Overview: Darren Aronofsky weaves together a tale of love, mortality, and obsession in a time frame that stretches over a millennium. Warner Bros. Pictures; 2006; Rated PG-13; 96min.
The Fountain of Youth: For thousands of years there have been stories of people searching for the Fountain of Youth, the mystical fountain with restorative healing powers. In modern times, the search continues, but under the realization that the “Fountain of Youth” is more likely found within a lotion or prescription medication. Aronofsky’s The Fountain is concerned with the eternal hope for found immortality.
True Love: The movie follows Tomás, Tom the scientist, and Tommy the space traveler (each played affably by Hugh Jackman) as they pursue the idea of eternal life. Each character inhabits a time-period specific customization of the same storyline: A man is desperate to find a cure for mortality to save his dying lover. All three explorations of romantic love are predictably fueled by some form of obsession. Passionate love, sure, but also a bitter need to alter the future or reverse the past to eliminate mortality’s stronghold on the human condition. The obsession within each of these men drives them to betray all their immediate and basic senses. The prospect of ultimate love lost is enough for them to sacrifice human life, scientific discovery, and everything.
What Does It Mean: This movie is a tough one to grasp at times. The storylines are easy enough to follow to a point but eventually get mired in standard Aronofsky abstraction and a hurried third act. Do we really need to have closure at the end though? Do we really need to know how Tom the scientist turns into Tommy the space traveler without hair? Ultimately, the film’s thematic pondering doesn’t necessitate solid answers. While the story might feel disconnected and unpolished, the facts remain: All life is fleeting, death is the mother of beauty, and there is no point in fruitlessly obsessing over a universal inevitability.
Score: I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the marvelous score by the always fantastic Clint Mansell. I fully expect a movie of this grand scale to have a score that sets the tone and Mansell delivers in spades. “Death is the Road to Awe” blends driving percussion and the haunting Kronos Quartet on strings. Atmospheric and ambitious, the music is a true joy and a beautiful addition to the film.
Overall: Despite obvious flaws, there’s a lot to appreciate here. This movie sufficiently portrays the frailty of life and the futility of attempting to cheat death. Brad Pitt was originally cast in the three roles, but left pre-production because of schedule conflicts. The studio responded by slashing the film’s budget in half. I have to wonder what this film would have been if it hadn’t been forced to labor under these limitations. It very well could have been Aronofsky’s masterpiece and a masterpiece of modern cinema. Such is life.