Harry contemplates and celebrates Darren Aronofsky's THE FOUNTAIN!
I’ve watched THE FOUNTAIN three times now. I’ve seen it with audiences that just absolutely loved it, and I’ve seen it where some left scratching their heads. This isn’t an IQ test film. This is about the questions that nobody has answers for. It’s about the cycle of life, death, love and the infinite.
In THE FOUNTAIN, the characters played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz are not deeply defined, they’re not fully explained. We meet them at the crucial point of the relationship. We don’t need to know how they met, why they fell in love or any of the history of the relationship, because what is important is she’s dying and he’s desperate and obsessive about saving her, prolonging her life, giving him one more minute with her. He’s a man of science, a man that doesn’t deal with the maybes of the hereafter, the happiness of the afterlife – he doesn’t want to be alone. He doesn’t want to stand over her grave. He doesn’t want to lose the one thing in this world he loves.
As a result, in these final days – he’s obsessing in the lab, trying exotic formulas, innovative – perhaps inhumane experiments. Doing everything but spending what time he has left with Izzi. But a man with an obsession is hard to distract with something as small as taking their annual first snow walk.
A lot has been said about 1000 years that this film is purported to take place over. Art is a subjective thing. I read interviews with Darren Aronofsky, I’ve even conducted one with Darren at FANTASTIC FEST. To me, there is only one reality – the story that takes place here and now. 500 years ago is in Izzi’s book – a fictional book written by a woman that loves her husband and wants him to be her conquistador – questing for his queen to win eternal life and defeat the eventuality of death.
Izzi wanted Tommy to read her book, a fictional account about Tomas questing for Queen Isabel. She knew she wouldn’t be saved and that the quest to save her would consume and take Tommy’s life, she wanted him to understand that it wasn’t his fault, that death was natural, that it was peaceful and is nothing to be afraid of, but to be embraced.
What is that future?
Izzi asks Tommy to finish the book. To me, that is this man of science’s take on how he would be reunited with her. He would find a way to live forever, till science could take him to that nebula where Izzi believed her soul would go and be waiting for him, and he would be reunited.
Why do I not believe those scenes are real?
Because of the flashback. The flashback where Tommy remembers Izzy asking him to go for a walk in the first new snow of the year, the final walk in the first new snow. In Tommy’s mind, he fantasizes that he took that walk, that he spent what time he had with Izzi. That science wouldn’t have given him one more moment, but that caring and paying attention would have given him months of time that he spent obsessing at the lab. That instead of a book about a questing conquistador – he’d have had memories of going to galleries, museums, shows – of loving her and her loving him. Instead all he has are bittersweet memories of a chase.
That’s what I believe.
If those memories 500 years in the future are real, then Hugh has lived for 500 years on a quest to die in the spot he knew Izzi believed she would be. That makes this film an incredible science fiction story of obsessive compulsive self-destruction. I prefer my interpretation.
Where Hugh’s Tom realizes his mistakes, misses Izzi and realizes that the here and now is the most important thing. That his wife’s death was natural and that his talents can save future lives, but that Izzi will live forever in his memories of her. And that she will inspire his amazing talents to save others and in his own natural death, he’ll be rejoined.
But that’s my interpretation of what happened. Aronofsky has made a work of art, one that can be interpretated in a varied amount of ways. It is beautiful, loaded with symbols and stunning colors. The characters are cyphers for us to place ourselves in. Asking each of us how we would deal with the dying of a loved one. And the message I take away from this film is this… I will love my loved ones while I can, as long as I can, for the rest of my life – however long that may or may not be.
This is a short review, but do not mistake it’s lack of girth, for a lack of passion. This is one of the monumental films of the year. I just have a very concise take on the material. I could argue points of view and alternative takes on the film for days, and I have. This film is Aronofsky’s very best film to date, and to date he has been brilliant. The visual effects are brilliant. But make no mistake about it, to me, this is no more Science Fiction - than it is Historical Fantasy. This is a Drama about two people in love dealing with one of them dying - each in their own way - one through science, the other through fantasy. Two belief systems. Each keeping them sane, through the maddening frustration of life. We never have as much as we want, and we never have enough time to love who we love as much as we love them. It is a brilliant film.