The Fountain

July 24, 2010
By TheGothicGunslinger ELITE, Lakeland, Florida
TheGothicGunslinger ELITE, Lakeland, Florida
177 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To be great is to be misunderstood" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What did I expect from The Fountain? I expected it to be a pretty good sci-fi/fantasy film with some interesting questions thrown into the mix for kicks. What I got, however, absolutely blew me away. In an age where 'mainstream' and 'intellect' don't exactly mix, The Fountain is a thought-provoking, philosophical, original, and stunningly beautiful film. It's perfect in every way. To add or alter anything would simply detract from the main experience. Up until now, I hadn't been very interested in Darren Aronofsky's work. After The Fountain, however, I've very much looking forward to watching the rest of his filmography.

The film is hard to describe in typical detail, but I'll give it my best shot. We follow three parallel stories in The Fountain - one that follows a 14th century conquistador in search of the tree of life, one that follows a modern man seeking to cure his dying wife, and one that follows a spiritual 'astronaut' attempting to bring a dying tree to the Orion Nebula or "Xibalba" in Mayan mythology. All three of the stories are connected in some way, but it's up to the viewer to solve how these stories are connected (or if they're factual at all) in this mind-bending and beautiful film.

This is a film is like a Rubik's Cube. It's complicated, asks many difficult questions, and provides nothing in the form of answers. While most audiences should be familiar with the previous two attributes, it's the last one that perhaps explains the critical polarity of this film. Some people, such as myself, consider the film to be a beautifully religious masterpiece that brings together virtually all forms of religion with man's great struggle - the acceptance of his own mortality. Other people, for some reason beyond me, compare The Fountain to various other pseudo-intellectual films and state that the film is messy and "too transitional". I can see why someone might be upset about the transitional elements, but to complain of these aspects is to show a lack of knowledge and understanding of the film. Seeing as how it deals with death and religion, I can't see how it's "pseudo-intellectual" - these themes are present even in the greatest novels of all-time. As for the transitioning between timelines, I'll admit that it's hard to follow at first. However, The Fountain is a film that couldn't possibly be understood or fully appreciated with simply one viewing. With each new viewing comes a plethora of things: recognizing philosophical or religious markings/themes you hadn't noticed before, new tangents and ideas to contemplate regarding the film's timelines, and even perhaps a totally new look on certain sequences. Though it had a wide release, it takes a special bunch to truly appreciate and understand the film.

The characters, from those present in the 1500's to those in the 2500's, are all well-written and developed characters. They're believable, passionate, decisive, and intriguing. The film may focus more on the key themes than on the characters, but these people certainly provide a large chunk of the film's value. What's also interesting is how to decipher the timelines in which these characters live. For instance, does Tomas and the 1500's timeline actually exist? Or is it just the framing of Izzy's book from the 2000's? Does the future timeline exist? If it does, is it a follow-up to Tom's story from the 2000's or Tomas' from the 1500's? Or is it both? Is it possible that this scientific timeline is Tom's ending to Izzy's story? That both the writer and the character are portrayed through this 'astronaut's' life? There are so many different ways to interpret the film, all of which have some basis, and finding and molding your own theories is just as intriguing as the film is. Darren Aronofsky could've helped by explaining some of the film's mysteries, but his choice to keep it all in shadow was truly the better decision. It lets people discuss the film in different ways while allowing the film's core themes to stay fresh in the minds of those who re-watch it.

Moving on, though, the film's visuals are just gorgeous. From the Mayan jungles to the deep voids of space and the stars, the cinematography looks breathtaking in its sheer beauty. Even here, the echoes of the film's core themes resonant with the use of light and darkness. In most sequences, transitions occur with a fade to white, rather than black, as the film states the beauty and immortality of death. "Death is the road to awe", as Izzy says during the last hours or so of the film. She couldn't be more right. That's not the only use of symbolism for the film's visuals, though. Notice, for example, the sequences in the 1500's timeline. The paths from place to place are all straight-forward, never diverging into turns or corners. This possibly references the romanticism of adventure novels, and possibly confirms the 1500's timeline as fiction, as adventure novels are oftentimes straight-forward thrillers. Also, if you will, notice the Tree of Life's hair during the 2500's timeline and compare it with Izzy's haircut from the 2000's. I could go on and on with this symbolism, including how Izzy's full name sounds like "And yes, I do believe" in Spanish, but experiencing the film for yourself is the more pleasurable way of dissecting the film.

How could someone not mention the soundtrack either? Scored by Clint Marshall, the man who scored the (in)famous "Lux Atrena" that was used in Requiem For A Dream and The Two Towers' trailer, the film's music is just as beautiful as the rest of the film. It's carefully-crafted and lovely. 'Nuff said.

The Fountain isn't just one of the best films out of the past decade, but one of the best that I've ever seen. It easily has room in my "Top 10" list and its place is rightly deserved. With rich and symbolic themes, the film is a remarkable and valuable puzzle that's definitely worth solving. Like a Rubik's Cube, the film can be deciphered in a numerous amount of ways and there's a great sense of joy in solving its riddles.

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