The saga of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain continues. When I walked out of my screening many months ago, I was elated – I had just seen a masterpiece. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that this film could divide audiences; what I had seen was so beautiful, so touching and so truthful I figured it was a movie that would just play well. Before seeing the movie I had heard concerns that it would be too complicated or too weird, but I found that simply paying attention allowed the film to open up for me – no special skills or knowledge were necessary, just a good old fashioned bit of focus.
And yet the film was booed at Venice. Now it was hissed at Toronto. In both cases, though, the film’s other screenings were met with rapturous applause. Some critics have blathered on about how the film is incomprehensible, while others, like Time’s Richard Schickel, who called it a “daring and impressive achievement,” have praised the film. Most of the people who like the film seem to really like the film. I know that I love it.
Schickel has an interesting theory, and it’s one that I find myself agreeing with: many of the critics were turned off to The Fountain because it’s an earnest movie. It takes itself and its themes very seriously, and it seriously examines things like mortality and love – not in the grim, nihilistic way of small indie films, but in a grandiose way. The Fountain wears love and grief on its sleeve, which some might dismiss out of hand. I think for many critics the narrative must be straightforward while the emotions should be oblique; The Fountain really reverses that. What’s really interesting is that the film seems to be playing well with real, paying audiences as opposed to the press corps.
Sadly you won’t have the chance to make up your mind until the end of November. In the meantime the official website for the film has been updated in a big way, and it looks like more features will be added as time goes on. And hey, look at who gets quoted on the front page of the thing.