interpreting mother!

Continuing the discussion from mother! for Mother’s Day:

@care_save, @jfmartel, @Geoffreyjen_Edwards, & @johnnydavis54 ~

thank you for the talk yesterday. i enjoyed it profoundly, and really appreciate how we each brought ourselves to the occasion. if, for me, mother! is a mirror, then you’ve helped increase the width, depth, and resolution of the reflection I can see in the film, exponentially. it’s like: interpreting the movie in IMAX, compared to seeing it only through my personal iPhone screen.

Here is the raw recording of the conversation:
[download audio]

and here is a raw, unfiltered (minimally processed) image of the ‘space’ of our thoughts in the chaotic house of my mind:

(intended to be intensive, not explicative, and woefully incomplete…this is just what i did for ‘fun’ this morning, while re-listening to our talk.)

i feel that our conversation itself was happening on multiple levels, with divergent and convergent meanings and repetitions, and to add a further twist, @sororbrigid has begun a piece on the film, which i imagine might be influenced by our talk. others might add their perspectives (or artistic gestures) as well. just some possibilities.

happy mothers! day, everybody~


I enjoyed the talk greatly. Looking forward to reading @sororbrigid’s piece, and I plan to contribute my own written piece as well! I have even more thoughts on the film than I could surface in a 2 hour conversation with several other brilliant minds, even with my customary effusiveness, so, into an equivalently effusive poem may they go. Great to meet @jfmartel and always a pleasure to speak with @madrush @Geoffreyjen_Edwards @johnnydavis54

May we expand notions of family
and of what we need to give birth to
May we rest in uncertainty of who’s really in control
And of with whom is the source of creation,
And, for the love of God or Goddess,
may we be discerning in how we give our gifts.


Looking forward to listening to the talk! It’s a rather intense movie with a lot to unpack. Are we doing another podcast next weekend? Also–Marco, did you get a chance to look at my draft? I’m looking at the movie from a Myth and Psychology viewpoint–I am definitely interested to see how my thoughts mesh with everyone else’s, and I’d like to get the piece up soon if it’s possible (I can do all the Wordpress stuff, including finding an image, if that helps). A very thought-provoking topic.


Replied on your piece in the e-zone!

I enjoyed your paper, Brigid, and mention reading it during the conversation. It was very helpful of you to point out the many layers of mythic overlay onto the film. Thank you for your scholarship!

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Conversation is a performance art and you are only as good as your co-participants. I felt that we brought out the best in each other and was pleasantly surprised by the many connections and resonances that were just above our heads! We brought them down into the shared communal space, and that practice, I imagine, revitalizes our culture. We know more, perhaps, much more than we think we do, as we pay attention to what each of us is paying attention to, like a quintet of musicians, alert and relaxed, searching for the patterns that connect. Bravo!


A lovely prayer, Carolyn, and may each step we take be an honest step that may give shape to many pathways as we enjoy the rhythms of our mutual minds in movement!

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I really enjoyed this (watched the whole discussion, but haven’t see the movie), don’t feel like I have to, now (and never did, not being a huge follower of film. A few thoughts:

  1. “movies” are: commercial entertainment, i.e. driven by the profit motive.
  2. have a unique ability to “pull” emotion (hooks) from viewers, via human senses - sight & sound (no one mentioned the soundtrack).
  3. The affiliation need to connect with other humans is huge. There is no touch, but certainly taste because of the association of food (popcorn, candy, soda, pizza, etc.,and now liquor) with the experience; and as witnessed here - talk.
  4. An escape from “reality.”
  5. The archetypal story.
  6. A “safe” forum to talk about difficult/problematic personal circumstance.
    … And - all your responses/positions were predictable!
  7. “Black Swan” is referenced in my novel _OVERCAST.
  8. I’m not a big film fan. I prefer “real” life; but, I’m getting old and thoughts have turned to legacy and children, i.e. the future. Time is real.

just saying … thank you, @madrush


I have a pet theory about this talk that we each took on different roles or identities (positively or contrariwise) corresponding to the film. Here is how I break it down:

  • Marco = Poet, God
  • Caroline = Mother, Earth, Goddess
  • JF = the Director (Philosopher)
  • John = the Casting Director (representing the voice & desires of the Audience)
  • Geoffrey = the Critic (Educator)

I don’t know what that means exactly, or if it’s even correct, but I thought it was interesting from a dialogic perspective.

