Mother is a 2017 American psychological horror film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
This is an attempts to review the movie without giving away the story. In fact, it’s good to go and watch the movie with a rudimentary understanding of what it is actually about. That the movie is a psychological allegory shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Darren also produced the movies Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream.
Time: Long film
Style: Drama with a twist
Structure: Archplot (mind the protagonists don’t arc)
External Content Genre: Horror
Internal Content Genre: Status
Remarks About the Genres
The External Content Genre: Since Mother is an allegory, the movie creates a secondary, hidden tension in the viewer. While the viewer’s self-consciousness follows the horror plot, his/her subconsciousness triggers on the (spotlighted) symbolism. There are also some breadcrumbs, e.g. the time lapses. The subconscious response to the allegory creates the secondary tension mentioned above. This works well and is an excellent narrative device worth keeping in mind. You get the same kind of tension when you read the horror stories of the Old Testament.
These are the main symbols:
– The poet’s wife
– The house (which the poet’s wife never leaves)
– The renewing crystal that can regenerate the house
– The baby
When you watch the movie, keep in mind that the house is not a house-house, the poet’s wife is not a woman-woman, the strangers are not people-people, and the baby is not a baby-baby. If you do that, you will have the opportunity to smile and laugh a couple of times (at yourself).
Drama with a twist: Dramas are about true emotions and facing reality. Like the External Content Genre, the drama has a hidden dimension (allegory). It works well!
The Internal Content Genre: None of the characters arc. The story is told from the PoV of mother, but the main character is the poet. The poet is a nice guy, but ruthless if it comes to what’s important for him. He does his thing no matter what, knowing how ruthless he is (no redemption and no morality shift). And he knows what he is doing (no revelation, maturation, meaning, or disillusionment). I chose status for the Internal Content Genre, since the poet overcomes his writer block, publishes a book, and is celebrated. The status plot comes with a little twist: The poet rises and falls and the story ends with a new beginning (of another rise-fall cycle).
The protagonists don’t arc: I have the hunch that this is so on purpose and that Darren intended to provoke people with a lack of psychological understanding (of themselves and others). The reactions to this movie indicate that he managed to do so.
The Five Commandments of Story Telling
The Inciting Incident happens at the very beginning of the movie. The poet activates the renewing crystal which regenerates the incinerated house.
Progressive Complications: Slowly, steadily, and excellent. More and more strangers arrive at the house and conflicts escalate till the house turns into a war zone during which the poet’s wife gives birth.
Crisis: None, the PC culminate in the Climax, interrupted only by a short disposition of the conflict of interest between the poet and his wife. The movie works without Crisis.
Climax: The Climax is short, unexpected, and extremely disturbing, very horror-like. When you get there, keep in mind the baby is not a baby-baby. The Climax ends with mother incinerating the house.
Resolution: The poet regenerates the house with the renewing crystal. A new mother awakes in the morning.
The Turning Point is mother’s pregnancy. Her pregnancy inspires the poet and puts an end to his writing block. Her pregnancy results in an unreconcilable conflict of interest between her and the poet, that culminates in the destruction of the house.
Don’t look too far for the meaning of this allegory. It’s not about God, Adam and Eve (well, indirectly it is), but rather about a common scenario that everybody experiences at least once in his life. Writers, artists, and other sensitive people tend to experience it more often. The story happens to any kind of people, but the producer chose a poet/writer because it made it easier to dramatize the allegory.
The spiritual import of the allegory is indicated by the two symbols baby and crystal. The baby is a renewed self-awareness or even Christ-consciousness ripped apart (like Osiris) by the mob of old and negative thoughts and feelings. The crystal is the Renewing Intelligence illustrated by Tarot card 15.