THE FOUNTAIN directed by Darren Aronofky (USA, 2006)
The Fountain is a convoluted fable about the pros and cons of immortality with a three-strand non linear narrative covering five centuries and Space Odyssey style special effects.
In the present day sequences, neuroscientist Tommy (Hugh Jackman) wants to cure his wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz) of a malignant brain tumour.
Experiments on a monkey (named Donovan) reveal the rejuvenating potential of a rare tree bark. This convinces him that he is right to dream of a cure for death which, he maintains, is just another disease.
Izzi, on the other hand, accepts that she is dying and realises that won’t be able to finish her fantasy novel. She assigns Tommy the task of writing the final chapter.
A dramatization of her story covers the ‘past’ section of the film. She casts herself as the Queen and Tommy as Tomás, a conquistador in 16th Century Spain. There, his mission impossible style quest is to find the tree of life. If he succeeds he will be able to share immortal wedded bliss with her. This provides an excuse to indulge in some medieval fight sequences in which Tomás survives thanks to a dagger with magical powers.
The future time scenes find Tommy in deep space as a Tai-Chi practising bald-head who erroneously thinks the tree of life is the answer to his prayers.
Ultimately this is a movie about coming to terms with our own mortality with the underlying message that unless you accept that you are going to die one day you won’t be able to make the most of living.
The Fountain has the potential to be a great movie but gets bogged down by the weight of its themes (although it does boast a brilliantly atmospheric score by the ever reliable Clint Mansell).
Aronofsky is a director with a lot of ideas but has a frustrating tendency to throw lots of ambitious concepts into the mix hoping that some of them work. In this movie, he boldly attempts to render the duality of life versus death as a complex allegorical romp but winds up with too much on his plate.
Only the present time love story contains the emotional weight the story needs, the rest just seemed like an excuse to create some visually striking sequences that feed the eye but don’t fill the heart.