The Fountain (2006)
It’s about life. It’s about death. It’s about love. It’s about loss. It’s about desire. It’s about obsession. It’s about mortality. It’s about eternity. It’s about spirituality. It’s about duality. It’s philosophical. It’s symbolic. It’s artistic. It’s pretentious. It’s unique. It’s flawed. No matter what your opinion about this film is, there is no denying that The Fountain is an absolutely dazzling experience. On a superficial level, this sci-fi saga is a quest of one man’s thousand years struggle to save the very woman he loves and with its bold & beautiful rendition of its story, it somehow adds an entirely new chapter of filmmaking to its genre(s). However, what really separates The Fountain from other films of its genre(s) is that it isn’t technology-driven but only takes the simplest of ideas & fragility of our existence and tries to explore it.
The Fountain follows three parallel storylines spanning over a thousand years, each set in a different timeline & carefully intertwined, but having the same purpose & pace in its journey from darkness to light. The first story is set in 16th century Spain where a Conquistador travels to a Mayan country & searches for the Tree of Life in-order to free his captive Queen. The second story is set in the present era where a medical researcher searches for a cure that will save his dying wife. The final story is set in the future, around 26th century, in which an encapsulated bubble carrying a space traveler & an aged tree is moving towards a dying star in search for eternity. Each story is about men pursuing eternity with their love and in each one of the stories, their quest fails as well as succeeds. Although the plot is quite complex for some viewers to follow, it eventually holds up well over repeated viewings.
Darren Aronofsky is one of modern cinema’s truly gifted directors and so far, every work of his has only elevated the cinematic art form. The Fountain is his most personal project and even though it is a visual delight, viewers are either going to love it or reject it outright. The way Aronofsky has enveloped the storylines into a central theme is very impressive but when it comes to the script, he could’ve done away with some of the unnecessarily added complexities without crippling the story in any way. The cinematography & art direction is excellently carried out & captures the entire film beautifully. Editing makes the transitions from one timeline to another seamless & keeps the pace of all three timelines constant to make the flow more streamlined. And, the visual effects achieved in spite of the budget constraints is unquestionably mind-blowing & makes The Fountain a real visual spectacle without distracting the viewers from the main story.
Coming to the performances, Hugh Jackman & Rachel Weisz each play three different sets of characters possessing same souls in their respective timelines and, for the major part of the film, balance each other pretty well. Their performance in all three levels is equally good with few minor flaws which can be attributed to screenplay. Clint Mansell does an outstanding job, once again, owing to the fact that his score for this film is as good or arguably even better than his iconic soundtrack for Requiem for a Dream. Just like the storyline of the film, there is only one central theme to the score & the rest of the music has been assembled around it to sync with the film’s events, which it does effortlessly. It begins calmly & slowly raises its tempo as the film progresses but near the film’s climax, it unexpectedly invades the screen with a loud, majestic & remarkable track, which provides such a magical experience that it’s hugely responsible for making the film’s final act completely engrossing, however perplexing it may be.
In spite of it dealing with metaphysics, universal patterns & biblical symbolism along with its intricate themes of love, loss, obsession, death & immortality, at its core lies a very simple story about a man in love with a woman who is dying young and is a clash of one person accepting death as a road to awe & the other one treating it as a disease that can be conquered. Also, due to its overly convoluted plot, it is very easy to dismiss it as pretentious cinema but when viewed from a different perspective, there is much more to this film than what meets the eye. Yes, it is slow-paced. Yes, every frame of it is layered with themes, symbolism & motifs. And yes, it demands a lot of attention from its viewers and isn’t for everyone. But, if you’re still willing to invest in it, you’re halfway down to discovering something truly remarkable. As for me, I really loved it for its intriguing narration, artistic filmmaking & the sheer beauty that it is. On an overall scale, The Fountain is a flawed masterpiece but a masterpiece nonetheless and someday, it will have the respect it truly deserves.