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The Fountain

A movie directed by Darren Aronofsky

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A dud

  • May 17, 2007
Pros: Nothing comes to mind

Cons: Horrific plot, it is both nearly impossible to follow and not worth the effort.

The Bottom Line: Unless you just want to waste ninety minutes, don't bother with this one.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

Darren Aronofsky is not for emotional lightweights. In is film Pi a super genius mathematician whose talents seem to stem from a brain abnormality performs surgery on himself with a power drill. Requiem for a Dream is the bleakest film I have ever seen and among one of the most beautiful; it can rend the heart while pleasing the eye.

I had high hopes for his latest film The Fountain. These hopes were never met.

Dr. Tom Creo (Hugh Jackman) works in a NIH lab performing testing of various substances on brain tumors. His wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz) has the same kind of tumor he is trying to cure. This is the main storyline of 3. The second of the narratives has Mr. Jackman playing a conquistador and Ms. Weisz playing Queen Isabela of Spain. In this narrative, Jackman goes on a quest to find The Tree of Life, whose sap will grant the imbiber eternal life. The third storyline is bizarre. A bald and meditative and self-tattooing Jackman shares a bubble with what appears to be a dead tree. This bubble moves toward a nebula where he hopes to revive the tree. The Netflix sleeve described this narrative as centering on a 26th century astronaut (nothing in the film actually says this).

Plot spoilers in the analysis

Ok, the analysis of this film is so difficult that this is the fourth attempt.

The narratives fit together, but in such an indirect way that it was only through writing this portion three previous times that I came to understand how it works. Despite figuring this out, the film is still not successful.

The main storyline has Tom Creo trying to find a method by which he can cure the type of brain tumor that is killing his wife. He gets the idea to try the substance from a rare tree discovered in Guatemala—the question is where the idea came from (either it is blind luck or reincarnation). The substance from this tree causes the brain in the monkey test subject to go through significant reverse aging; the problem is that it does nothing to the tumor. His colleagues are all excited about the reverse aging aspect while Tom cannot see past the tumor.

Izzi writes a book called The Fountain. The subject is a Mayan creation and recreation myth and the Spaniards intent on finding the Tree of Life that is part of their creation story. The Mayan myth is that the creator of the Mayan civilization died, was buried, and insisted that a tree be planted over his body—the tree of life. The Mayan’s also looked to a specific nebula as the place of their going after death and responsible for their recreation.

Here is where the symbolism half works. While reading the book, Tom either “remembers” the time centuries before when he was a conquistador on a mission from a Queen Isabela (his wife Izzi) besieged by the Inquisition, or he just casts himself and his wife as the main characters in her story. Either way you look, the symbolism ultimately fails.

Without saying a word as to why, Tom abruptly stops caring about the brain tumor issue and focuses on the anti-aging issue. The reason only makes sense tangentially. Despite corrupting test data and basically being an enfant terrible and generally obsessed with saving Izzi, he apparently has a fall-back plan: to stay young for as long as it takes to bring Izzi back.

After Izzi is buried, Tom plants what appears to be a sweetgum ball over her casket. This is the opening of the Mayan myth. Here the viewer has to decide whether to infer a significant part of the storyline or to dismiss this inference and view the astronaut Tom as just a stupid story. If you accept the inference, then you have to accept that Tom kept taking the substance to keep him alive for as long as it was going to take. You must also infer that he is able to transfer about a quarter acre of land containing the tree, now essentially dead, that had grown over Izzi’s grave. Then you must infer that he goes to the nebula worshiped as the afterworld by the Mayans on the vague hope that the Mayan belief system truly worked. There is zero indication that it does.

The amount of mental energy I have so far spent on the plot of this film far outstrips any entertainment value. The special effects weren’t special and the camerawork and things like lighting and the like, which Mr. Aronofsky used so well in earlier films is almost completely lacking.

Every great director has at least one dud—I sincerely hope that Mr. Aronofsky is great and rather than having just one success, that he has many more to come and that The Fountain is his one dud.


