On Sunday, since my knee is still a disaster and I was unable to run around outside in the beautiful weather I went and saw The Fountain. I saw both of director Darren Aronofsky's previous films in the theater and liked them both well enough, though I wouldn't have considered either phenomenal he at least has been an intresting director to watch. I went into see The Fountain skeptical as can be, I really didn't expect to like it. But I came out thinking it may have been one of the best films of the year.
This film will divide audiences and critics into love it or hate it camps. It was apparently alternately booed and cheered at film festivals (much like Marie Antoinette). Green Cine Daily has a good summary of some of the reviews ranging from praise of the film to outright trashing of it. Some of those who have trashed the film have shown no quarter. Some have said while they didn't like it they certainly respected at least the effort. And even those that loved iit (like myself) can't say that the film is without some flaws.
For all the gnashing of teeth over what the film is supposed to mean, at it's core The Fountain is two rather simple formulas. A science fiction tale, and more importantly a love story. Hugh Jackman plays Tommy a Doctor who knows that his wife is dying of cancer. And in him trying to show how valiantly he loves her, by attempting to find the cure for her disease, he loses sight of his actual love for her. But, now add into this simple story another story which Tom's wife Izzy (Rachel Weisz) is writing as she dies. The story starts in Spain a few centuries before and ends somewhere in a Nebula somewhere in the future. These stories all intermingle, hopping back and forth between past, present, future. There is talk of Mayan faith, obvious allusions to the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as Eastern Religion. Now maybe it becomes clearer why some see this film as entirely overwrought, ridiculous, and pretentious. And yes, it is all of these things. That may be the price that it pays for it's ambition, but as I said at it's base it's a simple love story. And also it runs only 90 minutes, which saves it from becoming to caught up in its own web. Another half hour may have made this film unbearable.
The story is at times hard to follow, and it requires a lot of the viewer. But, if the viewer just sits back and allows the film to wash over them, I think they will be rewarded. It seems to be the case that more often than not anymore people go to movies to solve the riddle instead of to actually experience the movie. In The Fountain if you are trying to solve the riddle it's too easy to lose sight of what is actually going on.
I could talk for hours about this film and really haven't stopped thinking about it since Sunday. The allusions to all different kinds of world faith can and will rub some people the wrong way. And while I am not entirely on the same page as the director on his view of life and afterlife (at least that I can tell from interviews I have read), I found it to be an extremely moving picture discussing the simplest and most important of themes, love and death, in a way that I haven't seen any film do in a very long time.