Sometimes you are immediately drawn to a movie and then, for one reason or another, it remains unseen. Such was the case with The Fountain (2006). This movie sat on my shelf for years waiting to be watched; yet, it was left neglected. Now that I’ve finally sat down to enjoy it, I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything it offered and the story it may have told. The Fountain is not a clear-cut journey and is left open for interpretation, which in itself can be both interesting and frustrating at the same time.
Our story is not told in a linear fashion. It bounces back and forth between three separate stories that are all interwoven. The connecting pieces are the characters played by Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine, X-Men) and Rachel Weisz (The Mummy, Sunshine). One story deals with Jackman playing Tomas Verde, a conquistador sent to New Spain on a mission for Queen Isabella (Rachel Weisz). The Spanish Inquisition is threatening to dethrone the queen due to her pursuit of eternal life. She has been told the secret lies with the Mayans and sends Tomas there to find it and bring it back to her. One he returns, she will be Eve to his Adam. Tomas survives a mutiny of his men and an attack by a Mayan priest. The priest believes Tomas to be the “First Father”, part of the Mayan creation myth dealing with the Tree of Life.
Our second story deals with Tommy Creo, a scientist played by Jackman who is trying to find a cure for his wife’s brain tumor. Izzi is played by Rachel Weisz and is near death as her husband Tommy so desperately fights to find a cure using samples from the Tree of Life. Izzi has written a book called “The Fountain”, which tells the story of Tomas but is left unfinished. She tells Tommy before she dies that he must finish it. Tommy follows through with the ideas presented in the Mayan myth and plants a tree at Izzi’s grave in hopes her body will nourish the tree just as the Mayan father lived on in the Tree of Life.
Wrapped around these two stories is that of Tom, a traveler from far in the future crossing space in a biosphere. Within the sphere is a tree and they are headed to the Xibalba nebula, previously viewed by the Tommy and Izzi characters and playing an integral part in the Tomas storyline. Tom possesses an ink pot that appears to be the same one Izzi gave Tommy to use to finish “The Fountain”. Tom occasionally sees and talks to Izzi. It’s open for interpretation but the idea is that Izzi is still alive within the tree and that heading to Xibalba will somehow begin life anew.
The Fountain is not a movie to go into with your brain turned off. You must watch it with close observation, capturing every detail and use those images to help weave the story or stories being presented. The core ideas behind the overall story deal with life and death, told through the love story of our two main characters. The answers are never given in black and white but left for the viewer to come to their own conclusions. Are we witnessing one long story following the same two people as they live through the ages or are they truly separate stories with the same theme of trying to understand death instead of fearing it? Tommy feared the death of Izzi while she prepared for it. These concepts truly hit home for many who live through the slow death of a loved one, questioning why the tragedy is happening while the person who is dying reaches a point where they are at peace and ready to take the next step in their journey.
Writer and director Darren Aronofsky did extensive research in his screenplay as well as pulling from personal life experiences. His own parents died from cancer, which resulted in his questions about his own mortality. He approaches his film projects with great thought and research, as evidenced in such films as The Wrestler (2008) and Black Swan (2010). Surrounding his thought-provoking ideas is visual imagery that deserves to be seen in high definition or on the big screen. I highly recommend The Fountain for both the story it tells as well as the personal reflection it will cause. It is not a movie to seen lightly and is one deserving of more than one viewing to fully comprehend all it presents. I will need to watch this at least a second time as my mind is already racing with thoughts and questions as I am typing this review.