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The Fountain

A movie directed by Darren Aronofsky

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Death is the road to awe.

  • Jan 10, 2011
  • by
*** 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. "The Fountain" is both of these things. The only thing that it isn't is flawless. The reason it's not absolutely great is because Aronofsky's cut isn't the best. Now, I'm sure he prepped a Director's Cut of some sort, and that is the version of "The Fountain" that will feel most complete. That is the version of the film which I want to see. Aronofsky is indeed a talented director, and "The Fountain" is no folly, but it's not as good as "Pi" or "Requiem for a Dream". How could it be? But then again, how could it be bad? I think it's a matter of truly understanding the film. The fact that Aronofsky's final cut is so inaccessible to some people will make them almost instantly write it off; rendering it essentially useless otherwise. However, you can always count on us loyal Internet Film Geeks to give movies like "The Fountain" some damn good recognition. We are the people who take the time and see what the director was doing; we poke around a bit before we give the world our final verdict. While most would agree that "The Fountain" is pretty confusing and possibly a little pretentious as well, it's still quality filmmaking. I say this because unlike most pretentious films of its type, "The Fountain" has at least some artistic merit. The artistic qualities combined with its twisty story-telling accumulate to the feeling of being drained; the experience left me in awe. Does that imply that the movie is awesome? Does it inspire awe? Perhaps. But it's not really awesome, now is it? At moments it was indeed a true marvel, although in the end it can't possibly be a masterpiece. Some will argue against that. But I'm sure that if Aronofsky ever chooses to release his original Director's Cut, things will shape up and the film will be recognized. Hopefully this happens, because I'm in full support of this film now that I know just how much better it could be provided this particular cut. None the less, I was pretty satisfied with it as it is. This is a complex work that feels so personal to the point where few will actually "get" the film. Therefore, it's a tough recommendation, but it's Aronofsky as you know him; still a visually hypnotic, flamboyantly daring man of Cinema. I really do admire Aronofsky's ambitions, and "The Fountain" could have been one of his best projects. However, it's not. But you know what: it cannot be called his worse. After all: it's wrong to call a good movie a lesser effort, right? I'd think so. That's why I'm praising "The Fountain" as I am; because it's a work of complexity that just needs to shed a little more light on things. If it would have been of the original cut, then it would have been great. But what can you do. I guess I shouldn't even complain; its fine as it is. Take it as you will; that's really the best response I can provide. Take it as you will and you will either enjoy it or you'll reject any thought pertaining to it. Either way, you'll probably remember it. I guess it all depends on: in what context?

"The Fountain" is told entirely in non-linear narrative; through three stories. Each story takes place in a different time period; one in the 16th Century, one in 2005, and one in 2500. In the 16th Century Story, conquistador Tomas fights to find the Tree of Life. In 2005, Tommy is a doctor who is trying desperately to find a cure for his wife's brain tumor. Finally, in 2500, Tom is a Space Traveler who floats around in a Bubble which contains him and a tree which is symbolic of his lost love. Each story connects to each-other in some way, although never in chronological order. Therefore, it's normal for "The Fountain" to feel a tad uneven. Some will even argue that it's a tad pretentious in its consistent symbolism and whimsical beauty. Indeed, "The Fountain" isn't really that special in terms of the sense of power that it's supposed to deliver, although what the hell can you do: it is what it is. If you were curious, "The Fountain" is essentially everything that people say it is; unfocused, confusing, pretentious, and visually fascinating. There's something hypnotic that I find about this film not only visually, but also on a narrative level. While little of it actually makes sense thanks to a somewhat unfitting final cut, "The Fountain" is still pretty artistic. It could have been better if it weren't for the unfocused story-telling, but it got me thinking out of something that could have been either confusion or fascination. When I finished watching the film, I was at the point where I almost didn't know what to think about it, but then it came to me: "The Fountain" is highly thematic, thus I kind of like it. This film does have many complex themes beneath its troubled narrative, and I'd have to say that they're all very much worth the ride. Aronofsky's filmmaking feels as seductive and ominously intriguing as ever, which probably explains why I was at least entertained whilst watching his third film. This is a one-of-a-kind film, since few will go this far and few are as daring as Aronofsky. He's done better, but then again he could do worse. I don't want to be there when he does. For awesome, see "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream". For good, see "The Fountain". If you approach the film, then expect to do some thinking. In its relatively short running time, it accomplishes quite a bit. It is indeed far superior compared to most pretentious, Biblically symbolic flicks, although given the vast subject matter it should be a bit better. It's a film about so many things; time travel, alternate dimensions interacting with each-other, biblical symbolism, love, and so much more. I think I would have truly loved the film if it had explained a bit more, but the rough cut kind of prevents it from doing so. Until the Director's Cut releases, "The Fountain" will remain inaccessible to most. However, those who can access it will find solace in its themes and style. It's sort of beautiful; it's sort of whimsical. All together, it's quite a majestic sight.