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More The Fountain reviews
review by . January 10, 2011
*** out of ****      "The Fountain" left me feeling completely drained. While it was confusing and a tad uneven, Darren Aronofsky's third feature was also beautiful and rich with both visual and intellectual spectacle. Yes, I'm one of the many non-professional film critics who liked Aronosky's "The Fountain". And don't ask me why, because I'm going to tell you soon enough. As you may know, I am indeed an admirer of complex, diverse films. …
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
Of all the movies I've seen, this is one of the most difficult to understand. The narrative structure is complex, the characters are multi-dimsensional, and the themes are very weighty. That said, if you put the effort into "reading" this movie, it will be one of the most rewarding you've seen. It's my personal favorite.
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
I actually really liked this movie...it was...interesting, but in a good way.
review by . December 24, 2008
Director Darren Aronofsky (Pi and Requiem for a Dream) has created a niche for himself in the film industry. Much like filmmakers David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, and Vincent Ward, Darren Aronofsky explores the realm of dark drama, where dreams and fantasies flow into everyday reality. His film, The Fountain, is an ambitious science fiction/fantasy film with a strong metaphysical undercurrent. As always, Aronofsky utilizes his keen visual sense of storytelling while focusing on characterization and maintaining …
review by . November 17, 2008
(Based on "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer)     I thought that I would never see   A movie centered `round a tree     A tree whose milky sap can bring   An end to human suffering     A tree that looks up to the sky   While time on earth is passing by     A tree that from First Father grew   A star that dies and starts anew     Within whose bosom lies the cure   For …
review by . September 13, 2008
Pros: None really     Cons: Almost everything     The Bottom Line: Skip The Fountain; what started out perhaps to be a journey into the spiritual realm turned out to be short trip into a scattered mind with little direction.          Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. I like to watch movies; all sorts of movies, but by the end I would like to know what to movie was/is all about. …
review by . July 11, 2007
One recurring theme for manifests itself annually in Hollywood is the movie about lovers transcending death and time to be with each other. Past examples include Somewhere in Time, The Lake House, Timeline, Bicentennial Man, and maybe even the Sixth Sense. This is probably the weirdest of them all, but also the most intriguing. The movie is actually three stories wrapped into one, all of which feature three characters, Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, and a tree that gives life. The three are intertwined …
review by . June 20, 2007
There is something going on here. If I were to say that I knew what everything in "The Fountain" is supposed to mean, I'd probably be a liar. That said, I feel that I got the general idea. Many people have compared this film's esoteric, pseudo-intellectual appeal to something like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I think this is a wrong claim to make. There are many moments in the Fountain in which the story is too desperately being explained to us. Rachel Weisz is an amazing actress but half …
review by . May 16, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
New Age fairy tale, `The Fountain,' taps into our most primitive regions by transcending space and time to seek the antidote to man's mighty enemy--Death. Drawing upon a hodgepodge of religious imagery, the movie intersects four time frames, including ancient times and the biblical Tree of Life; the trappings of Medeival Spain when ascetical practices were sometimes severe, and the Inquisition made "heresy" contraband; today, and the future when mankind potentially can reap the benefits of science …
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Paul Savage ()
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I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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About this movie


It's been a long, strange trip since Darren Aronofsky last invited viewers into his cinematic world--six years in fact--but THE FOUNTAIN is sure to enchant, beguile, and inspire intense debate among his patient fans. During the frustrating gap since 2000's REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, Aronofsky has struggled to bring THE FOUNTAIN to the screen, principally because leading man Brad Pitt dropped out of the project.

The complex tale is split into three different time periods, beginning in the 16th century, when a conquistador named Tomas (Hugh Jackman) strives to find the Tree of Life. The second part of the story finds Jackman playing a Buddha-like character who zips through outer space and dreams of a woman named Izzi (Rachel Weisz).

And the third part, which consumes most of the film's screen time, is set in the present day and sees Jackman playing a doctor named Tommy, who is married to the terminally-ill Izzi. In this third section Tommy strives to find a cure for Izzi's brain tumor, and makes some progress af...
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