Thursday, September 21, 2017

Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and "mother!"

CINEMA: A number of reviewers have concluded that Darren Aronofsky's new and controversial film, mother!, is an allegorical retelling of something like a Gnostic creation myth. (Readers may recall that Aronofsky also was the director of Noah a few years ago.)

I'll give you two reviews of mother!, one with a more or less Gnostic reading and one with a more or less Kabbalistic one. As you will see, they overlap considerably. Both contain spoilers, so read no further if that matters to you. Really, stop now.

The Gnostic reading: Jennifer Lawrence’s New Movie is, Basically, the Bible, Only Freakier. If you’ve paid attention at Sunday school, Darren Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’ will feel mightily familiar, but still completely crazy (Sophie Aroesty, Tablet Magazine).
mother! is a retelling of the bible, from creation in the Torah, through the New Testament, all the way to present day. mother is Mother Earth, the embodied spirit of the actual earth, the house. Him is God. man is Adam, woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) is Eve (and maybe part snake). After you get that, it’s not too hard to piece everything together. When man is throwing up in the toilet, with a bad scar under his shoulder? That’s when God takes Adam’s rib to create Eve. When man and woman destroy Him’s precious crystal? That was Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. When the funeral guests destroy the sink and waterlog the house? That’s the great flood. And the realizations goes on and on and on, to the creation of the New Testament, the birth and death of Jesus, and Christianity’s followers eating the body and blood of Christ. Literally. All of these moments that at the time feel like, what the hell? later make total sense. “Later” just might be, you know, a couple days later.
It's a nice cosmic synchronicity that the reviewer's name is Sophie.

The Kabbalistic reading: The Heretical Gnosticism Of Darren Aronofsky’s Most Daring Film (Jay Michaelson, The Forward).
... As I subsequently read, Aronofsky intends “mother!” to be a parable touching on radical environmentalism (mother as in Mother Earth, the sentient Gaia being systematically destroyed by humankind) and Jewish and Christian myths of the sacred feminine. So let’s walk through the film on those terms — the results are quite remarkable.

Lawrence’s character – named in the credits as Her – is a blend of the Shechinah, the Virgin Mary, Mother Earth, and the universal “feminine” principle of nurturing, incubating, caring, and giving. (I scarequote ‘feminine’ here because all of these gendered myths can be essentialist and oppressive. Women are not necessarily ‘feminine’ in this sense; nor are men ‘masculine.’ These are categories that are at once symbolically fruitful and politically perilous.)
For my part, I think the movie sounds horrific and I do not intend to see it. But now you have some information and you can decide whether it is for you or not.

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