This past weekend I had a chance to see Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain again. When I first saw the film in a small private screening at the Warner Bros offices before the summer, I was awestruck. The film moved me emotionally and stirred me intellectually and filled me with huge philosophical ideas about life, death and the nature of the universe. Unfortunately I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, since nobody would even see the thing for months.
As the months passed I wondered if the film would stand up to what is maybe the most important test for a classic – would it have replay value? Would The Fountain still work after I had seen it once? The answer to that is a very big yes – very big because The Fountain worked for me the second time as much, if not more than, the first time I saw it. The second time around I found my throat tightening and my eyes moistening at the same scenes. I don’t know that I have ever had that experience before, where a movie has the same impact on the second viewing as it did on the first.
This time I brought my best friend and my brother with me. I was a little concerned that one of them wouldn’t like the movie, and I wasn’t looking forward to cutting either of them out of my life. Thankfully they loved it, and couldn’t stop heaping superlatives on the film.
This trip I had a chance to sit down with Aronofsky (who, by the way, paid me the biggest compliment I could have imagined – when a reporter asked him a question about the end of the film, he said, ‘Ask Devin, he gets it.’) and he said that he really had no idea how the public would take to the movie. It’s a hard movie to sell because it’s so unique and so very unusual for a western movie. While the ad campaigns seem to be focusing on the romance angle – a very legitimate angle, since the film is, at heart, a love story – in a perfect world the ads would focus on a line from the film: “Death is the road to awe.” That sums up what I took away from the film, the profundity and inherent beauty of death as part of the natural cycle of life. Somehow I doubt that such an ad campaign would make for great Friday numbers.
It isn’t that I care about this film in terms of box office numbers – although it would be nice for The Fountain to do a tidy sum theatrically, giving Aronofsky the ability to keep making the movies he wants to make – it’s that I really want people to experience this film. It’s not just a great movie, it’s an important movie. It’s a movie that will be seen as a classic in ten years, and it’ll be nice to have the bragging rights that you saw it in theaters when it first came out. But most of all, The Fountain is a movie that defines why I go to the movies in the first place – to feel, to think, and to experience wonder.