The Fountain is Darren Aronofsky's latest ambitious film following cult classics Pi and Requiem for a Dream. As I regard Dream to be one of the best movies ever created, I had been anticipating The Fountain, about immortality and the fountain of youth, for what seems like years. Disappointed I was to find the film a beautiful yet convoluted drama that makes little sense - or makes perfect sense and just doesn't matter.
This will be a highly divisive film. Ringing of such classics the 2001, The Fountain is sure to be loved by some and hated by others. It is deep and has many different interpretations, and inevitably will be popular amongst those who love analogies and so on and so forth. I am actually one of those people, but found The Fountain to be, on the surface, a rather dull drama that just looks really nice. Fans will argue that what's on the surface doesn't matter, that the incredible complexity of what the three parallel stories represent is where the true highlights of the film come from. That may be true, but I believe (and hence it is fact) that a truly successful thinker film such as this needs to succeed on all levels, including the superficial surface story.
The Fountain, if you're wondering, is about the quest for immortality as seen through the eyes of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, who play characters in three different time periods. The movie begins in Inquisition Spain, where the Queen (Weisz) orders a conquistador (Jackman) on a mission to travel to a hidden Mayan temple to find the tree of life (the fountain of youth). In present time, Jackman is a research doctor who has discovered a chemical extract from a tree that appears to cure anything, but it is still in the testing stages and is unlikely to help his wife who is dying from a disease. Lastly, Jackman is in the future, floating through space in an orb with a living tree, shooting toward a far-away nebula where he hopes to reach genesis. Confused? Yeah, I thought so.
The movie raises several questions, in a good way. Is the man in the future the same man in the present who managed to achieve ever-lasting life? Or is it simply representative of the present man's tortured psyche? The list goes on and on...
Still, taking into account the fact that I was a bit tired, The Fountain lacked the punch that I was so eagerly expecting. Sure, everything has meaning, but so what if you're still bored? The final act of the film is more engaging, but by that time the movie has bounced around between its stories enough that I had really lost interest. Perhaps I was just expecting something different, or perhaps Aronofsky just failed to deliver properly, but The Fountain is not his masterpiece.
Aronofsky succeeded in that this beautiful film is guaranteed to divide, which is not surprising in the least, but I did not expect to end up on the side that didn't like it. Certainly not for mainstream audiences, some people will love it and some will hate it. And taking all that into account, The Fountain still seems overly ambitious and without something, but what that something is I do not know.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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