ByS.C. O'Donnell, writer at
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S.C. O'Donnell

Darren Aronofsky’s divisive new film, mother!, has elicited extreme reactions from audiences and critics alike. While the film itself (and the metaphors it contains) are open to interpretation, some of the visuals are extremely disturbing. People have walked out of the film because of the graphic imagery. One scene goes far beyond what most people can stomach, but it serves an important purpose in crafting the film's message.

Note: Spoilers for mother! follow.

Towards the end of the film, the character played by (who is credited as “Mother”) gives birth to a child. Leading up to the birth, Mother’s house is overrun by hordes of people who are relentless in the destruction of her meticulously-maintained house, and even each other. Because of the horde’s destructive nature, Mother wants to keep her baby as far away from them as possible. The baby's father, Him (), has other plans.

Once Mother falls asleep, Him hands the baby over to the people. Mother awakens from her sleep and desperately follows her child, which is nearly floating above the fray, being crowd surfed away from Mother. She watches in horror as the baby’s neck is snapped. The visual of a newborn having its neck broken is terrible, but mother! goes one step further, and once Lawrence’s character reaches the edge of the crowd, she sees that the people are now consuming the baby.

While this series of events could be considered beyond the threshold of decency, like most of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, the visual is almost wholly metaphorical. That doesn't make the images easier to condone. Yet the graphic scenes in mother! are part of an important message that people need to understand.

The Point Of The Graphic Scenes In mother!

mother! [Credit: Paramount]
mother! [Credit: Paramount]

During an interview with Vanity Fair, discussed how many different works influenced mother!, with the two most important being the Bible and The Giving Tree. Both works can be seen in the imagery and message mother! conveys, but the scene where Mother loses her baby is an example of both influences being combined to spell out the message that mankind destroys and consumes.

The baby is key to the message, because it symbolizes Earth’s natural resources, which humans cut down, burn, destroy, and consume daily without a second thought. The visual of a human baby being ripped from its Mother, to be destroyed and consumed, hits harder than seeing a tree cut down. We have more empathy for our own kind than trees or animals.

In Aronofksy's interview with Vanity Fair, he conveyed his vision of the movie's message – which is apparent in the scene where Mother's baby is destroyed:

We are telling the story of Mother Nature turning into a female energy, and we defile the earth. We call her dirt. We don’t clean up after our mess. We drill in her. We cut down her forests. We take without giving back. That’s what the movie is.

From the biblical perspective, the baby can also symbolize Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed to cleanse mankind of our sins. In mother!, the baby is literally the son of God (or at least the film’s representation of a godlike figure), and that figure, Him, passes the baby to the people. The people then kill the child and consume his flesh. The ritual of consuming the flesh of the Son of God is representative of the Eucharist (or Holy Communion) practiced in the Catholic church, where bread and wine are consumed to signify "the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity" of Christ.

The metaphors used to convey mankind’s consumption of natural resources and the Holy Communion, and the Crucifixion of Christ, may seem like they don't mix, but they fit very nicely into Aronofsky's message. Both speak to the idea of sacrifice, and in a way, they speak to mankind's willingness to take other sacrifices for granted.

Whether it was Jesus's sacrifice, or the natural resources we take from the Earth, humans forget that sometimes we need to give something up as well. In mother!, mankind is wholly selfish, but if we want to survive as a species, we have to make sacrifices as well. To the film's point, We need to start giving back, instead of taking.

Darren Aronofsky may have crossed a line when he used infanticide and cannibalism to convey his message. The visual, however, was meant to stick in the minds of every audience. To that point, Aronofsky was successful – outlandishly so – in creating symbolism that is hard to forget. Without context, the scene is abominable, but when paired with the symbolism behind the visual, it becomes a piece of art that conveys a powerful message.

Did you think Darren Aronofsky went too far with that one scene in mother!? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below.

(Source: Vanity Fair)


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