REVIEW: The Fountain [2006]

“Death breeds creation”

I never thought I would ever thank Brad Pitt for causing the utter failure of The Fountain launching principal photography three years ago. However, his leaving the production to do Troy may have resulted in the finest film-going experience I have ever had. Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece could only have been ruined by the doubled budget and lack of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz’s stellar performances. The epic scope this film has is that much better due to the small-scale effects honed and enlarged to full utilization. Much like this, Tom and Izzi’s quest for eternal life spans mankind yet could be found inside themselves if they only looked hard enough. The Fountain is definitely a fantasy for adults and helps show the world the lengths we will go for love and how it can blind us to what truly matters in that most precious of unions.

One can’t truly explain this film; it is an experience that must be seen firsthand to even begin to fathom the effect it can have on the viewer. Aronofsky has crafted a tale of love through the pain of death. Hugh Jackman is a neurosurgeon desperately trying to discover a way to decrease the growth of tumors. While on a mission to help prevent death and disease in the world, he also must find a way to save his dying wife from the cancer that has begun taking its hold on her. The looming death set before Izzi, played with pure emotion by Rachel Weisz, has been accepted, yet can’t be by her husband who knows he can cure her if he just had more time. Jackman is a shattered man on a quest which once started together, but now finishes alone. The futility of his situation cannot sink in and as a result he must continue on while his wife lays dying, trying her hardest to let him understand what is to come in the future. She shares her novel about a conquistador on a journey for Eden’s Tree of Life, telling him that he needs to write the conclusion. The quest along the road to awe has been laid out for Tom and it is up to him to decide what he will do when he comes face to face with destiny. This surgeon will come to a choice where he will have to either choose finding the end of death, planting a tree to gather his wife’s spirit for an afterlife through an ancient Mayan tale of Shambalba, or allow himself to accept that finality and hope for a continuing to life beyond it.

While at first it may seem a bit convoluted and pretentious, this story is a simple one. Love binds us to each other and pulls a veil over the big picture when it does not concern the survival of our union. Instead of cherishing the time we have together on Earth, we would rather waste it all in desperate attempts to prolong our stay. Much like Adam and Eve being thrown from Eden for wanting more than each other, Tom and Izzi are at the point of their journey where they can eat the fruit and risk losing everything, or they can take a step back and live for the moment. We all face this challenge throughout our lives, and will continue to as the years go by. Darren Aronofsky shows us the problem as far back as the Spanish Inquisition, as far forward as the end of time being pulled into the nebular entrance to eternity, and at the present day, here and now. Izzi relates to the beauty of ancient Mayan tales of the afterlife and through her writings on a past life, sparks her husband’s mind to imagine the journey through time and the road of disappointment it will lead him on. That road needs to be taken, however, for without the knowledge of pain and failure, one will never see that he must look inside himself for the answers that will bring him back to his love. When Jackman finally realizes what must happen, he expresses sheer joy and relief that his story has come to close, yet his life has been reborn for eternity.

After his genius with previous films Pi and Requiem for a Dream, it is hard to believe that Aronofsky could enhance the medium of cinema even further. While others take from past visionaries and apply their findings to their own work, Aronofsky creates those new ways that will be adopted in the future. He is an innovator and with his work here takes another step closer, if not to totally justifying the call by some that he is the new Stanley Kubrick. Each step of The Fountain is orchestrated to the utmost detail and the symphony is one for the ages. Along with Clint Mansell’s haunting score, Badalamenti to Darren’s Lynch, this tale is one for all senses. The palpability and lushness of the effects in the future scenes are a feat to behold. Crossing between three time periods is daunting in itself, yet in the final minutes, going through each at breakneck speed leading to the tale’s culmination is brilliant. No one else has the eye to make every banal, static shot seem magical and full of life. With seamless dissolves and gorgeous compositions, The Fountain is a feast for the eyes, intriguing at every turn. However, the true magic lies in the story being told, one that will break your heart while simultaneously breathing a hope for everlasting love inside of you.

The Fountain 10/10 | ★ ★ ★ ★

photography:
[1] HUGH JACKMAN as Tommy Creo and RACHEL WEISZ as Izzi Creo star in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Regency Enterprises’ sci-fi fantasy “The Fountain.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
[2] A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Regency Enterprises’ sci-fi fantasy “The Fountain.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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4 Responses to “REVIEW: The Fountain [2006]”
  1. Alexander Mankowski says:

    I finally got around to seeing this film and I must say I was quite impressed. Now having watched Aronofsky’s 5 films, I must say that he is one of the top directors in Hollywood at the moment and I can’t wait to see his Wolverine!

    • glad you enjoyed. Black Swan gave it a run for its money, but i still say this is his best. i read an interview where Aronofsky said something to the effect of ‘i don’t think the studio knows what it got itself into’ in regards to Wolverine, so that can only mean good things—he’s going to make it his own and probably knock it out of the park.

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