2006
Rated: PG-13 for adult language, mild violence, and mild sexual content.
Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy Drama Romance
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Running Time: 1:36
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 1/24/08
Special Features:
Inside the Fountain: Death and Rebirth--gallery of six featurettes exploring the movie's various periods and settings
Theatrical trailer
THE FOUNTAIN

 

The question always looms: What is “The Fountain” about? And I think much like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it means whatever the viewer thinks it means to them. And like the prior film, “The Fountain” is a film about the burden and punishment of knowledge and a romance that spans centuries through reincarnation. The tree that Tom sits by is both a reference to the biblical tree of knowledge and the ultimate price paid when eating from the tree of knowledge and living to see the end of all eternity. Pay attention and don’t look away and “The Fountain” will definitely lose you. That’s the benefit and caveat of Aronofsky’s science fiction romance, in the end. Aronofsky commits a wonderful feat telling three paralleled narratives that ultimately connect into one whole central plot of a man struggling to find a way to cure the brain tumor that is slowly killing his beloved wife.

To which Aronofsky begs the question of which reality is the truest reality. Is Tom’s presence among the tree of life while coasting through the void of space his reality, or just a metaphor for Tom’s ultimate fate of pure intelligence but no passion, connection, or love? Is Tomas’ journey to save Spain from the throes of religious tyranny while in actuality proving his love for the queen the ultimate reality, a past life, or just excerpts from his wife’s book that take form in the man’s brilliant mind as a symbol of Tom’s search for a treasure that simply may not exist?  

Or perhaps it’s the modern tale of Tommy’s obsession to cure his wife’s brain tumor that ultimately separates her more as his obsession destroys his life the true reality? “The Fountain” begs the question after question on the audience and poses that perhaps they’re all the same reality. Tomas was reborn as Tommy whose search for knowledge left him a shell known as Tom with empty knowledge and nothing else but the vast loneliness of this brilliance. Or perhaps Aronofsky is simply saying that if Tommy hadn’t been so obsessed with finding the ultimate cure, he could have taken the last days of his wife’s life, and learned to appreciate the love and undying affection she gave him rather than push her away and sub-consciously withdrawn her from his life. “The Fountain” is so simple, so elaborate, and yet so utterly brilliant. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz are wonderful together, and Aronofsky holds subtlety as a primary tool for storytelling.

I understand that Aronofsky’s film wasn’t much of a success commercially and critically two years ago, and that most of the folks who have seen it strictly either love it or hate it, causing those who loved it to defend it tirelessly, and I dare proclaim that “The Fountain” is just too ahead of its time. Audiences don’t want thought provoking symbolism, and polemics on knowledge and the price the search of knowledge can cost you. I’m not at all calling those who hate it “dumb,” I’m just suggesting that perhaps those who outright despised it should catch it years later when perhaps we’ll be in a deeper state of appreciation and learn to love it as we do “2001: A Space Odyssey.” A bit presumptuous but it’s a hope, since most of the criticisms spawned on the film revolved around and harped on Jackman’s radical changes in appearance and not the actual film. Maybe someday we’ll examine it on a deeper level. Aronofsky’s film proves to be a gut-wrenching, beautiful, and incredible tale of love and the toll relationships can take when we refuse to admit that the one we love is leaving us.

Aronfsky’s film is a play on reincarnation, the price of knowledge, spirituality, and on simply appreciating love before it fades away in illness, and it’s a beautiful and incredibly thought provoking experience that I hope is appreciated much better one day.

 

 

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