Darren Aronofsky's latest film, Mother!, can be interpreted in many different ways, but the Christian allegory is uncompromisingly clear. The characters on screen are more than just people and the message the film is trying to portray is a rather polarizing one. Not only because it explicitly argues that people will more often than not surrender to religion at the cost of their humanity, but also because this film presents God as the root of evil itself. Here, God is not just God; he is also the Devil.
But is the film right in suggesting this is so? Are God and the Devil the same thing? After watching the film I'm divided in whether to agree and disagree about God's effect on humanity, as well as the way humanity chooses to venerate God. Mother! tackles both of these concepts, but in the end it concludes with a whole different idea whatsoever.
Note: The following contains heavy spoilers for Mother!
'Mother!'s Version Of God's Relationship To Humanity Is Ominous
In Mother! the male protagonist, Him, is a passionate poet. Him, as the film wants us to believe, is meant to be God. His job is to create and celebrate life, as he stated himself in the film. But when it comes to his wife, Mother (Jennifer Lawrence), and later their newborn baby son, Him doesn't feel complete. He truly loves Mother, but his greatest creation is the immaculate world he perceives he's created and he indulges in it as a famous celebrity. This comes about after Him allows two individuals, Man and Woman (representing Adam and Eve), to invade his and Mother's home and get unnervingly comfortable.
They're fans of his poetry, but it doesn't take long for religious fanaticism and human nature to poison these strangers, which in turn poisons Him and Mother's home. The two strangers smoke in the house, have sex in public and don't even clean after themselves. It's a brutal and ugly portrayal of how Christianity perceives original sin, but the point is struck even harder when the stranger's sons (representatives of brothers Cain and Abel) arrive at the house.
One of the brothers dies by the hand of the other brother and Him allows the family of four to host the wake in the home. This of course brings more strangers into the house. At this moment Him is more alive than ever and enjoys the company of the strangers more than even the company of his own wife. It is sickening to the point that Him's pretentious obsession with admiration completely blocks him of seeing Mother's ever-growing irritation with the strangers in the house. In a clear reference to the Old Testament and the Great Flood, the strangers eventually leave after a pipe bursts in the house and forces them out. The brief state of tranquility allows Mother and Him to conceive a son. These events inspire Him to write his greatest poem and that is when more people start to fully invade Him and Mother's home.
Humanity, as personified by the plethora of people who invade Him and Mother's home, is the stranger in the house and their zeal for Him leads to the house's ultimate destruction. The house that Mother and Him built is destroyed and belittled by Him's own creation, his maniacal followers. The Biblical allegory is strong here because history has shown us how ruthless and disgusting humanity can be when they are backed up by the word of God. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the KKK and global terrorism are all just some examples of what religious zealots are capable of and ways in which we can better connect this allegory to the real-life destruction humans have wreaked in the name of God.
Him and Mother's home is completely torn apart by humanity and it's when Mother gives birth to a baby boy, meant to represent Jesus Christ, that we are led to believe that this baby is who will make these strangers better human beings, but Aronofsky flips this idea entirely.
Understanding Aronofsky's Approach To Christianity And God
What follows after the baby boy is born is one of cinema's most gruesome scenes — ever. Him and Mother's baby is murdered, his guts eaten by Him's followers. The remaining rotting baby body parts are put on an altar and praised by all. I couldn't help but think of how this scene was a literal allusion to Holy Communion in Christianity (consuming the body and blood of Christ via bread and wine). Naturally, Mother lashes out in anger and disgust, killing everyone in the house for the death of her son. Incredibly, Him is indifferent to all of this. After Mother surrenders to death at the end, Him rips into Mother's chest and takes out her heart, following to reset everything that had just transpired.
Essentially, this sequence of events has happened over and over again, implying that humanity is God's greatest creation, despite being His greatest failure. Moreover, the film argues this cycle is bound to gruesomely repeat itself if things do not change. The newborn baby represents Christianity and the last hope for humanity. But is God really that egotistical and self-centered to just let his wife die, and conceive a son not out of love but out of necessity, all for the sake of admiration?
The film suggests that God put forth the creation of Christianity to sustain His pretentious ego, because to Him, all that matters in the world is that the world knows He exists. The film wants us to believe this, but it purposefully ignores the good that God has brought upon his followers, despite if He does exists or not.
Before the baby's murder, Aronofsky shows us a delicate scene of the baby smiling and Mother reciprocating her immense love; a symbol of the beauty that Him is able to create. This beautiful sense of hope and beauty is quickly ripped from us with the baby's gruesome death. Again, the film wants us to see Him as an artist in much need of affectionate admiration, and when poems and a house alone can't satisfy his follower's needs, Him presents them with his only son, an extension of himself. It's a sad idea that Christianity (personified as the baby) is God's last straw in bringing his followers back into his domain, that when humanity eventually fails and the apocalypse comes along, it doesn't really matter if anything works because God can just start again, as Him did in the film when Mother killed all the people in the house. Him's only goal in the cycle of life is to be admired, even if the means to his admiration includes the deliverance of evil, a sure sign this is a darker interpretation of God as Christians understand him.
God Is Comfortable Being Cruel, Which Will Make Audiences Uncomfortable
The film combines God and the Devil as one, but that is fundamentally impossible in the Christian faith. Christianity presents God as the embodiment of righteousness and love, so to mesh Him with the Devil — the embodiment of evil in Christianity — is a striking and daring choice from Aronofsky. Mother! is a beautifully-crafted piece of exquisite art, but at its core it wants us to see God and the Devil as one self. It depicts God as a self-centered, egotistical celebrity who only cares about his ever-lasting fame, and when all burns down and all is lost, God doesn't even try to learn from his mistakes, instead, he does everything the same all over again, as if finding joy in seeing the Earth crumble to its ashes.
Thus, this rendition of God is not the same God that Christians believe in. This is a different idea of God, an idea that I'm having a hard time agreeing with, but also a hard time disagreeing with.
You can watch Mother! now in theaters.