I watched two movies this past weekend, one of which was Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. The trailer is a little misleading, since it plays the film off as a story about a man’s quest to save his wife’s life and maybe live forever. That’s not exactly how it goes. The Fountain is actually three parallel narratives that star the same two people and span roughly 1,000 years. Hugh Jackman is Tommy, a Spanish conquistador/cancer researcher/space traveler, and Rachel Weisz is Izzi, the queen of Spain (Isabel)/Tommy’s dying wife/memory. The whole movie is essentially a meditation on death and immortality motivated by a love story. If this sounds a little pretentious, well, it is, but it’s good!
Not great, though. The trouble is that the true love of Tommy and Izzi’s relationship is largely taken for granted, having already been established at some point before The Fountain starts. Tommy is tormented by his wife’s imminent death and is desperate to find a cure for her cancer, whereas Izzi is already at peace with her fate. As a result, Tommy and Izzi seem to be talking past each other in a lot of their scenes. There’s a lot of misdirected anger and tension, and it’s all very tragic.
This is one of those rare films that communicates its message primarily through images, like 2001 (especially in the 2500AD sequences) or Hero. The visual effects are remarkable (especially for how Aronofsky got them done) and strikingly beautiful. It’s a story full of shadow, light, and stars, and I think it will age very well. This was Aronofsky’s first film since the undeniably brilliant Requiem for a Dream, and while The Fountain isn’t as good by comparison, I still recommend it.
I also saw Brazil, which actually has a lot in common with The Fountain. Brazil is another image-heavy movie, with a striking style that has held up surprisingly well over the past twenty-three years. Also like The Fountain, Brazil‘s production was plagued by studio interference, with Terry Gilliam resorting to a guerilla campaign to force the studio to release the proper version of this very dark comedy (likewise, Aronofsky had to stop filming shortly after he first started, lost studio support, and had to start over from square one with a totally different approach). One IMDB user described Brazil as “Orwell with a Python twist,” and that’s exactly right. This movie will freak you out. In fact, I think this is a great way to test whether your friends are robots. If this movie doesn’t freak you out, you are a robot. It’s really that simple. I’d recommend this one, too, with the caveat that, again, it will freak you out. I can’t emphasize that enough. The freaking out thing.