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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
• “Inside The Fountain: Death and Rebirth”: gallery of six featurettes exploring the movie’s various periods and settings
• Theatrical trailer
When you hug the tree, the tree hugs you back… hard.
Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Patrick Thomas, Stephen McHattie, Cliff Curtis.
"Dude. This. Is. The. Best. Weed. Like. EVER…"
Told from three periods in history over a thousand year span, The Fountain deals with one man’s struggle with the concepts of life, death and immortality, as told through his relationships with the biblical Tree of Life. As a conquistador seeking to save his queen (Weisz) and country from the Spanish Inquisition, as a doctor seeking to save his wife (also Weisz), who is dying from a brain tumor, and as the same doctor now as a futuristic star traveler with the Tree as his only companion, Tommy (Jackman) explores the meanings of death and rebirth and their implications to his own journey through this mortal coil. His relationships with the Tree of Life assume different incarnations over the course of time: taking the form of savior in the past and future, but companion and dependant soul mate in the future. No matter the time period, however, Tommy must face a harsh reality that the Tree holds certain truths that he must come to terms with in order to fully realize its significance in his life’s journey.
If you concentrate real hard, you should be able to make out something…
The Fountain is a film that defies easy categorization and explanation, because it deals with concepts that are the very heart of the human experience which continue to remain unquantifiable. But director Darren Aronofsky isn’t interested in trying to quantify anything, he’s showing one man’s incredible expedition over the ages to find meaning to a life – in this case an immortal one – that has lost significance with the loss of his other half, in the dual forms of Queen Isabel / his wife, Izzi. There are leaps that have to be made by the viewer to coincide with the leaps made by the Jackman, not only through time, but in understanding of himself. Those leaps are told in simply awe-inspiring fashion, not only visually by Aronofsky, who dazzles you with images straight out of a Technicolor maelstrom of a dreamscape, but Jackman, who removes any pretense of dramatic armor and whose character is seared, as literally as he is figuratively by the experience.
…………………………………….(uh, sorry, lost my train of thought there for a minute…)
The narrative of The Fountain leapfrogs through the three time periods and while the meat of the tale is told in the present, it’s wholly dependant on the past and future installments to bring entirety to it. What is unique here is that the past and future chapters aren’t cut and dried realities to be taken at face value: the past is told through Dr. Tommy Creo’s imaginings of his wife’s eponymous manuscript of the quest of a Spanish Inquisition conquistador (Tomas) to find the Tree of Life; and the future may or may not be nothing more than a phantasm conjured by Creo to deal with his anguish over his wife’s current plight. Everything is open to interpretation, because the core issues: man’s struggle with the meaning of both death and life, are also open to interpretation. The only absolutes in The Fountain are that there are no absolutes.
2.8 seconds into the Van Helsing script…
As it stands, however, Tomas’ quest for the Tree is brought at the behest of Queen Isabel, who is under imminent threat from the Grand Inquisitor, who himself is on a blood crusade to establish biblical dominion over Spain. The only clue is a Mayan dagger, with a map that makes use of the Mayan concept of Shi’Balba, the underworld, and also a golden nebula in the sky, in its pointing to the location of the Tree. Tomas’ mission takes him on a death-fraught expedition until he is the only one who remains, to face several dozen Mayan warriors who aren’t big on giving up the tree to outsiders. When and if he finds the Tree is ultimately tied to the experiences of the future version of himself (Tom) and what revelations he makes about the Tree, his journey and himself. His ultimate fate is also the resolution of a key plot point for both Tommy and Tom as it pertains to a request by Izzi in the present for him to finish her manuscript.
Dr. Tommy Creo’s story is at the center – both temporally and thematically – of the entire story, as he is feverishly working to find a cure for brain tumors, one of which is killing his wife. So obsessed is he with this, that he’s losing the very time he needs to be with her in her final moments, to try to halt the inevitable. He gets the idea to use a piece of bark from a tree somewhere in Guatemala that held unusual properties and, when mixed with another compound they’ve been working on, might show promise. When it’s used on one of their test monkeys, it does produce remarkable results, just not the kind he intended. Meanwhile, Izzi has been working on a manuscript titled “The Fountain”, which tells the tale of Tomas and his quest for the Tree, and weaves the entire mythology of the Tree, as it pertains to Shi’Balba and Mayan mythology, the Garden of Eden, and the creation of life through the act of death.
"Please, all we ask is that you not judge us by Mel Gibson…"
The most surreal chapter of the story is told as Tom, in a far-flung future, is drifting through interstellar space in an eco-sphere with the Tree, on his way to Shi’Balba for a fateful rendezvous. This centuries-long journey has taken its toll, not only on the Tree, which is dying, but also Tom’s sanity. By now, Tom has the appearance of a Buddhist monk and passes the time by partaking of small bits of the tree to sustain himself, practicing Tai Chi, meditating, and reminiscing of Izzi and being tormented by her apparition. He marks the passage of time by tattooing his arms ala the rings of a tree, and by now, it’s obvious that he’s been at this for awhile, a long while. As he gets closer to Shi’Balba, which is in the process of getting ready to explode, he gets closer to the answers that have thus far eluded him.
Least expected plot twist? Running into the Doomsday Machine on the way to Shi’Balba…
The Fountain is simply a gorgeous film, visually and tonally. There are story threads that tie everything together nicer than a Christmas present and the inclusion of Mayan culture is a welcomed distinctive element. Aronofsky, who really has only done three films (this one took six years to get to the screen), shows that he has a vision that may indeed be ahead of its time, which in the long run may be the real true measure of how good this film is. I’ve been a big fan of Jackman’s since he slashed his way onto the screen as everybody’s favorite feral mutant. I even liked him in schmaltz like Van Helsing and Swordfish and always look forward to seeing his performances. What he does here is easily his most completely enthralling work to date. Not to be outdone is Weisz, who is pretty much ruling my world as my favorite actress right now. Nevermind the fact that she is simply stunning, she effortlessly segues from genre material such as The Mummy films and Constantine, to hard-nosed dramatic pieces such The Constant Gardener and is just capable of completely eviscerating you with her performance. Here she is the emotional heart of the film and in another reality, if I had even a sliver of a chance of hooking up with her, you bet your ass I’d be on the first snow globe to outer space in a heartbeat.
Insert fanboy reaction joke here.
Nevertheless, The Fountain, isn’t a film that’s readily processed in a neat and tidy package. You’ve got to pay attention and have your thinking cap on for this one. I personally am going to have to watch it again because I’m not sure if I quite got it all. But what I do get is that this film is a visual spectacle highlighted by some of the strongest performances by stars that I would watch in a production of the phone book. And at 96 minutes, Aronofsky keeps the pace nice and taught in an exercise that could have easily slipped past 120 minutes and gone off on an existential tangent. His use of imagery, especially in transitions, is at times breathtaking. Also, it’s nice to see Cliff Curtis anytime and anyplace. And finally, since this is a full-service website, I’m giving a pothead alert that this film will probably send you a couple of clouds higher than usual if you watch it while partaking of your own trees of life…
"I promise, as soon as I divorce that bitchy ficus,, I’m all yours."
There’s only one major feature, which screams to me that this is due for an inevitable double dip: a six-chapter, home movie-style behind-the-scenes featurette: "Inside The Fountain: Death and Rebirth." Running at around 32 minutes, there’s tons of video footage shot by and with Darren Aronofsky that details the entire history of the production, including being shut down by the studio and rethinking it at half the budget. Good inside stuff to be found there. There’s also a theatrical trailer.