Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Fountain Will Live Forever


The Fountain has managed to polarize viewers to a degree which few films are able to equal. Audiences either think Darren Arofonsky's latest film is the most disappointing crap they've ever seen, or the most brilliant piece of filmmaking in years. This critic is among the latter.

The story spans a thousand years of human past, present, and future. Five hundred years before the present day, the Queen of Spain sends a devoted conquistador to find the Fountain of Youth. In the present day, a woman dying of a brain tumor works on finishing her novel, The Fountain, while attempting to spend her final days in the company of a husband determined to save her life at any cost. Five hundred years in the future, a man travels alone through space in a transparent sphere while haunted by ghost images of a woman. All three men are portrayed by Hugh Jackman and all three women are portrayed by Rachel Weisz. Determing which of the three stories are 'real' and which are 'fantasy' depends on a personal interpretation of the film but ultimately matters very little. The film is concerned more with the lessons Hugh Jackman's character(s) learn about the mutual inclusivity of love and loss, of life and death. The film's tagline asks, "What if you could live forever?" The film answers the more important question, "Would that be enough?"

It's a story told brilliantly by Aronofsky who has been trying to get this project made for some time. Originally actors Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were attached to the lead roles but left due to creative differences and scheduling conflicts. While I would have been interested to see Pitt in a role like this, I'm grateful for the opportunity to see Hugh Jackman make the character his own. Aronofsky raises the bar of film direction here as well. Because he wanted to maintain the timelessness of The Fountain, Aronofsky avoided using CGI for all the special effects shots, and instead utilized a process involving "microphotography," a technique using little more than chemicals and some petri-dishes. I'm not really sure how he did it, but he made some of the most elegantly stunning effects I've seen on screen.

The Fountain is not for everyone. The nonlinear narrative can be quite confusing and tends to shy away from force-feeding the audience answers to the questions it poses. No one should go into the film with any assumptions that (s)he'll love it just because it's a Darren Aronofsky film. You will love it or you will hate it, but moviegoers should take the risk, because no matter where they might end up, there's no argument that The Fountain goes places other films rarely go.

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