Film director Darren Aronofsky has defended his much-maligned film, mother!, calling it “a punk movie” that was designed to elicit the strong reactions it has garnered from critics and audiences.

Speaking with radio host John Horn in a Q &A following a recent screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Aronofsky seemed to side with the harshest of his critics when he admitted, “How, if you walk out of this movie, are you not going to give it an ‘F?’ It’s a punch. It’s a total punch.” He was referring to the infamous “F” rating given mother! by CinemaScore, one of only 11 films in history to receive that low mark.

To say mother! has been polarizing almost minimizes the harsh reactions to it. Film critic Rex Reed, writing in the New York Observer, perhaps encapsulated the tone best when he noted, “I hesitate to label it the ‘Worst movie of the year’ when ‘Worst movie of the century’ fits it even better.”

Not every critic or viewer has been so unkind, and currently mother! has a 68 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple who deals with an increasingly strange group of visitors in a horror film that doubles as a religious allegory.

“We always knew it was a strong cocktail,” said Aronofsky, adding, “When I was trying to tell the history, or the story, of people on Mother Earth, I was like, ‘Oh, the Bible could be a really kind of good blueprint to sort of hang all these stories’. Whatever you believe, it doesn’t matter. But there’s power in those stories because we can relate to them and they have different types of meanings for different types of people.”

The fact that the movie was creating such a passionate reaction pleased Aronofsky. “We wanted to make a punk movie and come at you. And the reason I wanted to come is because I was very sad and I had a lot of anguish and I wanted to express it. Filmmaking is such a hard journey. People are constantly saying ‘No’ to you. And to wake up every morning and get out of bed and to face all those ‘No’s,’ you have to be willing to really believe in something. And that’s what I look for in my collaborators and what I pitched the actors.”

He concluded: “So I wanted to howl. And this was my howl. And some people are not going to want to listen to it. That’s cool.”