@Mark_Jabbour, thanks for your reflections. Personally, I love films, but I do often find it hard to dedicate a lot of time to watching them when there are so many books to read (and real life to live). Having a young familly doesn’t help, since many of the more interesting films (mother!, case in point) are not the kind of thing I want playing on the big TV with the kids around.

But we are missing a couple key characters from the above list, namely, Man and Woman. I’m thinking: Brigid is definitely Woman…and jeez, Mark, I have to say (let me know what you think, Mr. Casting Director) you just might be perfect for the part of Man (played by Ed Harris in film).

If you actually watch the film, perhaps you can join Brigid and me for a follow-up talk, after we post her written piece? (It’s a 99-cent rental on iTunes this week.)


Thanks John! It’s a rather difficult film on many levels, and I’ve probably just scratched the surface on the motifs that stood out–I think we’re discussing it in Thursday’s editorial call, so hopefully it will be out of the e-zone soon.



Sorry for the late response. That was a great conversation. Thank you all for being there. I hope to get the chance to do this again soon.



Hi there, all. WOndering why when I tried to experience mother! and clicked on link, I was told I don’t have access to that. Could someone explain? Thanks! Maia

Listened all the way through your conversation around mother! and really liked the overall balance of the different people and their “takes” on the movie. Especially the open-ended myth ideas and Heraclitean notion of reality as constant transformation. Growing into readiness to live in such an ambiguous universe in full aliveness …that’s what I sure hope is happening in humanity so that the beauty of our planet is treasured instead of trashed.
Our old stories have to be digested, shat out, and the compost allowed to send up sprouts… I am personally extremely weary, eg, of the romance and murder story tropes, would like to leave them behind and see what else we can explore. The focus on personal/individual love needs to give way to the kind of love that is more like consilience, or biosophy or ?


Some thoughts: yes, @madrush, I picked up on that, too (tried to get the film on iTunes, I have an account, but got ‘sorry, try again,’ message). So here I was - analyzing you all (in small group behavior) analyzing a film I haven’t seen, but thinking that is far more intriguing (to me) than watching the movie would have been. It’s me observing a sort of in-real-time “Wisdom Council” at work, the similar/same concept - not only as “Medicine Wheel” where you each are coming from a different place (compass point/color/spirit animal); but also, from Timothy Leary’s personality wheel. What I watched emerge is that you (plural) came, in time, unconsciously, to discuss the film by hitting on the six elements of a story: 1) title 2) plot 3) characterization 4) themes/big idea 5) voice/style 6) setting. And then, if I give each category equal weight, say 5, there would be a total possible score of 30. (Of course, each one of you might give different weights to different categories.) So listening to your discussion I scored it as a 21 out of 30, lumping together the group’s analysis. I think your consensus was:
5 on Title (mother!)
2 on plot (recycled)
5 on characterization (interesting/good casting, personalities)
2 on themes (recycled)
5 on voice/style (author/director/artist’s choices)
2 on setting (a house)

And then the Artist’s intent - always difficult to discern. It’s equivalent to, “Why did you write this book?” Which the author is often vague about …

  1. to stimulate thought (he certainly did)
  2. to achieve status/esteem (?)
  3. to generate $s (was it a hit? But regardless, everyone got paid)
  4. to influence thought, make a point (?)
  5. to learn about and/or express one’s Self (?)

So it was good for me - watching you all’s minds work, better than the movie!
Art of a different kind, not contrived or directed, but art in-real-life, in real time.


Hey @madrush-- Is this a public video. Like, can I share it on Twitter and such?

Yes, for sure! I just haven’t created a page for it on Metapsychosis yet. I was thinking we’d make one that includes Brigid & Caroline’s pieces as well as anything else that comes up. In general, I have a bunch of updates to make on the site, which I hope now to have time to do soon while there’s a lull in my reading schedule.

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“Consilience” a reference to E. O. Wilson? who claims to ‘coined’ the term? and wrote a book titled, Consilience . btw, I think Wilson is on to something.

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Hello all! Marco–I just saw your theory above, and laughed when you mentioned me as “Woman.” (That’s probably accurate.) I also just listened to the whole podcast, which was excellent–I think everyone had a lot of substantial points and thought-provoking comments.

I have a few comments, which I want to talk about here, especially with respect to the requested revisions on my written piece.