Hugh Jackman's performance is genuinely thoughtful. Or should I say "performances". He plays the same character in three different time periods. In one, Jackman's character sports a beard, in another he looks like just another old Earth inhabitant, and in the final dimension he is completely bald. I thought Jackman's performance was particularly convincing, since all he had to do was essentially be obsessive as hell whilst providing some mediocre emotional resonance. Jackman does indeed deliver a good performance, although it's not his best. Rachel Weisz also gives a solid performance as the male character's lost love. She also appears in each different time period, once as a princess, once as a wife, and once as a hallucination. Jackman and Weisz are virtually the only actors in the film aside from a few minor people. These minor people do indeed feel minor, as they're barely noticeable amongst the film's two major stars. Luckily, the casting seems to fit the film just right. Therefore, "The Fountain" works on many levels.

I took the time to think about "The Fountain". This is probably why it worked for me as it did. The film itself might as well be a thought-provoking but flawed gem. Films like these just don't come along, and when they do they usually bring a few drawbacks. "The Fountain" contains a rather confused narrative, and I assume that the Director's Cut would make a whole lot more sense. Without the Director's Cut, "The Fountain" feels a bit too personal for most people's taste. It's a film that I assume many will hate and many will like. And then there are those who will be confronted with such mental stress to the point where they just don't know what to think of the film. I assure you, this is all perfectly normal; I too challenged my own mentality while watching this film. It's an exercise in your beliefs and ability to see a film for what it truly is. There's something artistic about "The Fountain", and though some may not see it on a symbolic, narrative level, I think half of the spectacle is in plain sight. I am of course speaking of the film's visual style, which is stunning. It would look even better if "The Fountain" were given the right Aspect Ratio for its Home Media release. That is why the Director's Cut/Criterion release would be so valued; because I think everyone wants to view this film as it was intended to be seen: longer and even more beautiful. I will admit that due to the muddled aspect ratio, some of the CGI didn't look to grand. Most of it was fine, but the more fascinating bits needed to be more fascinating, and a new transfer could solve all my problems. However, Aronofsky's production design was fascinating whether the Aspect Ratio interfered or not. The film is visually artistic and wants to be even a bit more than what it is, but it never really gets beyond visually stunning. That's fine and all, but "The Fountain" could have been a great, great movie. That's the last thing I am going to say regarding the matter. Finally, "The Fountain" has an absolutely spectacular original score brought to us by the musical master, Clint Mansell. Movie scores can make the movie better, and this is one of those cases. Mansell's score is, perhaps, a whole lot more beautiful than the actual movie. There is beauty to be pondered beneath "The Fountain", but half of it is due to a truly wonderful sense of musical artistry. It is a film made for thinkers, and those who can get by flawed philosophy.

Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" will not agree with everyone. I was very entertained by it because it was not only visually creative, but it was also quite thought-provoking. Some will call it pretentious and unbearable, while others will see it for what it really is. I do not think that we will ever see it as it was intended to be seen unless Aronofsky releases his ever-anticipated Director's Cut. Until that day, I will be waiting. Hopefully that day comes to begin with. I think that "The Fountain" shall be appreciated more one day, but only if the Complete Version decides to show up. As of now, it does not quite exist to everyone. Aronofsky makes it as inaccessible to most as the original cut of the film, although that is purely the director's decision. I still respect Aronofsky a whole lot for trying to tell a story of deep complexity, although this is a step down from "Requiem" and "Pi". That's not a bad thing considering it's not really a huge step down from those two wonderful films, but Aronofsky has indeed created a respectable film here. I don't understand why some people hate it, although I can sympathize for people not seeing the spectacle. It's a visually rich experience, although not all will see this due to a poor Home Media transfer. This film just isn't given any proper respect. As with most great yet confusing films, most will hate it while some will cherish it. It's a film that requires thought, and maybe that's why I concluded that, "Hey. I like this!" I decided that it's not my job to criticize a man for his efforts. I decided that Aronofsky isn't content with this version of his film. I blame the studio, those damn greedy bastards. Aronofsky is a filmmaker; an artist. His film does not need to be cut down to appeal to your liking. Apparently Aronofsky didn't care; although then again perhaps he does. As long as that Director's Cut is still in the way of existence, I'm still all for supporting this film. I liked it, although it's not an easy film to recommend. Precede with caution my friends, for it's quite the bumpy but visually stunning ride. Take the film as you will.

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January 17, 2011
Another great review on another great flick
January 17, 2011
January 11, 2011
I'm looking forward to an extended Blu-ray of this...
January 17, 2011
Yeah. An extended Bluray and DVD would be nice. I hope he starts up the petition again; last time it didn't get nearly enough signatures.
January 17, 2011
I didn't even know there was one...
January 17, 2011
Me either. It's still up...but the thing is closed for the time being. So unfortunate.
January 11, 2011
wow! Very nice! I was glad to see this review since I said in my Black Swan write up that it had the realism of the Wrestler and the vision/ fantasy sensibilities of The Fountain. Yes, a director's cut would be awesome. Thank you!
January 11, 2011
There is no Directors Cut...yet.
January 11, 2011
yeah I was re-editing my comment--I meant to say "it would be awesome" thanks for the review. I am featuring this one...if you don't mind.
January 11, 2011
Dude, why would I mind? I'm honored!
More The Fountain reviews
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 17, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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