First, you must understand; this movie is NOT an allegory. An allegory would be if it was a movie – a story, that is, with characters and events that run by themselves (however badly) yet represent something deeper, possibly hidden. There is no story here. If I were to give you spoilers, it simply would not work as a stand-alone story. There is none. This is the story of Genesis, God and Nature. That’s it. Aronofsky clearly has his own opinion on the three and he packs in every metaphor, symbol and throws his warped version of a few extra symbols besides… including the kitchen sink. I’m not sure if there were some red herrings tossed in as well or just symbols that were beyond my ability to parse (or care, frankly) or maybe he just kind of sucked at picking symbols for those particular issues. Hard to say.
Technically, the movie is exhausting; Aronofsky deliberately decided to use only three camera angles – tight close-up, over-the-shoulder, and an occasional POV. The result is that in the circular layout of the house, the movie is frenetic, and impossible to grasp spatially. I actually had a sore neck from straining to look in corners and edges because I couldn’t SEE anything. And as lovely as Jennifer Lawrence is to gaze upon, I really wanted to see things other than her face. Especialy when noises were happening all around. Otherwise, everything is top-notch. Aronofsky also decided to film in 16mm which (as a former film student) I appreciate. The lighting is one of the saving graces of the entire film, to be sure and the sound work is impeccable – if not frustrating. All the acting is without flaw. I have no argument with anything technical in this movie except for the tight shots.
But the upshot is, it has no story. It is purely a symbolic telling of his view of Abrahamic religion. Period. If you go in expecting ANY kind of allegory, you will waste time and energy trying to make cake out of a bucket of beef stew ingredients and end up too tired to care about whatever you have left.
I compare this movie to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie; The Discreet Charm… is allegory on an absurdist backdrop but Mother! uses symbols that are dated and offensive to create an attempt at allegory. I don’t think of (the) Mother as an empty vessel constantly striving to make the Creator happy. I can’t connect with that at all. Subsequently, the invasion of her and her home aren’t absurd, they are incomprehensible and the metaphor does not work. Her tiny bit of power (in giving birth) is reductionist and insulting. By the end of the movie was vaguely pissed. I thought it had to do with wasted time but it really was about how Mother was written. I don’t “do” meek and I don’t accept “submissive” as a defining trait of womanhood. The movie’s spiral down into Burning Bed territory was equally insulting – if you’re going to touch upon abusive relationships, then don’t dance around it. But we know it’s not the same here, anyway. This is why I keep saying the attempt at allegory fails – in order for an allegory to work, the story must be believable and stand upon its own – it doesn’t have to be a particular good or interesting story, but it must follow basic story rules and be able ot exist on its own merits.
to be honest, I don’t know why Aronofsky and the film company has been so secretive about what it’s “about” – its a symbolic telling of God vs nature vs humanity. If you go in KNOWING that, you might be inclined to enjoy it? Everyoen who came out of the theater with me was bitching clearly because they thought it was going to be a horror film. It’s listed as “psychological horror” but it’s NOT. It’s horrifying, but it’s not horror. Like war is horrifying
lastly (yes I am done here) Aronofsky doesn’t have anything to “say” about the situation he himself set up. Except for perhaps “God is an vain petty jerk, mother nature is an insipid dupe and humanity is just clueless” – well okay then, thanks for your opinion.