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by Matt Forsman on Nov 23, 2006
Writer/director Darren Aronofsky first made his mark with the dark, mind bending Pi. From there he ventured into even darker territory with his depressing exploration of the world of addiction (of just about every kind) in Requiem For A Dream. In Aronofksy’s latest, The Fountain, we have a similarly dark vision, but The Fountain is also the most life affirming film he has ever assembled.
The film starts off in dramatic fashion with a 16th century conquistador, Tomas (Hugh Jackman), braving terrible dangers in his quest for the fountain of youth on behalf of his beloved queen, Isabel (Rachel Weisz) In short order, Aronofsky leaps forward about five hundred years and introduces us to another version of Tomas, Tommy Creo, who is desperately trying to find a cure for cancer and save the life of his afflicted wife, Izzi.
If you’re not suffering from vertigo yet, it will happen soon. Aronofsky leaps forward yet again. This time it’s the 26th century and we have another version of Tomas, Tom, who is an astronaut seemingly drifting aimlessly in space still trying to comprehend the mysteries of life, love, and death that have haunted him for a millennium.
Hugh Jackman is tasked with the non-trivial job of playing all three incarnations of “Tomas”: Tomas, Tommy Creo, and Tom. While these three characters may ultimately be in pursuit of the same goal, unlocking the mystery of life, the only real common link between the three is the passion they bring to their pursuit.
In a sense, they are all the same person, but Jackman does an excellent job of bringing something distinct to each version of Tomas. We see a fearless conquistador, a frustrated and helpless physician, and an isolated, contemplative, zen-like space traveler. Jackman may not get much attention come Oscar time because he plays three different characters. This is unfortunate as Jackman deserves some attention due to the versatility he displays.
Rachel Weisz does a serviceable job as Queen Isabel and the 21st century Izzi, but neither character is particularly fleshed out. Weisz’s characters merely serve as a catalyst for the various versions of Tomas to continue his quest for the secrets of immortality.
Immortality (or rather the quest for it) is at the crux of all three Tomas storylines. Aronofsky cleverly interweaves the three storylines throughout The Fountain, which serves to simultaneously illuminate and confuse. We learn a bit more about each version of Tomas and the nature of their quest, but we’re often left with more unanswered questions.
The Fountain is not the kind of film casually viewed. The luxury of “checking out” is not allowed by Aronofsky. There are so many layers to The Fountain that multiple viewings are virtually requisite to have a reasonable chance of deconstructing the message of the film.
It is this level of complexity that will likely make The Fountain an arduous task for some (many?) to sit through. But the movie is absolutely worth the trouble. Few films in recent memory pose more fascinating questions about the inextricable relationship between life and death. The Fountain is worth drinking from.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
by Matt Forsman on Nov 23, 2006
images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Rachel Weisz as Izzie and Hugh Jackman as Tommy Creo