Perspective in Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!
“Mother!”, released in 2017 and written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, is a tough watch. You’ll find yourself grimacing, flinching, and at times flat out disturbed, not through cheap scares, disturbing violence or other tricks normally used to easily elicit such responses, but through the complete disregard everyone in this film has for the main character, who is simply labeled in the credits as “Her.” We feel her pain as she is snubbed by her husband, intruded upon by visitors and unfairly judged through no fault of her own. This point of view sheds a different light on the Bible, as “Mother!” quickly descends into a metaphorical retelling of the Bible from creation to apocalypse.
In this film, Her represents Earth, nature, and everything of it. God’s perfect creation. She will be referred to as The Wife from now on. Her husband, simply labeled “Him,” represents God. He will be referred to as The Husband. The Wife and The Husband live in a secluded house, far out in the wilderness. The house is an extension of The Wife, she is Earth and nature, but also the home. The viewer sees the events of the film through the eyes of The Wife. Because of this, you struggle with her because of how The Husband treats her.
He welcomes in two visitors to their home she does not want. Those visitors break into a special room in the house and accidentally destroy The Husband’s dearest possession. Yet he still offers his home to them. The Wife is indignant about this, but powerless to tell him no. Those visitors represent Adam and Eve, and the room they entered, the garden of Eden. Their two sons appear, and one murders the other. The sons represent Cain and Abel. Even with the pain, sin, and destruction these visitors have brought into their home, which The Wife abhors, The Husband still welcomes them. As the movie progresses, more and more visitors continue to arrive. The visitors to The Wife and Husband’s home represent humanity. With them, the visitors bring even more sin, violence, and chaos into the home. Yet still, The Husband loves and forgives them all.
The perspective of “Mother!” is what makes it so striking. We look through the eyes of Earth, the home that God fills with humanity. Humanity, which mars and destroys his perfect creation. The visitors disrespect The Wife. They don’t listen, and berate and curse her when she will not help them. They also disrespect the house, another part of The Wife, by breaking it, vandalizing it, and stealing from it. The mistreatment of The Wife shows us humanity’s mistreatment of God’s creation: Earth, our home. By looking through her eyes we see how absurd and evil humanity’s actions are.
On the other side of this coin, we also see the actions of God himself, represented through The Husband, through The Wife’s lens. When the visitors mistreat her, The Husband simply forgives them every time. He offers them further hospitality; he allows them to live within his home for longer. His wife, Earth, suffers because of it. Especially when their baby child, representing Jesus, is seized and killed by the roaring masses now filling their house. But still he tries to make peace with humanity. The Wife is indignant in all of this. She, just as us, cannot fathom why her husband sacrifices so much of their home, of her, for these people. They do nothing but sin and harm the home, Earth: her. The Husband’s love for the visitors surpasses his love for his wife. God’s love for humanity surpasses the love of Earth and nature.
This presentation of God and Earth as husband and wife rallies our humanistic view to The Wife’s side. We believe a husband should not let these kinds of things happen, that he should not allow anyone to walk over or hurt his wife. This is how Aronofsky makes God look ridiculous, uncaring, and mistaken in his decisions, and humanity as nothing but a scourge.
The point of view of this film is through The Wife’s eyes, and through them we see the biblical story as a sinful catastrophe God allows to happen, and even facilitates, simply because he loves his imperfect creation, humanity, so blindly. Because of humanity’s perpetual sin, and God’s unconditional forgiveness, a cycle of pain and suffering continues within God’s creation. “Mother!” is a different view into the biblical story of creation, retelling it in a humanly relatable way by placing humanity, God, and nature in the same house, all interacting with each other in the form of simple humans.