watching darren aronofsky's the fountain is like watching a chef or a performance artist at work. you just have to love the intensity and thought he has given to the crafting of this movie. the story is grand--bordering on the "biblical" grand as a good part of the plot deals with man's quest for the tree of life; yet the movie has the feel of art house cinema to it, in that it veered away from the ten commandments style of presentation with expensive elaborate sets and archaic dialogue; choosing a contemporary, simplistic, bordering on the silent and spare treatment of concepts instead--more like a chef's masterful concoctions spread over white porcelain plate. sumptuous.
the film moves seamlessly over three timelines in human history : spain in medieval times, the scientific present, and the new-age, distant future. through all of these, the audience is anchored to the character of tommy (in hugh jackman's most un-wolverinistic screen incarnation to date, hehehe) a man whose love and devotion for his wife izzie (rachel weiss) made him embark on an adventure of a lifetime three times over--past, present and future. now, how grand can that be? grand i say. the movie, for instance, finds jackman's past incarnation tomas, in the heat of a battle with natives in a mayan jungle. this finds interesting contrast with an all-too-realistic tackling of the present where we find tommy as a surgeon-cum-geneticist in a quest to find the cure for izzie's rare and fatal disease. past present and future meld as vignettes overlapping each other, like in a symphony building up into a crescendo where we find tom, the bald new-age astronaut in tai-chi master garb, aboard his bubble ship (interesting, interesting concept) on the way to xibalba, the mayan underworld where the souls of the dead go. interestingly, xibalba is also a star on the verge of exploding. in izzie's writings (she kept a notebook where she scribbled ideas for a novel; this was where the characters of tomas the explorer and queen isabella, her alterego, materialized) she tied mayan concepts with biblical ideas like the tree of life. the film ends with images of the new-age tommy's bubble ship colliding with xibalba, (suggesting a reunion with izzie's immortal soul) artfully juxtaposed with tomas the explorer's finding of the tree of life atop a mayan pyramid.
watching the film for the first time can be a headache. aronofsky obviously intended this piece for second or third viewings for all the concepts to sink in, and for new discoveries to be... well, discovered. the film used actors sparingly, as weiss and jackman, with the addition of ellen burstyn as boss to the present-day tommy, pretty much delivered the philosophical expositions on life, loving, dying, and acceptance. now that is no small feat for an obscure, never-heard of film, or for any film, in that regard. what the production saved on actors' talent fees, it splurged on special effects and computer-generated sceneries; rendering the technical aspect of the movie at par with other recent hollywood undertakings.
conclusion : the fountain is an art house piece one shouldn't be watching with popcorn on hand; its meant to be savored gourmet style.
photo credits : http://www.canmag.com/news/4/3/5562