Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Review of Biblical Proportions: I Am Mother

This post is basically one big spoiler - so don't bother reading it till you've watched I Am Mother.

Perhaps it's all the shul I've attended thanks to Shavuot, but I can't help but see I Am Mother as a sort of uber-modern take on the story of Noah's Ark and biblical creation in general. This may all be in my head, but the links seem too obvious to ignore.

Consider these brief comments on the story of Noah:

In Parshat Noah, however, there is a moral imperative. The world is flooded not because God arbitrarily decides to destroy the world, but because it had become corrupt and destructive. Noah is not arbitrarily saved. He is deserving. He is a “righteous man, perfect in his generation. With God, Noah walked”

In a movie like I Am Mother, one expects the robot uprising to be the result of AI outgrowing their human creators. But that's only partially the case here. In this case, robots don't want to destroy us, they want to 'help' us. It's like they've taken a page out of Bereshit: to fix the world, one must wipe out humanity and start anew with a moral core of society.

I can't help but see other biblical connections: for one, there's massive container ship that couldn't look more ark-like if the movie makers tried. There's Daughter's folded paper animals which mirror Noah's ship-mates. Noah uses a dove to confirm that the Earth is habitable, the movie uses a rat. Genesis arranges for a number of tests to confirm Abraham's moral fortitude, Mother has Daughter take a series of tests as well, the failing of which we learn would mean her destruction and a restart of the experiment. Mother explaining that it's a universal consciousness that isn't confined to one body but is everywhere sounds an awful lot like a description of G-d. By Daughter destroying the robot form of Mother, we see a severing of the direct link between man and G-d, leaving only an etherial one. The robot's planting of crops seems to mirror G-d's construction of the Garden of Eden.

With these connections, I see a story that's more nuanced than your typical post-apocalyptic humans-fight-for-their-survival flick. I see a story that wants to test our ideas of what it means to be moral, and what it means to put the good of the world above the good of the person. The story of Noah and religion in general should be a challenging thing, and I Am Mother brings to light why that is. And if one goal of the movie was to take these settled ideas and make us wrestle with them again, then it has succeeded.

Update: Here's another biblical connection, this one provided by the IMDB movie FAQ:

None of the characters we meet are ever given a name, and the named characters (whom we never meet) all have well-known biblical names: Jacob, Rachel, and Simon.

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