The Fountain

2 12 2007

The FountainThe Fountain has a troubled history as a production: originally cast with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett as the leads, the project was eventually shelved, only to be resurrected two years later with a scaled-back budget (less than half the initial budget of $75 million) and a new cast. To see the finished product, I can’t help but feel this was all for the best.

Hugh Jackman plays Tommy Creo, a research oncologist whose wife, Izzi (Rachael Weisz) is dying from a brain tumour. Parallel to this are two other stories: in one, Jackman plays Tomas, a Spanish conquistador who aims to assassinate Grand Inquisitor Silecio in order to protect his Queen (also played by Weisz); in the third, Jackman is Tom, a man hurtling through space in a spherical, translucent spacecraft. How these three stories relate to each other is one of the delights of The Fountain, and something that is best left for the film itself to reveal.

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) has given us a film that possesses a depth of emotion and spirit few achieve. Its themes of mortality and grief are interwoven masterfully through its cinematic triptych as visual motifs recur again and again — the golden palette of the nebula featured in the third story, for example, is scattered throughout various scenes to remind us that these three stories are part of a larger whole.

Hugh Jackman and Rachael Weisz are both superb in their respective roles. Weisz gives Izzi a mix of strength and vulnerability that immediately rings true, while Jackman’s Tommy is a man driven but frustrated, myopic yet still totally lost and confused. I’m not sure as to how Pitt and Blanchett would have played these roles, but I just can’t imagine either giving such subtle and textured performances, as good as they usually are.

The Fountain still

The score by Clint Mansell (who has collaborated on all three of Aronofsky’s films) pulses and flows like a meditation, with Aronofsky cutting between the three timelines seamlessly to complete the illusion. At first the transitions feel slightly jarring, but Mansell and Aronofsky create such a gentle, dreamlike pacing to the film that we instead feel carried along with the journey, experiencing the emotions while intuitively understanding the thematic relationships between the elements in the stories.

You can ponder and reflect on how the pieces of the film’s plot(s) all fit together after the fact, but the literal connections seem less important than the metaphorical unity. Tomas, Tommy and Tom are all on quests to challenge death, and they all come to similar realisations in their own ways, along their own paths.

At its heart, The Fountain is about the acceptance of death and the true nature of immortality. We live on in the earth, the grass, the trees, the flowers and the memories of those whose lives we’ve touched. So savour each moment with loved ones, because tomorrow those moments may be all you have.




4 responses

6 12 2007
Kevin Olsen

Though I greatly respect your views on movies, I have to disagree with your review of The Fountain.

There is a fine line between allegorical/symbolic/metaphorical and “just too much.” The Matrix was metaphorical. The Fountain was unnecessarily complicated beyond reason. Stories like that are not meant for the screen, they’re destined for novels. In a novel you have all the leg room you need to explore all the ethereal and engimatic material you want.

Due to the fact I respect Hugh Jackman so much, my initial reaction to the film was “Wow. I’d hate to be the guy who ruined Jackman’s career.”

But that’s only my opinion.

6 12 2007

The Fountain certainly polarises people, so I understand your reaction. I wouldn’t say it was complicated so much as ambiguous — I actually thought it was quite simple and elegant. But these sort of films either work for you or they don’t, I think, and that’s fine, too.

On the other hand, I found The Matrix to be fairly shallow and uninteresting (and I’d rank The Matrix Reloaded as one of the worst movie-going experiences of my life). Of course, I’ve just lost about 50% of my geek cred in this paragraph alone.

7 12 2007
Kevin Olsen

I behind you 100% with the whole Matrix Reloaded point!

When it comes to movies sometimes you have to sit back with your collegues and declare, “to each his own” . . . and then quickly continue on interpreting, arguing, and discussing the greats, masticating the poor, and all the while revel in the vibrancy of a good debate!

As for your “geek cred,” never fear . . . I’ll always consider you a bonafide geek.

7 12 2007


I couldn’t agree more. I’m always up for a good debate on art and philosophy. It’s one of the things that keeps life interesting.

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