"Therefore, the Lord God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and placed a flaming sword to protect the tree of life. - Genesis 3:24"
The Fountain is a movie for people who are willing to consider the profound. I would hope that all of us struck with the human condition were interested in the topics of romantic love, universal spirituality and the concepts of time and death; but that is just not so. Since its release in 2006, The Fountain has only amassed $15,978,422 worldwide. Many critics have called it a pretentious film, obsessed with elitist considerations. If this is true, then I fear for the masses.
In fact, it is my opinion that The Fountain is one of the most perfect works of art ever created. Not only does the film explore the aforementioned phenomena with rare dignity; but every subtle detail within every frame, word or sound is flawless. Writer/director Darren Aronofsky's attention to detail is evident in the score, editing, acting, special effects, dialogue and plot. For example, rather than resorting to cheap-looking computer-generated imagery for the special effects, Aronofsky used micro-photography of chemical reactions on tiny petri dishes to generate organic, timeless images.
The three stories in The Fountain are set in very different times and locations, against the same backdrop of color and sound. The progression of the characters from darkness to light is accompanied by the gradual introduction of glittering gold and sunlight into the landscape of deep reds, black and shadow. The score, by Clint Mansell, laces together the past, present and future lives of Tommy Creo, played by Hugh Jackman, as he pursues eternity with his Love, Izzi Creo, played by Rachel Weisz. In the past he is a conquistador, searching for the Tree of Life, which will free her, his captive queen. In the present he is a medical researcher, extracting properties from various trees to find a cure to save her, his dying wife. In the future, he is the Last Man, moving toward a dying star, wrapped inside a nebula, where he and she can be reborn. The stories intersect and parallel; the quests fail and succeed.
Every major religious tradition is represented in The Fountain, allowing all viewers to subjectivise the story to their individual belief systems. In all three stories, Tommy is led by an amalgam of Christianity, science, immortality through art, Mayan paganism and Taoism as he seeks the Garden of Eden and its Tree of Life, the Mayan underworld Xibalba (the dying star), the cure for Izzi's brain cancer, and the end of Izzi's novel; but finds, in each case, that death precedes eternal life--that one must die to live forever. The theme of the movie is repeated, "Death is the road to awe."
To reinforce the cyclical, boundless nature of time, the dialogue in the past, present and future stories of The Fountain repeats. "Let us finish it" and "Together, we will live forever" hint, throughout, at the theme of finding life through death. Tommy and Izzi also make unknowing references to their previous and future lives. In the present, Izzi calls Tommy her "conquistador" as he hunts for her cure; and in the past she asks if he will "deliver Spain from bondage," which can be seen as an allusion to her sickness in the present.
Aronofsky also shows his unique aptitude for personalizing the emotional experience in his other melodramas: Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan. Rather than existing on the surface of his characters' limited experiences, Aronofsky's films focus on the collective hopes, fears and instincts that motivate these characters.
The Fountain is 96 minutes-long and is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language.