First–the idea that this is an allegory of the Bible. It kind of reminded me of the old Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz thing, where one appears to be the soundtrack of the other. :slight_smile: I actually tried doing that once, and it didn’t fit–for me, this idea of Biblical allegory does not fit, either. When JF went through the various examples, I certainly see his point–but if that is Aronofsky’s intention, it really does fall flat, and I’m not surprised that JF sort of “checked out” after noticing this pattern. I have done some re-writes to the article to address this, but in short–none of the characters mirror Biblical characters in any way. “Him” may be an adored creator, but is not Yahweh by any stretch. The baby is too young to be Jesus–he carries the totem animal aspects of Jesus (a la Freud), but otherwise his personality is subsumed in Him, and Jesus and Yahweh are very different characters in the Bible. The presence of Mother herself is problematic if it’s a Bible parallel…but I’ll leave it there. While I definitely see that as a point of interest, I’m not sure it’s terribly obvious. It fits like an uncomfortable shoe.

The second thing–the idea of the Mother character as “complicit”. I definitely agree that there is a “Terrible Mother” aspect to Jennifer Lawrence’s character, but I don’t see her as complicit–I see her as deferential. That’s a common trait that women display in speech and body language; we are brought up to “make nice”. Both characters are following the same destruction/creation story unconsciously–if you think of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”–the lottery is held because that’s what they always do. There’s no thought behind it–it’s unconscious.

I do agree that Aronofsky tends to make Lawrence look like the victim, when in fact they are both guilty of unconsciously going through the script. I was also intrigued by Caroline’s comment about whether or not Mother is driving all this/has the power, or if this is all in the mind of Him. I suspect there’s a bit of both going on…

Lastly, with regard to some of John’s comments–I thought the comparison to the Roman Empire was interesting, and it made me think of Philip K. Dick’s VALIS–“the Empire never ended.” Also, your comments on Aronofsky as a person–we never know how much one’s own personality influences their characters. However, I did meet Aronofsky in London, and let’s just say I think your critique of him is not likely far off the mark. :slight_smile: But to be fair, I only met him once, and maybe it only appeared that he was just interested in making nice with the “important people” in the room…

Oh, and archetypes–you can’t change an archetype, as one never actually knows what it IS–but its inflection can certainly change.

That’s my two cents–I’m hoping there will be a follow-up podcast, lots to say on this film! Another quick note, I’m also interested in the difference between male and female views of this film. I haven’t really analyzed the podcast in full, but it does seem that we come up with different ideas about Mother and Him in this film, and some may come from our own gender experience.

All best,


Thanks for your cogent observations, @sororbrigid. I like what you’re saying and very much look forward to reading your essay (which I’m sorry not to have done yet).

@madrush, just a quick note to say that I tried sharing the video on Twitter but apparently the privacy settings are such that it can’t be viewed publicly. Let me know when it’s available for wide consumption and I’ll do my part to disseminate.


Thank for your comment, Brigid. I watched the video of the conversation about mother! before I watched the movie, since Ihad to order it from Netflix. I totally agree with your thoughts on the biblical connection, just doesn’t fit at all. What frustrated me about Jennifer Lawrence’s character was, yes, her passivity! Even her objections were mostly very quiet, inarticulate and anger came way too late and was, in any case, ineffectual…until…she grabbed the lighter. The parallel that I kept seeing, especially in the second half, was with the destructive, greedly overpopulated world we modern humans have created out of a lovely planet. And yes, mostly through unconsciousness, just going with blind drives and urges, such as to get as much adulation as possible (Bardem’s character), to enhance and preserved a small personal comfortable world (Lawrence’s character), and all the minor characters were just grabbing and pushing.
There were several times I cringed when we saw scenes of sunlit beauty outside and yet Lawrence shut the doors and curtains, preferring to stay in her person “nest”.
Once the film came to a near-end, there did seem like nothing could be done but to torch it all and start again. BUT it was not at all a real new beginning, rather a depressing repetition. As John mentioned, a replacement of Lawrence, in the same mistaken cycle of over-valuing the poet’s work: the poet who does not listen is no poet at all, etc , etc. The Eternal Hourglass of the Universe… (Nietzsche) is a profoundly uncreative and kind of horrifying universe, it seems to me. The eternally improvising universe is infinitely more appealing, because it contains freshness, surprise, and never-beforeness. The film failed in that regard, leaving me with the sense of being trapped in a hellish and (oddly) sterile cycle…forever.
I’m not sure what to think about the crystal. In one way it felt like an illusion-maker which made living through another cycle bearable. Once it was broken, things became more and more obviously “broken” and unfixable. And yet…I feel I am missing something here… The wound/blood theme I kind of liked because it suggests the livingness of what we normally consider to be inert and incapable of injury. But…where were the non-human animals, plants, processes outside of the house itself? And what do you people make of the “visions” Jennifer would have now and then when she closed her eyes?