Darren Aronofsky’s latest film Mother! has certainly stirred up a storm, and no wonder. It features (spoiler alert) murder, point-blank executions, incinerations, and the killing and devouring of a child. I know: pleasant evening at the movies. Mother! will just seem deeply weird unless you see it as a fairly straightforward allegory. Once you crack the code, it will make a certain sense, though the message it is trying to convey is, at best, pretty ambiguous.

The film opens with a couple, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, living in isolation and security in a beautiful country home which they are in the process of renovating. There seems to be a symbiotic connection between the Lawrence character and the house itself: pressing her hands against a wall, she senses the presence of a beating heart within.

Their bucolic serenity is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of another couple – played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer – who are seeking a place to stay. Though Bardem’s character is more than open to their staying, his wife is deeply suspicious.

In time, the intruding pair become more and more disturbing and annoying, upsetting the rhythm and peace of the house. Then, to the infinite surprise of Lawrence’s character (again, spoiler alert), their two grown sons arrive and start to quarrel. In short order, their fight turns murderous, as the older brother kills the younger. In his angst, the murderer cuts himself on the forehead with a shard of glass and staggers away from the house.

Filled with sympathy, Bardem’s character’s invites friends and family of the troubled couple to come to the home and mourn. Quickly, things turn chaotic, as more and more people invade the private rooms of the house. The husband finally loses patience when the original visitors break a precious heirloom in his room, and, in a thundering voice, he expels them from the place.

So the allegory is fairly clear: Bardem’s character is the God of the Old Testament, his wife (and by extension the house) is Mother Nature, the mysterious visitors are Adam and Eve, and their warring sons are Cain (who bears a mark on his forehead) and Abel.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection