★ The Fountain

The Fountain is a 2006 film by director and screenwriter Darren Aronofsky. Back in 2002, Aronofsky was about to begin filming when Brad Pitt, the film’s star, pulled out over creative differences. The sets were auctioned and the project shelved. Then, in 2005, Hugh Jackman came on board – bringing his box-office capital with him. The Fountain was released in November, 2006.

Watching the film yesterday afternoon prompted some thoughts about metaphor. I thought I’d write them down. This isn’t a review as such, but it does contain some spoilers.

This film is notable in several respects. While most Hollywood movies drip with Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), The Fountain benefits from exquisite macro-photography. (This involves filming chemical reactions with high-speed, high-magnification cameras to create organic-looking starscapes and vistas.) The decision to forego CGINot entirely, however. The flowers that bloom in the body of the Jackman’s conquistador are computer-generated. was taken for budgetary reasons, but it lifts the aesthetic of the film well above its contemporaries.

Another point of interest is the splintered narrative, which one might call ‘nonlinear’. But not only is this narrative broken apart, it deliberately fails to make sense. That is, questions are introduced and not answered; one is never sure that the different narrative threads are designed to complement or clash. Do they happen in the same universe? Is one the dream of another, written down?

We have the story of a Spanish conquistador searching for the so-called tree of life with which to save Spain from ruin. We have the brilliant doctor racing to find a cure for his wife’s brain tumour – a cure that somehow involves the bark of a single, South American tree. And we have the Last Man: a guardian astronaut taking the same tree to an exploded, dying star that once inspired the Mayans as their underworld. Three times; three people. Why are they played by the same man?

Aronofsky appears to have taken his metaphors in all directions. Where they clash with the plot, the metaphor wins. The conquistador, the doctor and the astronaut: they should not be the same man. But using the same actor expresses unity. Unity is symbolised by the tree itself (which is one of two) and by the loss of the doctor’s wedding ring, and even the unending KubrickAronofsky’s macro-photographic special effects are reminiscent of the slit-scan technique Kubrick used in his stargate sequence.-esque symmetry of the shots selected by the director. All the scenes – apart from one – involve a physical journey through, for instance, a hospital corridor, a museum, a temple.

Once again, it seems that the story is metaphor. Strengthen the metaphor, strengthen the story. The plot can go to hell. Sometimes it should, just to see to what happens.

Published by

Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

2 thoughts on “★ The Fountain”

  1. Yes! I thought it was excellent. A flawed, brave film. One or two moments of boredom towards the end (rather too much light; too little narrative) but really worthwhile.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *