What was all that about?
THE FOUNTAIN is one of those films. There are about three hundred possible different meanings of the plot, yet none of them are entirely satisfactory; and for that reason, one feels compelled to return and give the movie just one more viewing. Besides, maybe it’ll become clear this time. The movie description states it’s about “the meaning of life”. Yeah, cause that clears everything up.
Regardless of plot obscurities, The Fountain is a wonderful film. It oozes cinematic style and class from every pore, and Hugh Jackman stands out in a role that would normally not be associated with his “Wolverine”-style character profile. Director Darren Aronofsky produces a piece of cinema that is moving, thoughtful and fascinating to simply watch.
Set in three separate time periods, the movie follows the semi-connected storylines of Hugh Jackman searching for the Tree of Immortality. In 1500AD Spain, Jackman is sent by the Queen (Rachel Weisz) to find it in a long-lost pyramid. In 2000AD, he is searching for a cure for his wife’s (Weisz again) terminal illness. Weisz’s character here, Izzi, is writing a book before her death which depicts the Spanish storyline we see in other scenes. In 2500AD, Jackman’s character (Tommy) is flying through space, with the Tree, in a bubble, heading towards a nebula, which once again Izzi tells him about in the present-day storyline.
Thus, the three plots are connected. They’re parallel, they both contain elements from the modern day story, and yet neither of the two alternative time-period plots ever cross with ours. It’s complicated, clearly. I don’t understand it myself.
There’s a stigma surrounding films that critics cannot understand. I get the impression that such stories infuriate reviewers, as they appear to the general public to be intellectually-challenged. Some films, however, aren’t written to be clear and understood. I, for one, am quick to admit that I do not see a clear explanation for The Fountain, and yet, for that reason, I adore it. Obviously, that’s just a personal taste, but Aronofsky’s vision is beautiful, and I am quite content to sit back and appreciate it as a work of art, rather than attempt to solve it; if a solution even exists.
A definite nod to Hugh Jackman, whose performance is outstanding. Each one of his three characters is close enough in character for the viewer to relate them to each other, yet he plays each with such contrast that they become entirely separate entities. The depth of emotion is stunning. From the loyal Conquistador, to the lover terrified of losing his wife, to someone trapped in space and time for centuries, Jackman hits the ground running and powers each role home. Rachel Weisz gives a strong, mystical performance that is extremely intriguing to observe. She gives a nice contrast to Jackman, yet I couldn’t help but feel that sometimes the chemistry wasn’t quite what it could have been.
In the visual department, The Fountain excels. The visuals are crisp and understated, and much of the film has a warm, subtle hue applied over it. It softens many of the scenes and gives the movie a very genuine atmosphere, where appropriate. Obviously, the battle scenes near the pyramid are dark, harsh and damp in; but the modern-day shots are generally warm, softened shots. In the future, everything is slightly over-saturated and especially crisp, giving the visuals a fantastical feel. These are the kind of effects I like to see in cinema. Clever, subtle visuals that add to the feeling of the movie. As impressive as shots of Martian Tripods tipping oil trucks onto packed freeways can be, they last mere seconds. These effects can change an entire picture. It’s a testament to the DVD quality also, that such effects are noticable.
Sound-wise, everything works well. The music is impressive – but again, in an understated way. It’s there in the background driving the plot along, keeping up the pace; albeit a slow one.
The DVD extras are interesting, although not as many as there could be. Compared with Pan’s Labyrinth, which I reviewed recently, where there was a second disc of material, the Fountain includes some short documentaries on its sole DVD. They’re interesting to view, but lacking in any real narrative to explain the scenes in depth. A nice little side-show, but nothing too meaningful. I found Darren Aronofsky’s audio commentary to be insightful and fascinating; despite my not being a fan of audio commentaries in general. That said, I hope a Special Edition will arrive sometime in the near future.
Still, I refuse to let minor issues with the Special Features take away from the splendor of the movie. It’s become one of my personal favourites. Few modern-day Hollywood movies with names like Jackman or Weisz produce such thoughtful, well-crafted stories with perfect pacing and performance. It’s refreshing. It’s a joy to watch. It’s, as Empire Magazine put it: “One of the most moving and thought-provoking films of the year”.
And do you know what? I don’t care that I don’t know what it’s about. I loved every minute of it, and that’s all that matters to me. I’ll also be keeping an eye on anything upcoming from Darren Aronofsky. It looks like this guy makes my kind of movie; and does so with style and class.
Released on DVD 28th May, give this title a spin.
Movie: **** 1/2
Special Features: ***