Darren Aronofsky, the director of The Fountain, is someone I’ve not really responded to in his first two films—Pi and Requiem For A Dream. I admit, he’s an audacious visual stylist that makes technically brilliant films, but I found his first two films lacking in various ways. Pi was too thinly conceived to work to the finish and Requiem For A Dream was too unrelenting and ended up one of the most dour, joyless films I’ve seen in years.
The Fountain, a film that was in production for about five years (it was actually scrapped by Warner Bros. a few years ago after they’d spent 20 million and saw they were going to throw about 80 more down the well, this is the cheaper version), is by far my favorite Aronofsky movie. If I went into the out-there plot you might see why about half of the 15 people at this late night screening walked out of the theatre. Their leaving just emboldened my enjoyment of this extremely artistic and idiosyncratic movie.
I’m not going to really go into the story, as it will just come off very convoluted and strange--which it is. The story spans about 1,000 years with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz playing a variety of characters. There’s conquistadors, Mayan jungle scenes, the search for the fountain of youth, science experiments on monkeys, an astronaut floating in a bubble in outer space who lives with a giant tree (yes, this is true), love and more love…and just a lot of other elements to make this the most “out there” mainstream release of the year.
The story is pretentious (it is Darren Aronofsky after all), confounding, complex and wildly romantic all at the same time! Aronofsky has never been a director to shy away from striking visuals and he stacks so many memorable images and ideas into The Fountain it’s hard to process the story as it shifts from Spanish Inquisition to 1,000 years in the future to what seems like now with the one element that links all the timelines--the search for immortality.
As I mentioned, a lot of people walked out of this—including two loud, obnoxious people behind me so good riddance to them—and I think this is a very divisive little movie. Either it’s going to a work of visual and thought provoking art you get swept up in. Or, it will be a ridiculous, pompous mess that you will loathe. I’m in with the former on this one.
I was completely mesmerized by The Fountain from the very start. It's kind of a headrush of ideas, beautiful images, an interesting love story (or two, or three love stories) and will challenge the crap out of you as you watch it. And that is so refreshing to me in this day and age of market segmented filmmaking. With The Fountain, I'm not sure Aronofsky gave a damn and just made a crazy, all over the place film that will sparkle you if you are weak to this sort of magic.