The cult single of the Rammstein group – Mutter (“Mother”) was released in 2002, but years later, disputes about the meaning of the song do not subside. The gloomy video, which starred only the leader of the band Till Lindemann, is full of symbols and metaphors that everyone can interpret in different ways. The members of Rammstein have never spoken in detail about what exactly is put into the meaning of the song, and their comments make it clear that they themselves disagree. Let’s try together to figure out the images and ideas of the Mutter single and video.
THE HISTORY OF THE CREATION «Mutter» by Rammstein
Although some fans would like to believe that the name Mutter is associated with the work of Maxim Gorky “Mother” (in one of the interviews, the band members joked that they were forced to read this book at school) , after all, the single is simply named after the title track, and the release of the disc from marketing interests was timed to coincide with Mother’s Day.
Many metaphors and understatements of the text have given rise to many theories about the true meaning of the single, let’s consider the most popular ones.
✏ Some critics and fans suggest that this song reflects the difficult relationship with the mother of Till Lindemann himself and another band member Richard Kruspe. However, musicians have repeatedly refuted this idea.in an interview: the plot of the song is a fiction that has no direct relation to the real events of their lives and is open to interpretation.
✏ Another theory has to do with The Matrix , which was released in 1999 and sparked discussion about the artificiality of life. Proponents of this idea see direct references to episodes of The Matrix in the song and video . By the way, a great reason to rewatch this movie! And of course in German! In our article you can read about how to watch movies in German correctly! Click!
✏ A third theory connects the plot of Mutter with the story of the monster – the hero of Mary Shelley ‘s book “Frankenstein” .
✏ Some find references in the text to the mysterious fate of the teenage foundling Kaspar Hauser , who probably spent many years in captivity.
✏ Someone sees in the song a protest against the “unnatural” methods of creating human life : most likely, we are talking about cloning , and not about the treatment of genetic diseases or artificial insemination (Christian Flake Lorenz notes that Till Lindemann does not criticize science in the lyrics) .
THE PLOT AND OUR VISION OF THE MEANING OF THE VIDEO
The clip begins with a shot of an unidentified man dressed in black pulling a boat ashore. Next is a close-up of Till Lindemann’s shaved head. He sits imprisoned underground , light falling through a grate from above. Further, this hero repeats the actions characteristic of babies – cries, sucks his thumb.
This is a visualization of the lyrical hero of the song’s lyrics, about which Lindemann says: “This is a song about a creature calling its mother. This is not a child and not a person, but a creature … It screams, cries, calls for its mother. The words are spoken by them.
The second character is an exact copy of the Creature , in dark clothes and with long hair.
This is the person from the beginning of the clip, who is now floating in a boat, lighting the way with a dim lantern. According to Lindemann, the image of the river, the boat and the full moon is a reference to the ominous river Styx , through which the souls of the dead are transported in ancient Greek myths. In addition to ancient Greek myths, there are others, for example, the myths about the Germans!
It can be assumed that this is the creator of the Creature , who produced a clone and keeps it locked up. In this sense, the line “Werf in die Luft die nasse Kette” (“I throw a wet chain into the air”) can be interpreted not only as an image of a chain = an image of imprisonment, but also as a metaphor for an identical genetic chain ( in German, the word die Kette can be used in context of genetics) . Then “gray-haired children” (Die Tränen greiser Kinderschar / “Tears of crowds of gray-haired children”) are understood as cloned copies of adults.
Thus, the absence of a navel and a tube instead of it, as well as the inability to experience motherly love, are explained by the fact that the Creature is a clone. Indeed, this image refers to the mentioned novel “Frankenstein” , and the lack of socialization and his life locked up may have a connection with the story of the foundling Hauser .
Further, Till in dark clothes is under water. In the song’s lyrics, the lyrical hero threatens his “mother who didn’t give birth to me” to drown her in a river . Is it possible that the Clone got out, breaking the chain, and killed his creator , because he played the role of a mother, giving the Creature life?
It is obvious that the frames of the video do not reflect the chronology of events. It is obvious that there are retrospective inclusions, as, for example, the man in black puts water in a bowl on the grate.At the end, the man in black pulls the boat ashore, repeating the first frame of the clip. The ring composition makes the ending open to understanding: perhaps the clone took the place of its creator, killing him and drowning the body in the river. Perhaps there is another character behind the scenes .
Closing scenes: the imprisoned Thing lies on the floor of his prison in a fetal position, shots interspersed with close-ups of Till-in-black. Endgame – The creature touches the dead bird as if trying to wake it up. By the way, the bird often appears in Till Lindemann’s videos.
Or maybe the scenes in captivity are the memories of the protagonist who is trying to commit suicide ? Maybe you are right. Perhaps the “gray hair of children” is an allegory of the fact that people who did not receive parental affection in childhood remain unhappy children forever . It is likely that the leitmotif about the artificial creation of a lyrical hero is still a metaphor for a painful break with his mother. There is no universal answer here , and one of the Rammstein musicians, Paul Landers , says that this work is open to interpretation and allows for different interpretations.
The meaning of the song “Mutter”
Before I give my opinion, let’s break down the main theories:
- some believe that behind the complex visual part lies a simple story about the complex relationship between a child and a mother;
- others say that the song tells the story of an orphan suffering from a lack of love and parental warmth;
- there are those who go even further and claim that the song is about an artificial or cloned person who cannot physically have a mother.
So which one is right? Let’s figure it out. In the official video about the making of the video, Rammstein vocalist Til Lindemann revealed that the video is based on a reference to the story of the infamous Kaspar Hauser.
