Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Watching: The Fountain

I bought and watched the DVD of Darren Aronofsky’s film, The Fountain. It starred Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. It came out last year and did not make much of a splash. I was intrigued at the time of its release that reviewers who loved Jackman as a super hero and even as a magician, hated this film. One of them I remember called it “an artsy-fartsy disaster.” I was also intrigued that so many people who never review films took time to comment on this movie. And I had seen the trailer and thought it looked visually compelling. So rather than wait for the film to emerge on one of the cable movie channels, I purchased the DVD.

I found the film to be a moving, artistically satisfying experience. Every shot in the film was visually elegant and symbolically dense. I am sure there will be many layers to explore on subsequent viewings, and I do intent to watch the film again. The number of actors was paired down to a small core, which kept the emotional focus of the film from wandering. And the thing that confused most of the reviewers, the apparent bouncing back and forth between three different story lines, was really what makes this film such a visceral experience. Many of the reviewers seemed to think that there were three separate stories going on in this film: A modern couple, a Spanish conquistador and his Queen, and a futuristic space man on a quest to a dying star. I read reviews talking about reincarnation and all sorts of things trying to tie these three “separate” stories together. But the clues that bind the stories together were all there in the film.

The only story going on in The Fountain is the story of a modern couple struggling with love and meaning as the wife approaches death and finally dies. There is no reincarnation or time travel. The wife deals with her death by constructing a personal myth, the Spanish conquistador, to symbolically explore her life, her relationship with her husband, and the search for immortality. She shares this myth with her husband and the film maker displays it for us on the screen. The husband deals with his wife’s death and dying by diving within himself in a meditative journey with sci-fi symbology appropriate to a medical researcher, and we get to see his inner journey displayed on the screen as well. Aronofsky does a masterful job of displaying the impact our internal mental, emotional and mythological conflicts have on our external world. The couple’s internal struggles and realizations drive and define the more pedestrian and mundane aspects of their life together. It is their internal adventures and how they share them and fail to share them that eventually give meaning to their time together and how they say farewell.

I understand why so many people seem to hate this movie. It takes you on a very intimate and private journey to a place we all have to go. It encourages you to look at death, your own and the death of those you love. And that is uncomfortable and scary. But ultimately the journey and the film are achingly beautiful and worthwhile. And in the end you feel that you are more able to dwell in the place where life meets death. In the end you feel it is better to be open and sensitive instead of closed and brittle.

Give this film a try. See what your reaction is. I for one found it to be trippy and beautiful, a fine combination of visual design, solid acting, and creative vision.

1 comment:

Anne Hedley said...

This is a supberb film Hugh Jackman and Rachal Weiss are oscar worthy in the way they handled all the emotions without going over the top and most difficult when despair and frustrations seeps in Hugh Jackman was masterful in his characterisation.

We only got the DVD in the UK recently and already I have watched this twice - it is complelling - it is beauriful and the directionand the settings are on a par with the star.

This is a film that perhaps requires thinking about, it is intreguing and as you look deeper there is so much more to find. I do so hope our movies fans have started to not think - OH THEY MISS SO MUCH. i GIVE THIS FILM 5 STARS OUT OF 5