Darren Aronoksy is a filmmaker that certainly rubs people the wrong way. Between Pi and Requim for a Dream, he’s crafted viserally assaulting films, ones that leave you feeling slightly queasy, a little disturbed and at least in my case, with my jaw firmly slacked against the floor.
The story of his dedication to bring The Fountain to the big screen is almost as noteworthy as the film itself. Equally a testament to love and devotion as the film is. To say that Aronofsky has stepped into the realm of auteur would be an understatement.
With The Fountain he has crafted one of the best stories about love, death, faith and spirituality ever put to film. It’s both heartbreaking and visually stunning. A sci-fi film with no aliens or mutants, no robots or lasers.
To put this film in context, Aronofsky originally had Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett attached to star with a huge budget and big push from Warner Bros. But then Pitt pulled out unexpectedly and the project all but fell apart. Not wanting to give up, Aronofsky rewrote the film to get the budget down from $100 million into the $60 million range. And yet, he couldn’t get studio backing until Hugh Jackman decided to sign on. Jackman had the clout and name recognition after the X-Men series. Rachel Weisz signed on to the Cate Blanchett role. After a good five year period, Aronofsky finally got to make the movie he never wanted to give up on.
So what’s it about. Well, in a way it’s a simple love story between Tommy (Jackman) and Izzy (Weisz). Tommy is a cancer researcher looking for a cure to a certain type of brain tumor. Izzy is dying from that same brain tumor. Even though his wife is dying, Tommy devotes every ounce of his waking life to finding a cure for his wife’s disease. Even when he should be spending time with her, all he knows how to do is try and stop the one thing that will kill the love of his life.
But I thought there was a plot with Spanish conquistadors and another set in the future? You’re right. Part of the movie has Tommy as a Spanish conquistador searching for the mythical Tree of Life in South America for his Queen Isabel. And the other part is Tommy flying through space with the tree of life towards a dying nebulae.
It may sound confusing, but really in the present Izzy is writing a novel about a Spanish conquistador. She asks Tommy to finish the novel for her since she’s too sick to write the final chapter. One can interpret the scenes in the future as being the chapters Tommy writes to finish the novel.
I could write more and more about this movie and the nature of love, but it would be depriving you of the experience of watching it. Absolutely fantastic and further proof that Aronofsky is one of the finest filmmakers working today. He’s got an exquisite point of view and The Fountain represents a continuation on his exploration of chaos. Though this time he trains his eye on the chaos of love, rather than the chaos of drugs or mathematical genius. And in that chaos, Aronofsky has managed to find true beauty.