Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain is coming to theaters and I am not sure anyone really cares. Depending on what trailers you have seen you may feel extremely confused or like you have seen the entire film, and while the plotline can be confusing or straightforward it is the underlying messages and metaphors that will tease your senses. Yeah, The Fountain is a visual feast, but without proper storytelling visuals are nothing. While I don’t particularly see The Fountain as a mess of misguided intentions, the description certainly found its way into this review with relative ease. The film broaches the subject of love, life and death in a way you have probably never considered, but before Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream I had never looked at heroin in that way, The Fountain is no different. The mythology of this film is intense and it seems like a very personal journey for Aronofsky, but it seems like it a journey many aren’t likely to join.
Aronofsky has never been one to come out and tell audiences, “Hey, this is what my film is about,” and you shouldn’t expect anything more from The Fountain. The film is told using the same characters in separate moments in time, but this isn’t a movie about time travel, it is a movie about the search for the Fountain of Youth and the consequences of fighting a losing battle. “There is humanity in our mortality,” Aronofsky told me in an interview when discussing the film, this idea plays deep into The Fountain. The question here is if humans become immortal do they lose their humanity? In Aronofsky’s film three stories explore this question and, while all three are necessary, in my opinion only one of them succeeds.
The first story centers on a Spanish conquistador (Jackman) charged with the mission of finding the Garden of Eden’s “Tree of Life” in Central America. Doing so will grant his queen (Weisz) eternal life and a position at her side as king. The second story finds Jackman as a modern day scientist searching for a cure for his cancer-stricken wife (Weisz). Finally, story three finds Jackman’s character bald and transcendental, floating through space in what can only be described as a bubble, in search of a distant nebula referenced earlier in the film. With him is the “Tree of Life” and the haunting memory of his lost love and he ultimately learns the truth about his search for immortality.
Of the three storylines the modern day story is the best. It has the most heart and is the best developed story of the three. Granted all three storylines are connected and are imperative to the film, I think the point Aronofsky is aiming for could have been achieved using only the modern day story, the rest is just eye candy and a bit convoluted. Plus, the non-linear fashion in which the film is told may take some audience members out of the story as their patience may wear thin, even though the running time clocks in at an impressive 95 minutes, not an easy task considering the subject matter.
Aronofsky is a gutsy filmmaker and this is a tag he wears proudly, he isn’t out to make movies you have seen and that is to be respected. However, the emotional high of this film comes too soon and the rest is left to an intellectual exploration of humanity vs. immortality accompanied by a bunch of pretty lights. The visuals are more distracting than necessary and as pretty as they may be I could have done without them.
If you are a fan of Aronofsky’s films you can’t miss this one, while you may not like it as much as his previous efforts I think you will be hard pressed to hate it. I also think this is a film that will grow on people with multiple viewings. I have only seen it once, but I plan on seeing it plenty of times in the future despite my initial grade.