16 November 2006

Review: Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain

After watching Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain tonight, I had to remind myself that the whole is a sum of its parts. Remind yourself of that simple fact if you choose to see this film. Take in the elements of cinematography, story line, and music selection on whole. In this way, The Fountain turns into an event on film, instead of a movie.

The mundane reason I throw this disclaimer in is that The Fountain weaves three different story lines into its broadcloth storyline. Extending over 1000 years, these three tales tell the story of what lengths a man will go to save the life of the woman he loves. The characters and current of this theme runs through: a conquistador looking for the fountain of youth, a present day doctor searching for a cure for cancer, and a bald bubble boy traveling in space with a tree. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz play the two pure strand lovers caught up in their own tragic circumstances.

(Spolier: Those of you that thought that The Notebook was the greatest romance since Gone With the Wind: Don’t leave the house because you thought The Fountain was going to be another Kate and Leopold. You will want to smash something in a million pieces if you last to the end of the movie.)

That’s what the surface story of the Fountain brings to the screen. What lies under the overlapping, time jumping tales is the visual symbolism and external references that Aronofsky brings to the screen. I admit it; I’m a sucker for looking for the clues to a film’s deeper meaning by this means. That’s why I’m drawn to Aronofsky’s films. PI is a primary example of what a film for an analytical mind can be. The Fountain runs a close second.

So be prepared to use some grey matter while viewing. (I’m also assuming that this is why The Fountain was booed at Venice Film Festival this year. Gray matter takes a hike in Italy at times, or so I hear) Things like a hospital room number 620 will then take some meaning. What could one extract from this? It could be a reference to Genesis 6:20 that reads “Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” This fits with the goals Jackman’s present day character. Or it could be numerological in reference? Six divided by two is three. Three has mystical import to many religions. Or it could be that the set designer’s birthday was on June 20th. But that’s the fun of a movie like this.

The viewer actively becomes part of the film’s goals and solutions. Aronofsky does not cut any slack to the viewers in this regard. There are no long pauses and close ups on images that should have meaning. You get the rare chance to make of this film what you will, in any fashion you like. I truly hope this was Aronofsky’s goal.

Unfortunately, this is why it is likely to flop at the box office. The majority of people that see The Fountain will hate it. That’s a true shame. I say cast your vote for a film that reinforces to Hollywood that Americans are capable of independent thought. Maybe the big wigs will green light more films of this nature then. This is really funny coming from the guy that gave a thumbs up review on the Tenacious D movie.


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