(2006) dir. Darren Aronofsky
Fuckin’ new age hippie transcendental pan-religious head-trippin’ science fiction pretension.
High-minded, for sure. Sure. Dude, seeing a bald, floating cross-legged Hugh Jackman glowing white…yiikes. That’s an image that I could have done without. Floating in outer space in a bubble that inhouses the “Tree of Life”. Seeking the “fountain” of youth, the cure for death.
Darren Aronofsky, director of Pi (1998) and Requiem for a Dream (2000), indulges science-y, new age, poeticism to a really pretty non-functional level here. I have to say, that it sounded interesting on the outside…well, maybe not the way that I am describing it here. But this is retrospect and insight here. The story parallels two or three narratives in which Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz (who for some reason I always end up liking in movies) are carried over through the centuries and time/space continuums, seeking the “Tree of Life”, a cure for death, immortality. In one phase, Jackman is a conquistador seeking the literal in the Mayan empire for the queen of Spain. In the “contemporary” narrative, Jackman is a medical research scientist looking for a cure for brain tumors, which his tragically insightful wife (Weisz) is dying from.
From some of the stuff I’d read, Aronofsky was shooting for something to compare to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), something deep, visual, and head-trippy for acid takers or pot smokers or pseudo-intellectuals. Okay, I added that target audience on myself. Sadly, in some ways, I was more reminded of the utterly heinous What Dreams May Come (1998), the Robin Williams/Cuba Gooding, Jr., arty death experience that could nauseate at first glance. I think this is perhaps the most succinct way of posing The Fountain‘s failure. Not that it manages to reach for a heartstring, it’s too detached for that. It just is pretentious weirdo art designed death experience.
The irony is that this film’s march to the screen is actually more interesting than the film itself. Originally a big budget film with huge sets and massive goals and to star Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett before the studio pulled the plug, Aronofsky turned The Fountain into a comic book and eventually into this pared-down version with lower-drawer stars. That may not sound so interesting, but in a more full-blown play-by-play, the film’s journey is indeed more compelling than the film that eventually came out, which is in and of itself a reasonable commentary on the process of film-making in Hollywood and its “visionaries”.