Friday, March 21, 2008

The Fountain - mini-review

The Fountain is the first movie in a long time that I just didn't get. From all the reviews I was reading in 2006 when it was in theaters, I know I'm not alone in that regard. Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream - which I've never seen), The Fountain is ostensibly a science fiction film, simultaneously (I think) set in 1500 A.D., 2000 A.D., and 2500 A.D. Hugh Jackman stars as Tomas, a conquistador searching for the Tree of Life hidden away in a Mayan pyramid; a cancer researcher, Tommy Creo, who just may be onto something; and a bald crazy man trapped in an interstellar terrarium. Rachel Weisz is Jackman's counterpart: Queen Isabella of Spain who sends the conquistador on his quest; and Izzi Creo who dying of a brain tumor.

I could understand the interrelatedness of the conquistador and cancer stories - Tomas/Tommy are determined to do everything in their power to save their country/queen/wife. Jackman acts up a storm in the Tommy-and-Izzi arc, truly breaking my heart as a man who has to watch his wife dying in increments before him. Actually, both Jackman and Weisz are lovely in these roles. It's the 2500 A.D. story arc that boggles me. Who is he - Tomas? Tommy? Why is he in a space snowglobe heading for an exploding star? Is this all allegory or is Tomas/Tommy truly being pulled through time by his love for Isabella/Izzi? Why is he bald? What the hell is going on here?

As far as the visuals go, this is a stunning film to see - I imagine it was breathtaking in the theater. Imagery repeats throughout the three arcs: tunnels and doorways; snowflakes, stars and tiny, flickering lights. The CGI is quite well done even when viewed on my crappy little ancient television. It's all quite beautiful.

But when it comes right down to it, what this movie left me with was a "huh." It's a big, dazzling overblown, sometimes sentimental and oftentimes confusing film that, I think, doesn't quite know what it's supposed to be. Not quite sci-fi, not quite historical fiction, The Fountain is a gorgeous, frustrating chimera.

For a totally different take on this film from a guy who knows a LOT about films, read here.

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