Posted on January 31, 2008 by Monica Valentinelli
Starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz
Some films are so inventive, so surreal that you have an emotional response to the film no matter what the movie is about. In a way, The Fountain has a few of those elements that reach out and touch you, no matter what mood you’re in.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up The Fountain; I had read some other reviews of it before I went out and got it and was intrigued by Darren Aronosfky’s writing and film style. Going into it, I had thought it was a film about the fountain of youth, about a couple who were possessed with finding the mythic “fountain” to restore and heal Izzy (played by Rachel Weisz) from her terminal illness.
Well, if you’re going to sit down to see this film, you should be prepared for some gut-wrenching, visually over-the-top scenes and powerful performances. This movie is not about life versus death or good versus evil, it’s about the cycle of life, giving it a more earthy and ancient feel. It makes a point that hits us hard, expressing that even with our microscopes and our advanced science and technology, that death is unavoidable as part of the natural cycle of life. We can choose how to face our death, as much as we can choose how to face life.
Thomas (played by Hugh Jackman) and Izzy are a young, married couple dealing with her inevitable, slow death from a brain tumor. Unable to deal with her death, Thomas does everything he can to stop the tumor from spreading through his quest for a cure at an animal research facility. Ellen Burstyn (You’ll remember her from The Wicker Man plays his boss, and serves as a moral compass at important points in the film. Superimposed on Thomas’ quest, is another journey—to find the “Tree of Life.” Playing a conquistador, “Thomas” serves Queen Isabella (Izzy) to track down the Tree of Life and bring immortality to save Spain from being taken over. This manuscript, written by Izzy, is superimposed on another one – the “First Father” belief that opens the film and unifies the life and death theme.
The shifts in time, scenery, and space are masterfully done and truly bring about a sense of circular completion by the end of the movie. Visually, the “gold” overtones create several layers that echo throughout several other myths including the Holy Grail and reincarnation. The costuming was extremely impressive; whoever did Weisz’ make-up for her role as Queen Isabella of Spain did a masterful job remaking her into an entirely different character.
The ending of the film is punctuated with an ironic, violent note, one that clearly speaks to the message, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” While this movie may not be for everyone, the entire cast and crew truly hit their mark. A comparable film to this one would be What Dreams May Come; both have central themes that aren’t steeped in Western philosophy and both have visual imagery not typical for a dramatic film. Unlike What Dreams May Come, the majority of this film delves into dark depths of desire, longing, and basic human desires on a very, intimate level. Part-drama, part-horror and dark fantasy, it’s worth seeing once provided you’re in the mood for a “deep” film.