The reviews for The Fountain are mixed. But if you’re smart, you won’t read this or any other review. Instead, you will go and watch the movie.
You heard me. Turn off your computer right now and go to the nearest theater showing The Fountain and buy a ticket.
I’m a little late to the review party on this one even though I saw it on opening day, so I have a bit of a feeling which way the wind is blowing. Christian Science Monitor calls it “borderline unwatchable.” Ebert and Roeper give the movie two thumbs down. Philadelphia Weekly says of the film, “It’s hard to kick a mewing kitten, even one this stupid and ugly.”
The only thing I can think to say about this is, “why does this always happen to ME?” I left the theater convinced that The Fountain deserved an Oscar, and was going to win one. The same thing happened to me with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which I thought was an absolutely fantastic film. The critics disagreed strongly. This worries me because to be a successful director I will have to make films that have broad appeal.
I will concede that I understand why some people might find The Fountain boring or lacking in structure. But I don’t see how anyone can call it a bad movie. I could explicate it, but I won’t. I have my own interpretations, but they are mine and yours will be different.
This latest film from legendary director Darren Aronofsky (who has produced a staggering three films since 1996), is impossible to categorize. It’s epic, yes; it spans 1000 years, but it is a story about two people. It is science fiction, yes, but not like any other sci-fi film in existence. It is complex, difficult, compelling, obscure, fascinating, spiritual, confusing, and beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful. So breathtakingly beautiful that I don’t care about the plot. This isn’t to say that the plot isn’t engrossing or captivating; it very much is. But it’s not what matters.
This beauty isn’t just visual and aural, it is conceptual. The idea of a person turning into a tree, turning into a person, turning into a tree, is astonishing. The idea of stars and navigation by stars and life as dictated by a dying star inside a nebula light years away… these are absolutely wonderful. They are helped tremendously by jaw-dropping special effects that will be able to hold their own fifty years from now, transcendent cinematography by Matthew Libatique, and a dreamy-powerful score by Clint Mansell, and only slightly hindered by Aronofsky’s directorial style. He can be forgiven for his few errors. His last film, Requiem for a Dream, was about desparation. The Fountain is the exact opposite.
The Fountain, like all good literature and cinema, is a new and wondrous answer to the old question, “What is the meaning of life?” I don’t understand the answer, but oh what an answer it is.