Saturday, May 9, 2009

OPINION: The Themes Of The Fountain...


Over the past 5 years, many, many films have been released. Ranging from big budget action films, to small character driven pieces, to more spoof films than humans to kill after seeing them, no style of film has been untouched.

However, one of the more singular films released in the last half a decade has been Darren Aronofsky’s conversation starter, The Fountain.

Spanning 1000 years, The Fountain follows a man so whole heartedly devoted to a single woman, that he is more than determined to protect her from all things that would threaten her existence. It’s a visually arresting tale of one man’s journey to defeat mans most unconquerable foe: Death.

Since the first time I had a chance to see the film when the DVD was released in 2006, I automatically had to talk about this film. Whether it be with friends who haven’t seen it, or with people who vehemently disagree with yours truly, this film is easily one of the most polarizing films from the last 5-10 years.

The main point of argument for people when discussing this film is the themes that run through it.

The most startling point that the film makes is that there is inherent beauty in the death of human beings. Not as a species, but a singular being, dying, has some sort of inherent beauty within that. Whether it be the conquistador dying due to plants sprouting from his body, the woman dying, forcing her lover to finish her book, or the future Hugh Jackman being blown into a million pieces and spreading across the galaxy, things do come from death, and while one thing is dying, others are able to grow from that.

That is the most interesting piece that the film seems to convey. While I don’t think it’s a direct condemnation of religion, or at least the thought of an afterlife, there is something there.

If when a being dies, he or she were to simply be judged for what one does, and allowing for the chance of redemption via prayer, confession, whatever the idea may be, what would drive a human being to do something great? Sure, the world would be affected, but eternal life in heaven or whatever religion one may follow, seems to negate any drive to do something above the norm, at least in my eyes.

Honestly, I find the idea of something, even a plant or insects, being able to find a life from my death, as a much more beautiful idea or thought than eternal life.
Then there are the surface level things, such as what is actually going on in the film, which seems to confound people.

The film follows three separate storylines. The first one that people often look at is the present day storyline. It takes place in the year 2000, and features Rachel Weisz’s character suffering from a life threatening disease. To honor her in her death, she leaves the book that she is writing to be completed by her lover, Hugh Jackman’s character. The book that she is writing tells the story, another storyline, of a conquistador in the year 1500, searching for the fountain of youth. Before embarking, the queen states that if he were to find the fountain, she would wed the conquistador, and the two would live forever in love. On his hunt, he discovers the Tree of Life, which when drinking from it, kills him. Then there is the future story, which takes place on an organic space bubble, inhabited by the same tree, and a bald Hugh Jackman with a penchant for yoga.

The thing that confuses people the most is the idea that yes, the future storyline, while fitting perfectly with the book he is finishing, is an extension of the present day plot. Not only are there the markings the man makes (of the ring for example), but the way I see the film going is that he is forced to finish this book, to allow for some sort of closure, and he is unable to finish it for 500 years.
While in the bubble, he begins to see images of his dead wife, saying that he needs to finish the book. However, being overwhelmed by a passionate fear of death, which was the reason for him finding this tree of life and prolonging his life, he can’t get anywhere with the story.

The book being written was the first storyline, and when the conquistador dies, plants begin to sprout out of his body, which I see as the true ending of the book. Out of this man’s fear of death, came an ending to the story that allows the man to live forever, just not in a conventional way. Out of this mans death, grew plants, which allows for more life. He dies, and becomes part of the earth. It’s the cyclicality of life. Then, the future Hugh Jackman dies in a similar fashion, but instead of sprouting trees, his genetic material is spread across the galaxy.

These are all just my opinions though, and I think that is what makes this film so phenomenal. Not only is the film brilliantly acted, visually arresting (I could do a whole post just on that), but it’s also open to many, many conclusions. I just re-watched this film, and I just really needed to get my feelings out there.

What do YOU think?

Go see something good!

2 comments:

  1. Every single time I watch this film I cry. It actually took watching it more than twice to even begin to understand it. Hands down my favorite movie.

    One of the things I really enjoy about the movie is that you can't put your finger on it. Three storylines revolving around the Jack, and each relate to each other, but not in the same way. I also dig movies that have ideas that revolve around the afterlife that aren't solely based around traditional Christian values and religion. The fact that this movie tells about how the an ancient race once believed that everything wasn't a divine intervention is... well... interesting, to say the least.

    Another thing I really dig about this movie is (as you mentioned) the cyclicity surrounding death-- out of death comes life again. One of the most beautiful images in the movie is the part where Racheal Weisz's character talks about how a man was buried with a tree, and when he died, he grew into the tree, and the tree beared fruit, and when the sparrow ate it, he flew with the birds. It was that line that made me change the way I want to be taken care of when I die because of how simply beautiful it is.

    I really have to give props to Aronofsky when it comes to lighting. It starts really dark and gets lighter as the movie progresses (towards where everyone dies--which is interesting as hell). It's definitely a movie to be watched on a high def tv.

    Oh, and I just about died when the Jack figured out the cure for his wife right after she died. That killed me.

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  2. I could not agree with you more on pretty much everything you said. This is really just a great film, and something that everyone should see. They may not be able to get it really, as it took me a couple times to truly get it, but its message is so compelling and truly interesting, that everyone should check it out.

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