Science Fiction can smear itself all across the genre board, adding in elements of action, horror, comedy, animation, or pretty much anything under the sun. This reviewer though, creates a special category that I like to call 'poetic science fiction'. Films like "2001" or, to some extent "Moon", can be thrown down in this shallow pool. These tend to be some of the best of the genre being able to hit the depths of being a smart film and retaining an artistic vision. "The Fountain" is a spectacle of a film that belongs in this area too. With its stunningly subtle (yet pretty simple) story, fantastic visual work, and details to bury the forest with trees in, "The Fountain" comes across as a poetic piece of film bound to awe.
This film happens to occur on three planes of existence at once. All of these three interweaving stories include a man (Jackman) in search of finding a cure for 'death' as he struggles with the eventual demise of his beloved (Weisz). One tale is in modern day with a scientist trying to overcome cancer, one is a 16th century Conquistador who searches for the fountain of youth (tree of life whatever) for his queen, and the final one is of a futuristic man traveling through space with the tree of life towards a nebula.
I would be lying if I told you that I actually understood "The Fountain". Part of the brilliance (and controversy of whether or not the film actually works) is in this sort of ambiguous state of affairs for what this man is struggling with. Like poetry that one reads, much of "The Fountain" is up to interpretation by its viewer to place the details and themes into it themselves. Director/writer Darren Aronofsky isn't going to come out and tell you shit. He lets you do most of the work and just lets you take this visual spectacle and simple story to your own conclusion. This is both insanely frustrating (the first one or two viewings of the film) and completely rewarding (when you do sort of figure out what you think it actually is saying). With stupendous acting from out two leads and few supporting roles that pop up along the way, "The Fountain" holds its own against this massive idea that it tries to convey. Technically speaking, this film rocks your socks off.
Sometimes the film does drag a bit (the reason for half a star being missing from its perfect rating) in many scenes resulting in a rather slow burning and mid tempo paced piece of film. Unless you had a shit ton of Wheaties for breakfast and did some mental exercises prior to viewing, this one might bore a few of you out of the film. Many people I have spoken with about "The Fountain" never finished it due to it being 'as boring as fuck'. As I mentioned above though, this frustration and confusion does lead to an eventual gratifying experience if you allow it to work its magic properly.
"The Fountain" is DEFINITELY not for everyone. If "Transformers" is your favorite science fiction film of all time, then just go continue to Google search for the next Michael Bay IQ shrinker and leave this one alone. If you are a film fan and want to challenge yourself to something a bit less 'in your face' and more about the details and viewer experience then take a gander at this one. "The Fountain" might be a frustrating watch but chew on it for a while and I'm sure one will grow a taste for it. Aronofsky does it again.
Written By Matt Reifschneider