The Fountain ***
"The Fountain" must be applauded for not only breaking free of the standard Hollywood story, but also being coherent at the same time. Many film makers try to be daring and original, but in the end are in able of actually telling a story. They just throw random images on the screen and call it art, and then expect the audience to react as if it is the second coming. Not only does "The Fountain" tell a story, but it does it through some spectacular visuals and engrossing storytelling. Unfortunately, it isn't completely perfect, the acting is very wooden and dull, and at times it seemed a little too pretentious for its own good. But it's admirable, and if you want to experience it there are a few rules that you must follow.
"The Fountain" tells the story of a couple during three time periods-always with different names, but always the same actors-Hugh Jackman and Rachael Weisz. In the first segment it is the 16th century, and a Spanish conquistador named Tomas is sent by Queen Isabel to go out and look for the Tree of Life. When he returns, he will be immortal and she will join him as his wife. Her goal is to become immortal since she is about to be executed for here say. Jumping ahead to the present day we are introduced to Tommy and Izzi. Tommy is a researcher for disease, and his wife is writing a book about the Mayan civilization. She only made it to the last chapter before being diagnosed with a brain tumor, which Tommy decides to somehow find a cure for. We then jump ahead 500 years into the future, where Tom Creo is a balding man traveling through space in a large bubble, with nothing to keep him company except a tree. He plans on driving the tree into the heart of a dying star, with the hope that when it explodes it will bring the tree back to life.
"The Fountain" is essentially a puzzle, shifting through time letting us slowly figure out the parallels to the stories, as well as letting us figure out how everything connects. To fully understand it, it is imperative to see multiple times, or at least with a group of people to have a proper discussion about, because it doesn't hand you everything on a plate. Each story has it's own visual style, and the scenes of most beauty come from those in the future, which is bursting with golden light. The present day story is often dark and gritty. I was not very interested in seeing the story of the conquistador, and whenever that segment was on I would wait patiently for it to end.
Hugh Jackman and Rachael Weisz are not very good here, and their acting is so stale at times its as if they were reading off the page right there. I could never connect to them, which is the main problem with "The Fountain." Considering this is the story of eternal love and life, we should be able to love their relationship, through all three time periods. Director Darren Aronofsky paces this in a way that we jump from segment to segment with great ease, and we sadly never get the chance to become emotionally involved with any of the segments. I didn't care about Tommy and Izzi at all, or the fact that she was dying, or that she was a tree, or that he was looking for the Tree of Life. I understood everything, but I often didn't care.
It sounds like I don't like this film, but I did. It's an art house film, true and true. It's interesting and fun to talk about once it is over. There are a few requirements, though. First of all, this must be seen on the big screen as it was meant to. I can't really imagine watching this on the small screen at home. The second is that it must be seen without any pauses or rewinds. This must be watched straight through without any interruptions. While watching it, I couldn't really imagine watching it on television with commercials. It'll take away from the experience. The way it is a paced makes it like a really long sentence, and by the time the credits begin you roll, you are amazed that ninety minutes actually passed. "The Fountain" may not be a convincing love story, and you could find better acting in almost anything else out there now, but it is certainly something unique, and for once unique doesn't have to mean impossible to understand. This is an experience and an experiment which doesn't need to be loved, but it needs to be seen at some point.