★ 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.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

2 thoughts on “★ The Fountain”

  1. Oh good­ie — I thought I was the only per­son who liked this film. Erm — you did like it, didn’t you?

  2. 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.

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