STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Marcello Bezina, Alexander Bisping, Ellen Burstyn, Cliff Curtis, Mark Margolis, Donna Murphy

2006, 96 Minutes, Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Description: The Fountain is an odyssey about one man's thousand-year struggle to save the woman he loves. His epic journey begins in 16th century Spain, where conquistador Tomas Creo (Hugh Jackman) commences his search for the Tree of Life, the legendary entity believed to grant eternal life to those who drink of its sap. As modern-day scientist Tommy Creo, he desperately struggles to find a cure for the cancer that is killing his beloved wife Isabel (Rachel Weisz). Traveling through deep space as a 26th century astronaut, Tom begins to grasp the mysteries of life that have consumed him for more than a century.

I haven’t seen a movie as likely to divide audiences since Richard Linklater’s 2001 episodic animated philosophical treatise on life and its meaning, Waking Life.

Too “dull and weird” for audiences with mainstream tastes, cynical sophisticates will probably reject The Fountain as pretentious twaddle because of its more “out there” New Age sensibilities. This is being unfair to what is ultimately a brave piece of film-making: amongst the flotsam and jetsam that makes up most of the fare flooding the multiplexes nowadays, it is always refreshing to see a movie that actually wants to be about something instead of just wanting to entertain us even if that movie is as flawed as The Fountain. And director Aronofsky of Pi and Requiem for a Dream fame doesn’t screw around here: he goes for the big issues here, namely Death. Like Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall, the film is obsessed with it. But don’t be discouraged: there is also acceptance, hope and spirituality.

"One can imagine that had this been the 'Sixties that hippies would have watched it stoned!"

The wife of a brilliant medical researcher played by Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in X-Men) is dying of a brain tumor while he and a research team are desperately searching for a cure. A sample taken from a tree in the South American jungles might provide the solution: it miraculously reverses the ageing process of a test animal, and might just grant humanity the gift of eternal life. But is man meant to live forever? And will the discovery be in time to save the researcher’s wife?

Despite being awash in overt religious both Christian and New Age symbolism, The Fountain isn’t really about these Big Themes at all; instead, at its core it is much more intimate and is actually about one man’s struggle to come to terms with the death of a loved one. Perhaps there has been too much death recently in the life of this particular reviewer or maybe I have been ruminating too much on mortality as middle age slowly encroaches, but I found the emotional core of The Fountain to be both genuinely affecting and heartfelt. This is a story about one man’s anger, frustration, loss and grief in dealing with the loss of someone close to him.

Anyone who has ever lost someone close to them may perhaps be baffled by the film’s narrative weirdness (in a sense it owes a lot to Kubrick’s 2001), but it is unlikely that they will be emotionally unaffected by the film’s central conceit. While one may shun the film’s quest for spirituality, one can definitely see the need for such spirituality in dealing with some of life’s absolutes, death being one for starters.

Filled with wholly original and, yes, stunning “out there” imagery, one can imagine that had this been the ‘Sixties that hippies would have preferred to watch The Fountain whilst being stoned. (In our more conservative and materialist times, audiences will probably reject its more fanciful notions, which is saddening.) The special effects and set designs are effective and coupled with Clint Mansell’s brilliant Phillip Glass-like score, the end effect is hauntingly hypnotic in nature.

The Fountain is however flawed in that it is too ambitious for its own budget: after “creative differences” made actor Brad Pitt leave the project, the entire story was overhauled and filmed as a much cheaper film. One can see the film cry out for a more epic treatment than the one it got here.

Still, like the recent V for Vendetta, one should be glad that this sort of film can still get made in the current stifling atmosphere in Hollywood.

Not for all tastes, definitely. But recommended for anyone who liked director Aronofsky’s previous efforts, and even if you were put off by those films the truth is that it is probably his most accessible work to date and with its strong love story at the centre of the film and lack of disturbing imagery it might just reach a much bigger audience that Pi and Requiem for a Dream ever did.



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