Kaspar Hauser is an incredibly mysterious 19th century figure. On May 26, 1828, on the market square of Nuremberg, the shoemaker Weichmann noticed an unusual teenager of 16-17 years old. The young man walked very badly and practically did not speak, expressing himself only with gestures. He knew a few words, and kept repeating them, clearly not understanding their meaning. Later it was found out that at about the age of 3-4 years, Kaspar was imprisoned by someone in an underground cell, where he lived in complete solitude until he was 16 years old. Only then was he found and taken to Nuremberg. A few years later, he was killed by a stranger under mysterious circumstances. There were rumors among the people that Kaspar was the crown prince of the throne of Baden, who was kidnapped from his cradle in order to usurp his throne. Despite all the efforts and the reward assigned by the Bavarian king, the identity of Kaspar and his killers remained a mystery.
In fact, the story of Kaspar Hauser refers us to the concept of the so-called Mowgli children. These are human children who grew up in conditions of social isolation, for example, somewhere in the forest among animals. They adopt the habits of animals, and even if they are again placed in society, they are not able to learn articulate speech and even walking on two legs.
Rammstein are known for their penchant for dark themes. Perhaps that is why they could not get past this story. Well, let’s look at the first verse!
If you watch the clip, then from the very beginning you will be greeted by an almost black picture. She sets the dark tone for everything that happens. Before us is a wet earthen pit with a cage instead of a lid. There, by analogy with the story of Kaspar Hauser, contains the vocalist Rammstein. The first line of his lyrical hero sounds rather contradictory: “Tears of aged children, which I string on white hair.” What can this mean? In my opinion, Til does not sing about ordinary children. Rather, we are talking about adults who, in childhood, for some reason, did not receive parental affection, love, and maybe even communication. This, in turn, could lead to the fact that on an emotional and maybe even physical level, they remained children. Just like those very Mowgli children who grew up in isolation from society.
However, it doesn’t matter how the child grew up. Even if he was raised by a pack of wolves, this does not mean that they do not need human affection and love. Til sings about this to us further: “I throw a wet chain into the air and wish that I had a mother.” In my opinion, this is a reference to the comic rituals of making a wish, which are common among superstitious people and especially among children! Despite the fact that the lyrical hero Til did not get maternal love in childhood, even being a gray-haired and elderly man, he still dreams of her.
What follows is even more interesting. Thiel says that he was never breastfed, but instead fed from a special tube. In addition, he claims that he does not have a navel on his body, which smoothly leads us to one of the popular theories: Mutter is singing about an artificial person in the song. However, it seems to me that the leitmotif of an artificial or cloned person may be just a metaphor that allows us to better understand the emotional state of an abandoned child. He was so emotionally and physically cut off from his parents, and possibly from society, that he even ceases to consider himself a normal person.
From a linguistic point of view, this song has several interesting points: first, pay attention to the form of the Präsens verbs, that is, the present tense. Thiel uses many abbreviated forms, for example: Ich zieh , werf , wünsch mir, hab keinen Nabel. According to German rules, it should be ziehe , werfe , wünsche , habe , and so on. However, here, to preserve the rhyme, the ending is dropped. This can be found not only in songs, but also in colloquial speech.
There are also a lot of negations used in this song, like keine Sonne and keine Brust. These are not simple denials. They are only used with nouns. In German, when we want to make a negative sentence with a noun, we use kein for masculine and neuter for feminine. Now let’s listen to the chorus.
Here we hear Til repeating the word Mutter, that is, “mother,” many times. Well, this can be compared to how a crying child calls his mother when he is hurt or scared. It’s basically a classic refrain from Rammstein. Simple, memorable and insanely pretentious. By the way, this is one of the reasons why I can’t call myself a big fan of them. Of course, simplicity is not always a bad thing, but I think they go too far. For me, as a person who is used to a little more sophisticated music (for example, jazz), it can be difficult to listen to them.
From the point of view of the visual part, here, in principle, everything is the same as in the previous verse. But, probably, now it is worth paying attention to the fact that Til is bald in the video. He did this in many other videos, but usually it was to achieve a rebellious punk style. But here, it seems to me, it rather echoes the leitmotif of the artificial man. Just like in the film the matrix, where people lived in special containers filled with liquid and had no hair.
As in the first verse, there are many indications in this verse that Thiel is singing about artificial life. He again says that he did not breastfeed as a child and apparently no one cradled him as a child in his arms, but the most important clue is contained in the line where he says that he was conceived without a seed, that is, in a test tube. However, do not forget that this can be a simple allegory for abandoned orphans who feel inferior due to the lack of parental love.
But the most interesting begins in the second stanza. Til literally curses his non-existent mother and wishes her death. Here is one of two things, either he sends curses to his creators, who consider him not as a person, but as a simple experiment, or he is angry at his biological mother, who left him, or never loved.
The second chorus is no different from the first, but it is interesting from the visual point of view. Let’s see it. As I said, here begins the second story, well, or the second part of it. In it, Til no longer acts as a child imprisoned in a pit, but already as his tormentor. We see how he is no longer bald and with a completely different expression on his face is floating down the river to where the pit with his captive is located. There he carefully examines the child and, after which he gives him a cup of water and swims away. Depending on how we consider the plot of the clip, it can be either a scientist who brought it into the world, or, as in the story with Kaspar Hauser, a banal kidnapper-intruder who, for some reason, treats his prisoner like an animal and doesn’t want to let go. Or, as it seems to me, this can be a simple metaphor for orphans and their caregivers in orphanages. They do the bare minimum of what can be called child care and can give them nothing more than a roof over their heads and a bowl of gruel. It is precisely such prisoners that abandoned children feel like. It doesn’t matter how old they really are. Mental trauma is very, very difficult to cure.
According to Thiel himself, this may also be a reference to the death boatman who transports the souls of the dead to the other side. In this sense, it becomes clear to us that death does not take the soul of our prisoner and leaves him to live in his hatred forever.