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  Fountain, The Tree-mendous, Eh Readers?
Year: 2006
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Mark Margolis, Stephen McHattie, Fernando Hernandez, Cliff Curtis, Sean Patrick Thomas, Donna Murphy, Ethan Suplee, Richard McMillan, Lorne Brass
Genre: Science Fiction, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: Tomas (Hugh Jackman) is a Spanish Conquistador who has been sent on a mission to the jungles of Central America which, if successful, will save Spain from the iron grip of the Inquisition. He has ended up with a seriously depleted band of men, and is now standing at the foot of a Mayan pyramid, surrounded on all sides by the unfriendly natives. He is aware that he's trapped, but stands firm as his men try to flee only to be cut down by arrows, and when the Mayans reach him he puts up a courageous challenge. However, he is soon captured by them, carried aloft and deposited at the steps of the building where he launches himself up the steps, swiftly reaching the top and a mysterious figure advancing on him: the priest carrying a flaming sword. Holding a ceremonial dagger in his fist, Tomas prepares to meet his fate, just as one thousand years later his equivalent prepares to meet his in the remains of a dying star system...

The Fountain was the early twenty-first century version of what used to be called a head movie, a work that fed your mind and expanded your consciousness, or that was the intention. It was also a love letter to director Darren Aronofsky's partner, Rachel Weisz, who appears as two characters - or are they the same woman in different eras? - and a meditation on how love can be eternal even if our bodies are not. Bravely wandering between three time periods, the film takes place in the years of the Mayans that open the story, in contemporary times where Tommy (also Jackman) is a pioneering scientist, and in the far future where Tom (Jackman once more) is hurtling through space in a clear globe containing The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life, as mentioned in The Bible, is crucial to the tale, as it appears, just as Jackman and Weisz do, in each period. It can supposedly give eternal life to all who drink its sap, but first Tomas has to find it, Tommy has to harness its properties to create a panacea, and Tom must bring it back to its original verdant nature by taking it to a dying nebula that will give birth to many more stars. And that is, in essence, the theme of the film: death and rebirth and the inevitability of both, sort of a science fiction view of The Lion King, yet the straightfaced display of cosmic concepts tended to put a large part of the audience off, and quite a few dismissed it with the dreaded word "pretentious". Which is a fair assessment, but its strenuous efforts to find meaning to the big questions could also beguile those willing to go along with it.

You simply have to put your faith in Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel that they know what all this is aiming for. The present day sequences are filled with anguish, as Tommy wrestles with trying to save a dying baboon which is part of his experiments, while coming to realise that his writer wife Izzi (Weisz) is suffering from a terminal disease that he might just cure. All of this is, in the main, shot through an exquisite, golden gloom which gives the proceedings a late in the day feel, but that mood is jeopardised by the filmmakers' tendency to have Tommy fly into rages, acting explosively whenever faced with the impenetrability of death that he is powerless to stop. Jackman is up to the task of making his three characters' motives understandable and humane, with Weisz providing a wistful tone as the doomed Izzi, and a suitably enigmatic Spanish Queen. Not all of The Fountain could be judged a success, but it's a fascinating and stimulating journey to be taken on if you don't mind its folly. Lovely music by Clint Mansell.

[Fox's Region 2 DVD has a deleted scene and many featurettes as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Darren Aronofsky  (1969 - )

American writer and director, whose low budget science fiction film Pi was much praised. He followed it with Requiem for a Dream, an equally intense drug addiction story, with the long-awaited but unsuccessful sci-fi epic The Fountain arriving in 2006. Downbeat drama The Wrestler was Oscar-nominated, suggesting he was fulfilling his early promise, and Natalie Portman won an Oscar for his ballet horror Black Swan. His eccentric Biblical epic Noah met with a mixed reaction to say the least, though that was nothing compared to mother!, his other Bible pic.

 
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