‘The Fountain’ (2006)

It is sometimes hard to separate the actual doings of a film from the film’s publicity materials. With a writer and director like Darren Aronofsky (‘Pi’,'Requiem For a Dream’) who seems to pride himself on the rich, mythical, and often opaquely puzzling presentation of patterns in human behavior, achieving this separation is especially difficult.’The Fountain’ is a triptych bound together by the search for immortality as a means to preserve love. Interweaving stories tell the tales of a Spanish Conquistador searching for the secret to immortality, immorality that will free the Queen he loves from the bondage of the Papal Inquisition, in the form of the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden in New Spain; of a cancer researcher desperately trying to find a way to stop the growth brain tumors in monkeys fast enough to find a cure for his dying wife who instead finds a way to reverse brain aging; and of a mystic traveling through space with a tree that he not only loves but is dependent upon for continued life.

When you take away the mysticism and the interweaving narratives, the stories of the couples, played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Wiesz in all instances, really amount to nothing more than the basic love story: every human being desires happiness and long life for those people who are truly the objects of love. What makes ‘The Fountain’ interesting is not whether or not Jackman’s character is truly immortal, but more the way Arnofsky taps myriad religious and philosophical traditions to look at patterns in human behavior.

Tree as a the giver of life, as the progenitor of human kind, is a symbol that appears in nearly every world religion. It’s also the most visible Earthly symbol of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Drawing on both Mayan and Christian mythology, Arnofsky weaves a complicated, yeah muddled, story of the ages old quest we see playing out in every aspect of popular culture: humanity’s eternal quest to defeat death.

In very many ways ‘The Fountain’ seems like what would happen if you took the branch of the story in ’2001: A Space Odyssey’ that leads not back to the ship, not forward nine years to the studio-driven blandness of ‘ 2010 ‘ with Roy Scheider and Helen Mirren in the world’s worst perm, but the branch that follows Dave Bowman’s “star child” through the space-time continuum.

Is ‘The Fountain’ worth watching? If you’re as fascinated by patterns as Aronofsky clearly is and if your taste for something Gothic needs to be sated, it’s not bad. If you’re looking for something profound an meaningful, you will walk away disappointed.

Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

For fans of:

  • Pi
  • The Fisher King

One Response to “‘The Fountain’ (2006)”

  1. Anne said: ? ? ½ ? ?

    Yeah, pretty much. Or less. Was it only released in 2006? It seems like it’s been longer than that.

    The hype around this independently released movie was deafening, even a year before the thing was released.

    But the end-result was positively ‘meh’ — over-produced and under-written. There was nothing but a gloss of character development.

    Would it have been a better film if Brad Pitt hadn’t quit? Probably.

    Would it have been a better film if someone other than Rachel Wiesz — Aranofsky’s S.O. — had been cast in the thing. Certainly — Weisz has been the supporting actrress in so many schlocky movies that at this point it’s almost hard to notice that she’s even in the movie — though the Girl-on-Girl swordfights in Mummy II were a kind relief.

    The thing is, Aranofsky seemed to insist on this film being a big-budget affair long after the justification for a big budget — Mr. Pitt — had left the show. While most of the film’s budget remained on-screen, Aranofsky might have done better to scale his picture back to the character-driven, pseudo verite-production values of Pi and Requiem For a Dream — certainly, that would have been tricky to do on a microscopic budget, but the BBC does it all the time. Problem was, that the 2-hour film had none of the EPIC scale that the story required to bat the damn thing home — it might have benefitted from a BBC miniseries format to pad-out the roles of Queen Isabella, the tragedy of the medical researcher and the 2001 tribute that book-ends the entire thing.

    There wasn’t enough there there to develop much sympathy of the characters and certainly too much distraction in the way of SFX. In this way, the movie reminded me a lot of The Chronicles of Riddick — another situation where a genius of low-budgeted spectacles (in this case David Twohy) was given a 9-figure budget and quickly George Lucas ed himself. But the problem doesn’;t really belong to the hyphenates who put these things together, rather, it’s all about the inflated expectations of the studios and their willingness to pour money onto these projects. (Okay, so Warner’s only gave him $35M to make this picture. I stand by my earlier comments, though — less would have been MORE for this movie.)

    And I haven’t even critqued the story. (Aronofsky really ought to have written something of a longer-form to justify his obsession — a novel, a limited-run comic book series or some other cinematic mash-up. I’m still pissed that he passed on the Watchmen feature — for this . For this.

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