Magazine article The Christian Century

The Weight Mother! Bears

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Weight Mother! Bears

Article excerpt

Darren Aronofsky's movies have explored the tortured creative life (Black Swan), surrealist psychological drama (Requiem for a Dream), and biblical allegory (Noah). He wraps all those elements into his latest film mother!

If you are a sucker for allegories like I am, you will be pulled into the pleasure of puzzling out biblical parallels. As you ask, "Wait, is that supposed to be ...?" (the answer is yes) and "I wonder how far he will take this?" (the answer is all the way), you will be grateful for your years of Bible study. It is hard not to like a movie that makes theological nerds feel cool. But the allegory has a deeply troubling view of creativity at its heart.

The story starts out with a bang: an explosion hollows out a beautiful, rambling Victorian home. At the center of the home is a woman's face, ringed in flames. In the debris after the fire, a man's hands fit a beautiful crystal into a decorative case and we are in Ezekiel 37 territory: a rush of wind, a rattling noise, and ash and bone are restored to life. A woman gets out of bed and starts her day.

The woman, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is never called by a name, but is listed as "mother" in the credits. She is hard at work restoring the Victorian home. She spackles and paints, cooks and sews. Her husband (Javier Bardem) is simply listed as "Him." Several decades older than she is, he is a famous poet working on his next big project. His writer's block has put him in a sulky, distracted mood. He is delighted when a traveling doctor (Ed Harris) shows up at their door, mistaking the house for a bed and breakfast. Shocked by this intrusion, she becomes tight-lipped as she fulfills the role of hostess, shooting darts at her husband with her wide eyes. He deflects these with feigned ignorance, entranced by the energy of another person in the house.

Then the doctor's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, sloshing spiked lemonade on the refurbished floors and offering unsolicited sex advice in the laundry room. By the time their sons enter the picture, the biblical allegory is running full steam ahead, and we are only in the first few chapters of Genesis. The film then makes a mad dash to Revelation, with a detour through the Gospel of John.

Aronofsky has said that mother! is an ecological parable. This is why mother is a put-upon housewife, horrified when more and more guests destroy the home she has lovingly restored and maintained. …

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