Last week, I finally sat down and watched Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. I’m not sure if anything I write about it will constitute a spoiler, but if you’re strongly anti-spoiler, you haven’t seen this film, and you are planning to do so, then by all means, stop reading. I know it’s a little weird to be writing about an eight year old film like this, but it was the first time I’ve seen it and I need to unpack some things while I’m trying to work out exactly what it was I saw.
If you’re still with me, then I’m assuming we can talk about The Fountain.
Let me start by saying that I’m not at all sure how “good” this film was. I was thoroughly entertained, it’s obviously stuck in my brain, but there were some maddeningly jarring bits that didn’t seem to work. Mind you, I had the same reaction to Brazil the first couple of times I saw it until I got my head around the ending. It’s entirely possible that it’s not working because I’m not getting it.
That said, the film isn’t nearly as obtuse as some critics make it out to be. Yes, there are three sort-of parallel stories, but I found the way in which they were pieced together enhanced my enjoyment and understanding of the film. Taken out of the context of the film, the nature of the three stories is not at all difficult to understand. It can be a little tricky to follow while you’re watching it, but again, that only enhances your engagement in what’s on the screen.
I saw that Kate Blanchett and Brad Pitt were originally cast as the leads, and I cannot tell you how relieved I am that Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman wound up with those roles. Weisz’ enigmatic smile is perfect for a woman who is on the cusp and just waiting for her lover to figure it out for himself. She was an inspired choice, but then again, so was Jackman. His portrayal of single-minded determination even when he’s going down the wrong road is convincing and heartbreaking at the same time.
So, yeah, we’ve talked about The Fountain, but not about what The Fountain is about. It’s a movie that’s about death, and about how we look at death, and about how grow. That’s a heavy, heavy load for a film and it speaks incredibly well of Aronofsky that he was able to make what amounts to a science fiction film about points of view and make it work. The penultimate sequence feels inspired by 2001 and is every bit as visually overwhelming, but I’m it’s also the part I’m not sure about. However, it resolves to a pitch-perfect ending. I love a proper ending (as opposed to a happy one). The movie ended the way it needed to end, which was beautiful, a little sad, and absolutely perfect.