Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky is known for making challenging films, but with his most recent effort mother!, he’s taken it to a whole other level. The movie has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception, and was kept entirely under wraps until it was unveiled on the fall film festival circuit at Venice and the Toronto International Film Festival. There, critical reaction was divisive, but one thing was universal: once you’ve seen mother!, it’s hard to stop talking about the movie.
The film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, is almost entirely allegorical in nature, and many people have been coming away from the movie with divergent takes on what it all means. Some see it as a retelling of the Bible, others as a story of the burden (and effect) that creativity and success can bring, and even some see it as a story about celebrity and fame. The curious thing is that lots of people have different interpretations, but they all insist that theirs is the abundantly obvious answer.
We’ve already posted our take on what movie means, but at TIFF last week, Collider’s own Steve Weintraub went straight to the source and asked Aronofsky point blank what he intended with this story. Somewhat surprisingly, the Black Swan filmmaker laid it all out there: it’s a retelling of the Bible.
“There [are] completely Biblical elements that I’m surprised—some people are really picking up on [them] immediately, other people have no clue, and I think that’s just how people are brought up. But that was the structure of the film was the Bible, using that as a way of discussing how humans have lived here on Earth. But it was also meant to be sort of ambiguous because that’s not really a story, it’s more of a structural thing. A lot of people aren’t picking up on all of it, there’s lots of little things and Easter Eggs and how things connect, and I think that’s the fun of unpacking the movie.”
Aronofsky confirmed one of those Easter eggs when asked what the crystal/egg means in the movie, saying it represents the apple on the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Indeed, once Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer’s characters break it, “the poet” closes off his “office” and doesn’t allow them back in.
As for how Aronofsky went about writing and executing a film of this nature, he says he stuck to the themes throughout:
“I started off with the themes, the allegory; I sort of wanted to tell the story of Mother Nature from her point of view. I also realized that making her someone who took care of her home and took care of her man that they were linked, that there was a connection there. So that was like the thematic thing I started with, then I wrote the story, which became a very human story about this couple being invaded by these hordes. And then when you’re executing a film you go back to those original themes always, and you start to figure out, ‘Well how can I express this visually and sonically and with all the different tools I have as a filmmaker?’ So it’s kind of circular.”