There was a point I remember having loved the films of Darren Aronofsky, and back then I remembered not liking The Fountain much. But now I’ve only found his films to be strenuous experiences aside from The Wrestler, and with all of this in mind I was not especially compelled to give The Fountain another go. To say the least, I’ve only found myself warming up to The Fountain more on rewatch, because it seems to be a case where Aronofsky is both maintaining his own style and telling a story that I’m not even sure can be repeated in the same manner. Aronofsky had always been a director who appears to do so much for the eyes yet his narratives are not quite the same level, oftentimes to the most excruciating results (Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan), but The Fountain is a story that only feels right being as showy as it is, it’s Aronofsky at his most expressive.
This is a film that spawns between three separate story threads all of which carry Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz at the core. But at the very center and how we start, we are watching the story of Tom Creo as he is about to lose his beloved wife Izzi to cancer. Within the last moments of her own life, he decides to finish a story that she is writing by spending time with her even with focus being dedicated towards a quest to find a cure. All of these three stories span different eras (two of which are separated by five centuries from the contemporary one) and different countries, yet through the visual motifs we still retain the same thematic connection with the effect of grief and loss on the human soul. Trying to stitch every piece of the puzzle together is one thing because The Fountain presents a difficult case to debunk, but alas it’s still a project that keeps me nothing other than fascinated at every turn. Given what I’ve always seen Aronofsky as best at, it was only at its fullest potential with an experience as cerebral as The Fountain.
The linkage present between every story thread in The Fountain pertains to grief and coping with loss. As every present string in The Fountain comes together in order to form the final result, the best thing that we have received is a film that uses its differing eras as a means of reflecting the pain at the very center. Sure, it could be easy to say that Aronofsky has created a melodrama that has only become needlessly complicated and yet I don’t see The Fountain being as distinctive without these strands setting the film in motion. It almost feels like Aronofsky is transporting his own viewers into a different realm as a means of piecing together the psychological process of having been affected by grief, just by appearing so dreamlike to replicate what floods one’s mind. A melodrama about grief we see at the film’s core, and yet also in a sense a profound exploration of love and obsession inside a tale that blends past, present, and future.
I can’t say that I’m always sold in on how these narratives are weaving together, but there comes a general problem that I’ve had with Aronofsky as a filmmaker. At times it certainly feels like a narrative that needlessly hops around for the sake of feeling complicated, but I’ve come to expect this indulgence to come out from Darren Aronofsky’s end – and yet I also find it so strangely hypnotic. Visually, this is Aronofsky’s most creative project and yet it is similarly an alienating one though it somehow still manages to make sense by the time it is over. But even for as much as I still find myself recognizing The Fountain as Darren Aronofsky trying to show off everything that he could do, considering that this was his follow-up to Requiem for a Dream (where said aspect became one of the film’s biggest detriments), I can’t find myself denying that he’s still formed visual beauty here. And maybe it was clear enough with The Fountain he has made a more easygoing film on the senses than Requiem, among many reasons I find this to be his most interesting work yet.
Aronofsky’s actors have also never been a selling point for me when watching his films, for Hugh Jackman is as wonderful as ever and yet Rachel Weisz seems within the spotlight her bits don’t grab me. But Aronofsky’s writing hasn’t always been so much of a selling point for me either, and I had only wished she served much more of a purpose than merely being present to provide a quest for Jackman’s character. Despite the manner to which Weisz rings to me on behalf of the film’s narrative I still find that her dual roles are serviceable enough, though knowing this is Jackman’s story I can only expect the most from his own role. Inside of a complicated triple role, Jackman still provides a strong emotional core on behalf of The Fountain, something I find lacking in Aronofsky for the most part. For as complicated as a triple role like such is within these narratives, it still finds enough balance to be equally compelling all throughout, which was perhaps everything I could ask for of Aronofsky.
I already find it easy enough to see why The Fountain has garnered detractors of any sort, because even for Darren Aronofsky’s fans it still feels as if this is his most inaccessible. But for as this apparently isn’t a fully realized vision that we are seeing, there are still traces of ambition that place The Fountain high above everything else Aronofsky has directed because even for as out of reach it may be, it still has a very human core to which I appreciate greatly. The Fountain is a complicated, yet somehow beautiful and easygoing experience though not without its own hindrances from Aronofsky’s indulgences. What we are presented within The Fountain is Aronofsky reaching beyond his own grasp, thus we have an experience that stuns and alienates in equal measure. Even for some Aronofsky fans this won’t be easy to grasp on first watch, and yet for me, someone who once was a fan before souring on his work, it’s his most interesting film.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Screenplay by Darren Aronofsky
Produced by Arnon Milchan, Iain Smith, Eric Watson
Starring Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn
Release Year: 2006
Running Time: 96 minutes