Review: The Fountain (2006)

the fountain

I’m with the people responsible for stopping death, quite the conundrum this creates!

Screenplay By: Darren Aronofsky
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky

A couple of months ago my wife and I had a scare with our daughter. What we thought was a bug bite turned into a painful mass which then turned into a possible tumor. Luckily for us our daughter took a tumble a week before her surgery and in the process popped the possible tumor on her foot revealing it to be a fluid filled mass. The crisis had been averted, yet the rough time of the preparation for the surgery lingered in the air. I’m guilty of claiming to be a tough guy, and I am usually able to keep my emotions in check. My wife has even accused me of having an unhealthy level of detachment at times. Had my daughter had a cancerous tumor, or had something happen during surgery, or be taken from me for any reason I would have been devastated beyond belief. This is where I am at a crossroads with The Fountain, a movie that presents, among other options, the case for accepting death. I know that I couldn’t were it my daughter or wife who died. I know that’s probably unhealthy and that I will hurt myself and drive others away through my inability to accept their passing. But, I am only human, and much as I may deny it I am ruled by others around me and the emotions they bring about in me. I don’t think I’d be able to reach the level of enlightenment shown by Tommy in The Fountain, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy being along for the ride.

Technically The Fountain is a splendid picture, but that’s not what I want to talk about in this critique. The visuals are gorgeous, Hugh Jackman is surprisingly deep in his portrayal of a man fighting against the natural order of things, and Darren Aronofsky’s direction is subtle and mesmerizing in its complexity. I loved the technical side of The Fountain, but that’s not what I connected with the most in the film. As the film progressed and by the time it had finished I had bonded with the film through the questions The Fountain was willing to ask.

Mortality confronts us every day, but we aren’t often cognizant of that fact. Most of us act out our lives under the belief that we are immortal. The sun will come up, the day will pass into night, and we will repeat the process all over again the next day. Over and over again we repeat this ritual, and that is what life becomes for us. We don’t react well to change, and we most certainly don’t believe that anything can penetrate the protective bubble we form around our life. But arrows do pierce that bubble. We get sick, our loved ones get sick, and eventually we all die. The Fountain understands this, but it strives for something beyond such a rudimentary understanding of life and death. Mr. Aronofsky’s film asks us to question our mortality and more importantly to question the way we choose to react to death. Do we view death as an end? Is it something we fear? Is death something that must be postponed at all costs? How do we choose to live when we know in our heart of hearts that we are but mortal beings?

The Fountain asks these questions, and it never provides any answers. You see, providing a solution to the quandary of death would be an easy way out. It would betray the complex thematic leanings of the film, and that’s not something Mr. Aronofsky is willing to do. Instead the questions are asked and we see various ways to react to death. None of these reactions are right or wrong, they are but reactions that are documented. The only answer the film provides is that we will one day die. Death is inevitable, no matter how much science, religion, or what have you we throw at the blackest of nights. We will die, the question is how we choose to live before we die and whether we allow death to be our end.

I’m not sure if I’ve sold anyone on The Fountain with what I’ve written in this critique. That’s okay though because I’ve always striven for my blog to be more than a place to recommend films. This is a place for me to share my love of film, thoughts on the films I like and don’t like, as well as my favorite part of the cinematic experience, what I interpret in a film. I loved The Fountain for the questions it raised and the fact that the answers were left up to me, the viewer. It’s not the best film from Mr. Aronofsky, but The Fountain may be his most personal film. I was able to connect to The Fountain and its themes in a deep and very intimate way. I’m not dead yet, and the experience given to me by The Fountain is all the proof I need of the life I still have to experience, now and forever.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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