The Fountain is a 2006 Sc-Fi, Drama directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. The film is about three storylines that deal with themes such as immortality and love. A conquistador and his ill-fated queen, a modern-day scientist and his cancer-stricken wife, and a traveler immersed in a universal journey alongside aspects of his lost love.
As far as mainstream directors go, few bear any similarities to Aronofsky’s style. Films like Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, and Noah deal with very human stories in a very unconventional approach compared to something you would find in a summer blockbuster. Some may love it, others might hate it, but it’s hard to deny how technically proficient Aronofsky is behind the camera. His films are notable for their sense of atmosphere, striking imagery, and excellent performances from his actors. And while there are some creaks in the foundation, there is a lot in The Fountain that excellently demonstrates these aforementioned skills.
In terms of scope, this is arguably the most ambitious narrative Aronofsky has tackled aside from Noah. Ironically when you break this film down, its central story is straightforward to understand. It’s about one man’s desire to save his wife before she dies of cancer. However, this is thematically and visually illustrated in not just one plot thread but three, with the other two being far more fantastical when compared to the central storyline. While the opening and arguably the final few minutes struggle in bouncing between these storylines, the film as a whole can keep itself focused and understandable through smooth transitions and a consistently flowing pace. The Fountain tackles various themes such as life, love, death, eternity, obsession, loss, morality, and spirituality. While the film does struggle to handle all of them at once at times, how they are explored is very unique and feel earnest. There is a natural buildup of the central conflict symbolized to great effect in the film’s other two storylines. They’re are connected to the main storyline through dialogue and visuals, which keeps them from feeling superfluous. More importantly, there are handled with care and suitably in the more dramatic moments. Due to the unconventional approach can come off as pretentious, but I feel that the film’s efforts are in earnest rather than trying to force you to feel or think about its subject matter.
A huge critical component of this film’s success comes down to its main leads, and they thankfully deliver some really great work. With his name still being primarily associated as Wolverine in the X-Men film series, Hugh Jackman gets to show off his more dramatic chops. There are many shots in this film centered on his character’s faces with little to no dialogue, and Jackman’s expressions and postures tell more about the character in comparison to dialogue. It’s a potent dramatic performance as with Rachel Weisz. She’s joyful and sad energy to the character that makes her very likable and sympathetic. I won’t lie; Weisz’s performance tugs at my heartstrings a bit.
On a technical level, there’s little to fault here. Aronofsky’s direction is great. Every scene feels dramatic or important in some way, and the atmosphere and mood are on point. There is a ton of visuals motifs through shot choices and colors that not only looked great on their own but helps tie all three storylines together, partly due to the stunning cinematography provided by Matthew Libatique. Clint Mansell’s musical score is terrific. It’s operatic, heartbreaking, and serves to complement the film’s central themes. There are a few shots where there was ever a criticism where either due to the CG or lighting makes the shot look a little cheesy in its presentation. But this doesn’t happen that often, and it far from impacts the movie in any significant way.
Even though the film falters slightly under its mighty ambitions, The Fountain still turns out to be a very compelling, visually captivating feature. The themes are powerfully handled, the lead actors turn in great work, and the production is top-notch. If you are a hardcore Aronofsky fan, this is an easy recommendation. For those looking for something along the unconventional lines, this is also up you’re alley. This might be a tougher sell for everyone else, but the strength of the actual film-making might be enough to win you over.
Final Verdict: 8/10