Even after a solid month of advertising, mother! is still a veritable mystery to its potential audiences. The trailers promise a frightening ride of unbelievable, or dare we say biblical, proportions; and boy, does the film deliver!
With probably the most insane ending of writer/director Darren Aronofsky's career, there's a lot to unpack from the film's chaotic final act, especially when viewed through a Biblical lens. For starters, let's take a look at that ending in depth.
What Happens At The End
In the middle of mother!, Javier Bardem's Him and Jennifer Lawrence's mother have birthed the child they almost magically conceived in the film's second act. However, while Bardem is insistent on Lawrence letting him hold the baby, she doesn't trust him. Through several cycles of day and night, she sits resolutely, not allowing him to hold the baby, but eventually fails. This leads to the baby being passed around the crowd, and eventually killed by having its neck negligently snapped. She eventually notices that the corpse of her baby is on the altar, with pieces of the baby being consumed by all of followers that surround them. It's at this point that she starts to attack the crowd of followers, who in turn attack her savagely.
The final turn comes when mother tries to force Bardem's Him to take action, by throwing those followers out of the house. But rather than punish these followers, our poet says that they should be forgiven. In a fit of rage, she rejects her husband's impulse to forgive everyone, and embarks to destroy the house in a fireball. After a cleansing fire, she questions just who exactly he is. He reinforces the fact that he's a creator. In the end, all Javier Bardem wants is for Jennifer Lawrence to love him, and give him that last thing she has to give... her heart.
Literally removing her heart from her charred chest cavity, Bardem brushes off the ash, and retrieves a gem from her heart that's extremely similar to the one he placed into the holder at the beginning of the film. The house resurrects itself, and sure enough, a new mother is found in bed, starting the film with the same word that began it all, "Baby?" On the surface, this ending is pretty straightforward, but when looking at the biblical implications, there's an even clearer narrative. So to fully understand these implications, let's take a look at the most important characters of mother!, and how they are connected to the ending.
The titular protagonist of mother!, and our frame of reference for the entire film, Jennifer Lawrence's mother is a combination of two figures: Mother Earth, and the Virgin Mary. Darren Aronofsky has laid it on thick about Lawrence playing Mother Earth in the information leading to the film's release. This basically informs the ending's sense that while God can create and forgive, nature is a bit more indiscriminate when it comes to humanity following the rules. As she throws that lighter down into the pool of oil around her feet, Lawrence's Mother avenges her fallen child, and destroys humanity in an apocalypse. Though the Virgin Mary portion of the allegory comes in the form of her almost instantaneous pregnancy with the baby that serves as the Jesus character in our narrative, which makes Javier Bardem's role much clearer.
mother's beloved poet, the man whose words make everyone feel like they were written for them, is none other than God himself. We see him create Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, which eventually spins out of control and turns into numerous followers descendant from their family. Eventually, our God wins even more followers, inspires the Zealot and the Herald to carry his word to the masses, and ultimately even begets a son he tries to use as an inspiration to humanity, only to ultimately lose them to their carelessness. Not to mention, he's only ever written two books, with the first narrative inspiring his creation, humanity, and the second narrative spreading the faith of his word to all who are open and listening. As we see in the end of the film, if God's followers had spent more time caring about Mother Earth than him and his words, they wouldn't have forced mother to cleanse the world with fire, thus forcing him to start it all again. For God so loved the world, that he had to try to get it right yet again.
Man / Woman / Oldest Son / Younger Brother
Meet the first family of the Bible, as these four actors are the beginning of Mother Earth's destruction and downfall. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer's Man and Woman are Adam and Eve respectively, and almost instantly they are revealed to have two sons, Brian Gleeson's Younger Brother (Abel) and Domhnall Gleeson's Oldest Son (Cain). Sure enough, Cain murders Abel, and flees the house, only to start a chain reaction that creates the rest of humanity, who eventually congregate at the house and turn everything rotten in the world of mother!. Of course, we'd be wrong not to mention how Man and Woman curse the rest of the world with original sin, after they break the gem in Javier Bardem's study. Since the rest of humanity is cursed with that sin, their behavior becomes even more and more depraved, leading to the film's chaotic ending.
Kristen Wiig's character in mother! is listed in the credits as simply "Herald", but in the film she acts as the publisher to Javier Bardem's second work. With that second book acting as the New Testament, the work widely regarded as spreading Christianity far and wide, Wiig's Herald is basically the messenger of God. Though, over time, she starts to interpret that word to mean something totally different, which sees her killing folks with a hand gun. She even tries to kill mother with a troop of her own followers, but she is stopped when a war breaks out, killing her in the living room. Though, by that point, the damage is already done, as another has picked up on her already perverted teachings, twisting them even further and turning up the heat on humanity.
Enter veteran actor, and son of Rosemary's Baby himself, Stephen McHattie. His character, the Zealot, is the epitome of the misinterpretation of God's word, ultimately inciting the reckoning of mother's end of the world finale . Not only do his followers kill the baby Jesus through their crowd surfing of his tiny body, they also eat his flesh in a reference to the sacrament offered at a typical church service. The Zealot is in control of humanity, and as such, his command is what they all obey, rather than God's word, which leads to the brutal beating of mother. It's only when God returns to intervene that humanity offers its apologies for what they've done, all thanks to the influence of the Zealot that interpreted the word of God in his own special way. We've strayed our furthest from God, in the name of our own avarices, and in the end, Mother Earth is the ultimate destroyer, completing our apocalypse.
When Javier Bardem loses mother and humanity, he starts again with a third woman by his side: a character by the name of Maiden. Much like Foremother (played by Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, who was seen burning in the opening) and Jennifer Lawrence's mother, Maiden is about to do the dance of creation and relationship drama with him / God. And much like Lawrence before her, she starts with the same line that opened the film's second cycle of creation / destruction, "Baby?" Despite mother's protestations for God to just let her go, he can't abandon his acts of creation. Much like in the Bible, God creates humanity, through their excess they destroy themselves, and after an apocalypse, he renews their world and starts them off again, thinking they'll get it right.