Wednesday, November 15, 2006

6 years in the making... it's The Fountain

The Fountain is quite difficult to write about. It seems to be about an eternal quest for the fountain of youth, told in three different era (Conquistador era 1500s, modern day, and 500 years in the future). But it's about a whole lot more. So much more, in fact, that I fear I might not have gotten it all. In addition, there can be multiple interpretations of the events, which I can't really explain without ruining the movie for those who haven't seen it. What I can say is that it's a beuatifully filmed and wonderfully acted piece, almost a fairy tale if you can believe it. It also stays with you for days afterwards.

The leads in all the stories are played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. In the conquistador era, Jackman plays Tomas, who is charged by Queen Isabella of Spain to find the tree of life, long thought to be a myth from biblical times. (Adam and EVe were presented with the tree of knowledge and the tree of life, and when they screwed up with thte tree of knowledge, the tree of life was hidden and lost.) Apparently it was in Central America, where Tomas has pledged to find it to help deliver Spain from bondage.

In 2006, Tommy Creo (Jackman) is a research scientist desperately trying to find a cure for his wife Izzy (Weisz), who has an inoperable brain tumor. Tommy is driven, almost obsessed, with finding something can save his beloved Izzy. Their love is strong, even if Tommy can not accept the inevitability of death, while Izzy is fast approaching it.

And 500 years in the future, Tom (Jackman) travels the stars in an organic bubble that contains the dying tree of life. He is on a quiet journey through the heavens, but his destination is not quite known.

Each story is tied to the same themes of obsession and fear and/or acceptance of dying as a facet of life. It's told in a loose manner, jumping back and forth through time, but painting a larger picture, and that picture is the story of one man's love for a woman. It truly is a fairy tale, with one man fighting against all odds to be with the woman he loves.

And it's told wonderfully. Darren Aronofsky seems to have calmed down since his last two films (Pi and Requiem For a Dream), and here tells a tale of love. It presents some big ideas, but never in an unaccessable manner. The film can be taken straight on, and not hurt one's mind. Every shot in the film (courtesy of regular Aronofsky cinematographer Matthew Libatique) looks grand, yet never loses the focus of it's two leads. It's epic in scope and yet quite intimate.

None of this would work if Jackman didn't do a damn fine job. He does a damn fine job, in all three roles. He goes to three separate places, on three separate journies, and making you believe it. You buy his obsessive nature, and you never doubt his love for Weisz, no matter what time period. Weisz is also quite good, but it's Jackman that holds the film in the balance.

One last special nod must be paid to the music. Aronofsky has always worked with Clint Mansell, and each time, the music gets better and better. Once again using the Kronos quartet (this time joining forces with Mogwai as well), Mansell turns in his best work. Lots of haunting melodies that will stay with you. I loved it.

It's not a perfect movie, and it's not nearly as mind bending as I thought it would turn out to be. But it's better than most sci-fi movies out there, and it tries for something different. It touched me, I'm not afraid to say it. And yet, it also has that visual element that makes it feel almost like you're viewing living art. It stays with you for days afterwards, and the more you think about it, the different ways you can interpret the film come more apparent. That makes me like the film even more.

FUN FACT: There is no CGI in this film. All special FX are done with old fashioned tricks. It works.

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