I feel like I stumbled down the rabbit hole and spent 96 minutes free falling, only to emerge out the other side knowing that 500 years has passed and I’m now living in an enlightened era. What on earth am I talking about? I’m not entirely sure. I’m still stuck in a bit of a metaphysical state after watching The Fountain.
This movie is like nothing I have ever seen. The only thing that comes close is Cloud Atlas (another extraordinary film which taunts the edge of understanding). Here is a rough guide to The Fountain’s plot, since “rough” is as close as I’m going to get: Tommy (Hugh Jackman) is a doctor who’s trying to find a cure for cancer in order to save his wife, Izzi (Rachel Weisz). His research introduces him to the bark of a magical tree which supposedly reverses ageing and cures death – the tree of life, if you will. His wife, meanwhile, is writing a story about a Spanish Conquistador, Tomas, who searched for the same magical tree on behalf of his beloved Queen Isabel roughly 500 years ago. In the ‘fictional’ story-flashbacks, Jackman and Weisz play Tomas and Isabel respectively, in addition to their ‘present-day’ Tommy and Izzi. The effect makes The Fountain feel like a reincarnation film. But we’re not done here. Throughout the film there are also frequent flashes to Tommy in the future/alternate dimension/outer space/a world outside of time and reality. He’s there, hanging out with the tree, trying to make sense of his wife’s theory that death is creation. Got it? Yeah, me neither. Total granola in a milk bathtub.
Yes, it’s confusing. In fact, it’s one of the most confusing, bizarre films I have ever seen. Just when you think you’re starting to get the gist of it, the plot jerks forward or backward and you’re once again totally lost. Where are they? When are they? What are they? Are they talking about the ‘present’ or that ‘past’ which I thought was a story but now looks like a historical reenactment? …It’s nuts. But getting through the feature does leave you with a sense of wonder. Maybe it’s okay, just this once, not to understand everything perfectly. Even Hugh Jackman gets lost some times – just look at that bewildered, answer-yearning face!
What makes The Fountain worth the watch is its aesthetic beauty: golden trees floating in nebulae, perfectly balanced black and white sets, and an overall sense of stillness with an undertone of anxiety. The music by Clint Mansell is stunning and the mix of past, present, and future is mesmerizing. The whole thing is divine, artistic eye-candy.
The Fountain bends a lot of things: reality, life, death, time, space, religion, science… It is an extremely different film and worth the effort for anyone bored of your classic, boy-meets-girl-someone-effs-it-up-they-make-amends movie. The beauty and fragility mixed with one top notch confusing plot leaves The Fountain with my score of 7.5/10. I have a feeling I’ll be picking this one apart for days to come.
Let the trailer have a go at explaining the plot.