger culture.
This is a pattern in life and in art that I have rejected so long as I have recognized it as the socially constructed prison that it is, a paradigm designed to situate men in the role of creator and to confine women to the position of helpmate.
Where’s the fun (for women) in that?
Virginia Woolf knew. Give me a room of my own or a home with a co-creator partner instead of turning the house of my dreams into a chamber of nightmares (and never-ending upkeep).
I won’t address production elements and performance here since most of the commentary floating around is about narrative interpretation, but the film is beautifully crafted and features strong performances.
Mother! is not a film I recommend for everyone – only for people who want to think deeply about film and culture. It may not be my favorite Aronofsky film (or even in my top three), but seeing it was a privilege.