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How Mother! Is An Allegory For Climate Change

Darren Aronofsky’s 2017 psychological horror film mother! screams out (quite literally in its title) with the pain and suffering of mother nature. The story is very much a representation of the destruction of the environment by human beings, with numerous details constructing a metaphor for the cyclical nature of the environment’s destruction and possible healing process.

With Jennifer Lawrence guiding the film as its protagonist, the titular mother, the movie has scored many accolades. One obvious reason for such recognition is its relevance to the present day, and the parallels between mother! and the crisis of climate change, even if some viewers don’t receognize this. Lawrence, in an interview with The Telegraph, has stated that the film “depicts the rape and torment of Mother Earth […] I represent Mother Earth; Javier, whose character is a poet, represents a form of God…” Thus, even the stars behind the picture point to the possibility of interpreting the movie as a nod towards] climate change.


God, the Earth, and Us Devils

Paramount Defends Mother in Unexpected Response to Haters

A significant feature of mother! is the limited number of characters we see throughout the majority of the movie, along with their minimalistic names. Aronofsky has made it clear that the name of Lawrence’s character is simply ‘mother,’ with a lower-case ‘m.’ This is also applicable to two other prominent characters, who are ‘man,’ played by Ed Harris, and ‘woman,’ played by Michelle Pfeiffer. On the other hand, Javier Bardem’s ‘Him’ has a capitalized ‘H’ to represent the powerful nature of his character, who may be a representation of God. Additionally, the naming of Harris and Pfeiffer’s characters as man and woman makes them universal (and almost suggest an ‘Adam and Eve’ scenario). This universality of man and woman makes them applicable to any person, in turn sending out the powerful message that these two characters’ behavior is representative of humanity’s.

Related: Best Movies About Climate Changed, Ranked

The plot illustrates man and woman’s invasion of mother’s and Him’s privacy and violation of their freedom. Their entrance to the latter’s house leads to a chain of chaos which ultimately ends with the death of mother as well as the destruction of her house. The movie subtly hints at the disobedient and selfish nature of man and woman by showing how they are naturally inclined to lie and break rules. Additionally, the entrance of their two sons is a representation of the lust, greed, hatred, and evilness of humans.

Darren Aronofsky exposes humanity by bringing out characters who embody the dark side of the human condition. This darkness is the cause for mass consumption, the human inability to understand the importance of preserving ecosystems which existed long before us, and the selfishness of turning a blind eye to our bad habits which inadvertently destroy the environment.

Jennifer Lawrence is tormented by Javier Bardem and strangers in mother!
Paramount Pictures

Earth and Her Varied Offspring

mother’s baby is noteworthy as it can be seen as a representation of mother nature’s productions which includes every living element of the environment. The use of a baby as an embodiment of nature’s animals and plants allows the viewer to feel the bond between mother and her offspring, or Earth and its nature. The gruesome and gut-wrenching scene where the baby is literally massacred by the people has a deeper meaning than mere shock value. It’s possible to view this particular scene in light of the numerous horrid acts done by humans to their environment, like animal torture, factory farming, over-fishing, and toxic pollution.

Aronofsky’s ingenious use of the mother-child relationship to portray the connection between nature and its elements allows the viewer to understand the pain of losing something precious. It has the potential to allow the viewer to be introspective about acts and behaviors which can often be a simple default setting, and the depiction even goes to the extent of evoking guilt and perhaps possible change.

Burning Down the House

The Gulf of Mexico on fire from a gas leak

With the recent hike in wildfires and parts of the ocean literally on fire, there is a growing concern about the environment’s plight. It is evident that the increase in temperature (which has contributed to these wildfires) is a result of climate change (which, in turn, is a result of the human dependence on fossil fuels which caused the ocean fire).

Related: Don’t Look Up Review: An Important Failure

At the end of the day, all these burning issues are linked to detrimental acts with human causes. In this way, the house-burning scene in mother!, as well as the pain inflicted upon Jennifer Lawrence’s character, can be seen as a symbolic representation of the environment’s destruction. The movie’s use of bright colors in this particularly fiery scene, which contrasts with the calm color palette used in the idyllic opening scenes, is a visual representation of brutality and death. In a way, these bright colors allow the audience to feel the pain.

Making the Connection

mother! is a unique cinematic experience that stands out from the rest with its visual and narrative surrealism, the minimalism of its script, and the intensity of its depiction of (climate) anxiety. As such, it has the capability to deeply connect with audiences, even if the connection leaves them feeling disturbed or even attacked. Though the film has received mixed reviews, it’s notable just how intense and heavy the reactions have been, even if they’re negative.

A movie’s ability to invoke such powerful feelings in a viewer is often representative of its success as a work of art, especially one which conveys a message. Even if a viewer hasn’t made the explicit connection between mother! and its climatic message (how human selfishness is leading to environmental catastrophe), the film undoubtedly leaves an impact and is a legitimate conversation-starter. Hopefully, the conversation about climate change only becomes more audible and acceptable, or else humanity will be left with nothing but a burnt house.

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