What was everyone’s problem with The Fountain? Maybe it’s not your thing, but to hate its very existence? It’s an artistic movie but it’s not so out there like a Bergman movie that makes no sense. I could lay the whole thing out for you but in the interest of spoilers, I’ll stick to the basics.
Movie Review: The Fountain
Hugh Jackman begins as a Spanish conquistador storming some temple guarded by Aztec soldiers. Then he’s bald and living in a bubble in space. Then he’s a modern day scientist doing cancer research while he watches his wife (Rachel Weisz) waste away with her disease. His research leads to an unexpected breakthrough, she’s working on a book that may remain unfinished at her death, and the bubble guy keeps flashing back and forth.
It’s only really abstract in the beginning. People appear and disappear, voices speak from nowhere, Jackman talks to a tree. That sets a smooth, beautiful mood and also tells you, “Hey, if you don’t like this, don’t expect much to change in the next 90 minutes.” It’s consistent in its tone, though there’s no easily discernable formula to the style.
Plotwise, it actually stays fairly linear. There are tons of time cuts, but come on, you’ve all seen movies before. You know the difference between the past, present and future. You know that if a movie keeps going around like that, it’s connected somehow. And the connection isn’t hidden. They spell it out for you, visually if not in words.
Thank God a movie can still have a unique language. Film is such a powerful medium, and we’re so familiar with all its tricks, somebody should be challenging its uses. It could be awful when somebody goes overboard, but Darren Aronofsky displays acute discipline. The Fountain never feels like he’s showing off. He knows what story he’s telling, he just has his own way of telling it.
The danger is when amateurs use unnecessary style to tell fairly straightforward stories. Here, there is a straightforward story of the relationship and events, but the real point is the man’s emotional journey. In that case, Aranofsky’s semi-abstract style is completely appropriate. Also, it’s the selling point of the movie. It’s not trying to be hip and edgy. It’s the actual experiment of the whole project.
It helps that the actors play everything real. You can tell when actors are just in love with the avant-garde process of some indie. Jackman is just playing a desperate man in love. Weisz is just playing a dying woman. All the visual craziness has nothing to do with them.
The music is as powerful as Requiem for A Dream. The string sounds are intense but a different intensity than Requiem. This is about heartbreak, not a total breakdown.
Look, I’ll admit I don’t totally get the ending. But I also don’t care. I got enough of it, I could think about it more if I want, I could watch it again looking for clues, but I still feel like I got a complete experience. It was a beautiful work of art and I don’t begrudge anyone preferring something else, but good God there’s plenty of something else to choose from.