For months before Darren Aronofsky's latest movie was released, fans eager to learn more about the story were provided with just one meagre synopsis that revealed next to nothing about the plot of mother!.
“A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.”
Much like the central relationship that lies quite literally at the heart of the film, fans too were tested by the secrecy that enveloped mother!... that is, until two posters were released that contained a number of hidden clues. Like a gift from the gods, these sacred works of art didn't just tease us with plot details though. The reality is that these two posters actually explained the entire story of mother! months before the film was even released. Needless to say, spoilers will ensue.
Breaking Down The Symbolism Of 'Mother!'
Released months apart, the two posters for mother! push Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem to the fore in eerie poses that reveal more about the movie than it may first appear.
It's easy to lose sight of what mother! is really about among all of the insanity and baby-eating, but for many, the film is a biblical parable, one that symbolizes the eternal struggle between Mother Earth and a Judeo-Christian god. Described only as Mother and Him in the film's credits, it's no coincidence then that these promotional materials portray both characters in a religious light, evoking biblical imagery of hell and the Garden of Eden in their artwork.
In the first poster, Jennifer Lawrence literally offers out her heart, a theme that remains central to the narrative of mother! from the very beginning, where we see Him restore the vitality of his house through a crystal heart. As mother! progresses, Lawrence's character continues to devote every aspect of her being to Him, obsessively renovating the house while supporting his creative needs. After giving all that she has, including even her own child, Mother is eventually consumed by fire in the climax of the film. Even then though, Him still requires one more thing from Mother and that's her heart, which he pulls out of her chest to begin the cycle anew.
A closer look at #JenniferLawrence's poster also reveals further clues that unearth the narrative of mother!, including an old, tattered photo of Javier Bardem's character that's hidden away in the bottom right corner of the image. Here, it's hinted that Him is present in all things, always watching like the omni-present God that he symbolizes. The likes of Ed Harris's character and the rest of Him's devout worshippers venture from far and wide to see their God, clutching similar photos of him as they end their pilgrimage in carnage.
Another clue hidden inside a flower on the bottom-left was thought to be a jewellery box by many. However, upon seeing the film in full, it becomes clear that this is actually a door-knob, one that quite literally unlocks the secrets of the film.
The heart of Mother Earth, the one that Him uses to bring life to the world, is locked away in the room's most important house. Despite the fragility of this heart, Him is eager to allow people into the house, eager to be worshipped by humanity. In this sense, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer represent Adam and Eve in the film, quickly becoming obsessed with this heart, much like the apple in the Garden of Eden. Of course, it doesn't take long for humanity to ruin their time in Paradise, accidentally shattering the crystal heart, despite Mother's protestations. Once this first 'sin' is committed, chaos is unleashed soon after, culminating in a mad orgy of violence and ritualistic #horror that ends in flames.
How Does The Second Poster Connect To The Narrative Of The First One?
Javier Bardem's poster is also fascinating, depicting his character as a god of wrath, one who actively wields the flames of destruction like the biblical god of old. Fire is both destructive and cleansing in mother!, ridding the house (and therefore earth) of humanity as punishment for their sins. These are the faces that we see entangled in the fire around Him, the sinners who brutally attacked Lawrence's character in a frightening allegory that addresses the pollution that we inflict on the Earth today.
Eagle-eyed fans may have also spotted the image of a baby reflected in the orb (symbolizing the Earth) that Him is holding and this too is another reason why the cult-like invaders are ultimately punished at the end of mother! After Lawrence and Bardem's characters create a child together, Him decides to snatch it away from Mother and give it freely to the world. However, humanity quickly claims the baby as their own, feeding upon its flesh in a way that's deliberately reminiscent of biblical Christians who eat the flesh of Jesus Christ in worship. Mother Earth strikes back, violently killing a number of humans before cleansing her home completely with fire.
That brings us to the final clue which links both posters and is arguably the most important symbol of all. From the beginning, Her is wary of the lighter that's brought into the house, asking Ed Harris's character to not smoke inside. When he ignores her, Mother Earth throws the lighter out of reach, seemingly recognising its destructive potential.
However, towards the end, this fire becomes her salvation, enabling Mother to cleanse her defiled home of the human invaders who have destroyed everything that she holds dear. The lighter represents the first instance of conflict between humanity and Mother, but it also proves to be the only way to end the conflict too, enabling all of Him's creations to rise quite literally from the ashes at the end like an allegorical phoenix.
Further allusion to the religious ramifications of this act can also be found upon deeper examination of the markings that adorn the lighter. The remarkable similarity here to the symbol of Pisces hints at a direct connection between this cleansing fire and Jesus, linked by the astronomical image of fish that's often associated with them both. Evidence from an old Geocities web site also suggest that this symbol could be linked to an ancient rune known as The Wendehorn, which represents the links between nature’s eternal laws.
By prominently including this unique marking in the promotional material released for mother!, it affirms the importance of the lighter, particularly in the final act, resetting the movie's narrative to begin anew once again.
Other clues planted across the movie's social media accounts further cement the almost unfathomable scale of Aronofsky's modern masterpiece, one which is equally as ambitious as it is disturbing. Who else would have the audacity to tease such huge plot points months before their film is even released? The director who traumatised his lead star to the point of injury, that's who.
How did you personally interpret the story of 'mother!'? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!