The Fountain - Review
Review by Richard Goodwin
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Director Darren Aronofsky; Inside The Fountain: Death And Rebirth – Featurette.
DARREN Aronofsky’s long delayed follow up to Requiem For A Dream has Hugh Jackman’s scientist trying to find a cure for cancer after his wife (Rachel Weisz) is diagnosed with a brain tumour. Well sort of…
The film is actually set over three time periods – 16th Century Spain, the present and the future – and flits between the three throughout. All three have Jackman on some sort of quest relating to cheating death.
16th Century Spain is fantasy as an interpretation of the book Weisz is writing during her final weeks. In these segments Jackman portrays a Spanish Conquistador sent on a mission by the Queen of Spain (Weisz) to find the tree of life thought to be hidden by the Mayans.
The present is the segment that holds the film together as Jackman’s scientist works to find a cure for the tumour his wife has developed. It’s the emotional anchor of the film and holds the key to understanding the two other time periods, giving them some context and establishing links between the three.
Then we have bald future monk Jackman flying through space on his way to a nebula in an attempt to resurrect the now dead Weisz.
These segments may or may not be reality and are arguably the most difficult to digest, particularly to begin with as they appear at odds with the rest of the film.
But slowly, as the film progresses, what appears at first to be wilfully abstract begins to make sense placed in context with the other two segments.
Aronofsky does a great job of getting the best out of the use of the three segments. By juxtaposing the fantasy and future elements against the more intimate segment set in the present, a real sense of awe is achieved and a sense of the epic.
The director has always had a keen eye for the spectacular and some of the visuals are truly exceptional. His innovative camera work is also worth the price of the DVD alone for those who appreciate the technical aspects of filmmaking (check out the upside down camera shot of the car which flips up the right way as the car passes below).
Aronofsky is not just a technical director, however, and the performances he coaxes out of Jackman and Weisz (Aronofsky’s wife incidentally) are superb.
Jackman, in particular, deserves praise for what is a very difficult role, constantly having to break down emotionally on screen, and this is surely his best performance to date.
At times, the emotions are so raw you almost feel uncomfortable – like spying on someone’s most private moments.
Originally, the film was intended to be a $100 million epic but Warner Brothers pulled the plug in 2004. Aronofsky then had to go back and scale it down using a much smaller budget. Hence, it now has a more independent feel.
Yet in spite of its troubled history the film actually works well and doesn’t feel compromised.
Pretentious? Yes. Indulgent? Certainly. But despite its flaws the film is both bold and innovative and held together by Jackman’s performance, which gives it real heart.
So, if you can let some of the more mind-blowing stuff go then there’s lots to enjoy here and, strangely for a film about death, an oddly uplifting experience.