#4 – “THE FOUNTAIN” (2006)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
In recent years Darren Aronofsky has become far more of a household name with his last two films, “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan”, being released to widespread critical acclaim. Yet it wasn’t always that way as rewind to September 2006 and we find Aronofsky premiering his latest film, “The Fountain”, to an audience at the 63rd Venice Film Festival with decidedly mixed reactions. When the film finally opened in the US it died a sorry death at the box office scraping back just over half of its overall production costs by which time it had already undergone a great deal of metamorphosis with a planned budget of £70 million slashed to a meagre $35 million and original stars Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt replaced by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz alongside a rewrite to accommodate the decidedly smaller scale.
Yet despite being released to widely mixed reviews the film still remains, in my humble opinion, a stunning achievement; a heartbreakingly emotional meditation on life, death and love and a film fuelled by two truly outstanding performances.
Proving yet again that she’s by far one of the greatest actresses of our generation Weisz is simply mesmerising as Izzi, taking her admittedly brief screen time and imbuing it with so much beauty, heart, soul and spirit as to have any sane man falling head over heels in love with her. And having gained the admiration of both critics and the Academy alike by eliciting career best performances from the likes of Mickey Rourke and Natalie Portman here Aronofsky takes Hugh Jackman, a man typically synonymous with bushy sideburns and Adamantium skeletons, and allows him to conjure up previously untapped emotional depth and maturity with not one, not two but three superb roles as multiple iterations of the same soul cast adrift across a bold narrative that encompasses over a thousand years.
In 16th Century Spain he portrays Tomas, a brave conquistador sent on a mission to find The Tree of Life by the beautiful Queen Isabella (Rachel Weisz) whilst in 2005 we follow Tommy, a medical researcher who obsessively seeks a cure for the brain tumour that is slowly killing his beautiful wife Izzi (again played by Weisz). Flash forward 495 years to the year 2500 and we find a shaven headed Jackman playing Tom, a man who is travelling towards a distant nebula in a bubble shaped craft all alone but for a dying tree that represents his lost love.
Jumping back and forth between the three timeframes via the implementation of recurring motifs and visual metaphors the film weaves a truly magical web that, whilst initially confusing, soon transforms into a hauntingly transcendent experience that, should you allow it to, embraces you in a tumult of emotions that will surely move you to tears come the heartbreaking finale. Granted, not everyone will experience quite this same emotional rush with some surely dismissing the film as little more than an overly pretentious pseud0-intellectual arthouse failure but allow the film to breathe, to wash over you and to slowly seep its way into your consciousness and it’s a film that will surely resonate with you for years to come.
For as the film ends and Tommy plants a seed beside his wife’s grave we’re instantly reminded of a story Izzi told him earlier in the film about a Mayan who planted a seed over his father’s grave knowing that when it grew his father’s soul would become one with the tree and thus live on in the wood and the bloom, flying with the sparrows when they fed upon the fruit. For through death we can be reborn and whilst Tommy may not have ultimately found precisely what he was looking for he has, in some respect, found a cure for death in love itself, a love so powerful that it can transcend both space and time. Destined to be analysed and discussed for years to come a definitive interpretation is unlikely yet the sheer emotional wallop the film packs is certain.
Simply put “The Fountain” is a divine triumph, a film that fuses raw emotion with an exemplary display of directorial skill, narrative structure, soundtrack (a beautiful score by Aronofsky regular Clint Mansell), stellar casting and a richness of thematical subtext, emotional depth and heartbreaking poignancy that is quite simply timeless. Death may very well be the road to awe but “The Fountain” could quite possibly be a temporary shortcut …
“All these years, all these memories, there was you. You pull me through time”
Track #11 – “TOGETHER WE WILL LIVE FOREVER”
Written by Clint Mansell