Tuesday, 28 August 2012

'The Fountain' (2006)

Spanning over one thousand years, and three parallel stories, The Fountain is a story of love, death, spirituality, and the fragility of our existence in this world.  (via IMDb)

Is there a more pretentious-sounding synopsis? The thing is, The Fountain is nearly impossible to describe to someone who hasn't seen it. Darren Aronofsky's only bad film, that's what I'd heard. So I'd pretty much avoided it like the plague. But I'm glad I finally caved and gave it a whirl.

The film can't deny its origins in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - it confuses the hell out of you and it takes a fair while before you really get what it's trying to do. To reveal what seems to be the film's intention would be to give away too much, but it definitely succeeds. It's not something you can breeze in and out of, and you can't expect to get everything that's happening right away. But if you stick with it, pieces fall into place and sense is made of even the most obscure moments.

Ok, so I don't pretend to fully understand the bald flying monk, but I have my theories. Which is what The Fountain seems to be about - theories. The point is you don't have all the answers. In the same way 2001 defies interpretation, there are many ways of seeing Aronofsky's story. Some may say that's a huge fault, but others will applaud the ambiguity.

It's an assault on the senses, giving stunning visuals (also reminiscent of 2001) and a soundtrack that compliments but never overpowers. The film isn't quite brave enough to show long empty black shots like in 2001, but it has its moments. And it's usually not until after those moments that you make sense of them.

Where The Fountain really shines, however, is in its acting. At the heart of the film is a man trying to save his wife from an inoperable brain tumour. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz give absolutely incredible performances, which brings a tender realism to an otherwise bizarre, fantastical movie. Anyone who doesn't need to fight back tears during a few key scenes simply doesn't have any tears left in them! Balancing several roles apiece, it's in the "modern-day" moments in which the two shine, guaranteeing a beautiful chemistry that keeps you engrossed throughout.

The Fountain is a story of life, death and rebirth. Some will love it, others will hate it - there'll be no middle ground. Which is, at the very least, admirable - dividing audiences is something to strive for because otherwise, what's the point? Give it a go - at worst you've spent 90 minutes of your life screwing up your face in confusion and taking in enough trippy images to secure bizarre dreams for the rest of the year. At best, you'll experience a complex piece of storytelling and an emotional film that will stick with you for a very long time.

Read more of Neil's reviews.