Published Feb 16, 2007The Fountain, the long-gestating project from writer-director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem For a Dream), is spectacular to look at, and if you could enjoy it simply on a visual and artistic level - that is, without having to think about it - it would be an incredible, marvellous achievement. Problem is, its also a film that not only pushes you to ponder its intellectual salvos, it practically demands that you do so, and scratching below its truly stunning surface one finds not much of a movie at all.
The abstract, non-linear tale concerns three different Hugh Jackmans: one is a 16th century Spanish conquistador tasked by the queen (Rachel Weisz) to travel to Guatemala, where she believes the fountain of youth, the mythical tree of life from the garden of Eden, is hidden; one is an experimental brain surgeon determined to save his tumour-afflicted wife (Weisz again); and the third is a white-pajama clad yoga practitioner floating, with the aforementioned tree, in a sphere through space. (This last one is actually more beautiful and less ridiculous than it reads.)
Each Jackman faces the prospect of immortality, granted by drinking the sap of the tree, and the cycles of death and rebirth that nourish new life from decay and destruction. With visually connected cues, Aronofsky moves back and forth from bald space Jackman to bearded conquistador Jackman to monkey-operating surgeon Jackman, all while Weisz looks lovely, tragic and lonely, and he refuses to hear the life lesson the audience picked up on in the films first minutes.
In terms of production design and visual ambition, The Fountain is truly artful, nearly a masterpiece; throughout its time periods, Aronofsky links symbols and images, ponders natures constructions and stitches them together seamlessly. But to find, after more than a millenniums worth of time travel and pondering, a moral to the story that Six Feet Under would nod at on the way to the corner store proves to be the most frustrating part of The Fountain. (Warner)