Monday, February 26, 2007

"THE FOUNTAIN"

Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn

Cinema 3, Greenbelt 3

"What if you could live forever?"



"The Fountain" is one of those movies which you don't just watch, you experience it wholeheartedly. Many days later, it still lingers and haunts you like some apparition. I saw this film a week ago, absorbed it like a sponge, then the next day hopped over to Tagaytay for some much needed R & R to recharge my batteries but I can still picture this evocative film vividly in my mind. It has stuck like glue.

Overall, the film unfolded like a poem being read aloud with stunning imagery which resembled an abstract painting by a struggling artist. A myriad of different colors splashed all over a blank canvas, slowly taking shape. An experiment which will make anyone sigh with amazement upon grasping hold of the painting in some gallery and realize one is looking at a masterful piece of art. The film had a cleverly edited non linear plot. It seemed like a time travel machine which transports the 2 main characters back and forth in time. The story unfolding in the present, the future and within the pages of a book whose main time line is way back in the very distant past.

The cast led by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz channeled their artistic talent with a subtle flair to portray forceful characters. Fluctuating between different time zones, the depth of their acting range remained true to the personification of their ill fated characters. They delivered their dialogue with good diction and even when they merely whispered some of their lines, the poignant personality of Izzy and Tom were clearly evident. Hugh Jackman's 3 roles within this movie were all well essayed, somehow his rather tall physique didn't block his screen presence. You know how you tend to notice how some tall actors just get overbearing with their height well in this film, I somehow forgot that he is 6'5 tall.


The movie's soulful musical score wasn't overbearing and it didn't suspend the audience with a sense of false belief. Brilliant cinematography provided excellent backdrop to a rather complex premise. A sudden burst of color filling the screen one instant and in the next sequence an overtly dark overtone looms over the set. My favorite scenes in the movie involves the tree of life, how a small seed planted on the ground evolves into a vibrant tree blooming with its numerous branches and leaves. The last scene too when the tiny bubble bursts when the nebula is born. Those shining flashes of light amidst the dark sky, it seems like a well choreographed dance interpretation of the birth of a new star. The main premise dealt with a rather somber view of life, the quest for immortality and death but mostly it is a hopeful love story which spans through time.

Now here's my interpretation of the plot. (Warning: Spoilers alert)
The story unfolds in modern time, a neurosurgeon named Dr. Tom Creo obsessively wants to find a cure for his wife, Izzy. She is in pain and slowly dying from a tumor in her brain. Izzy on the other hand driven by a profound sense of spirituality has accepted her tragic fate. During her lengthy illness, she embarks on a journey through the pages of a book she entitles "The Fountain". She writes a novel about an ancient Mayan belief that upon the death of a Mayan warrior, the tree of life sprouted from his body and his spirit lives on through that tree. She tells Tom:

"He (the Mayan who was her guide when she visited South America) said that if they dug his father's body up, it would be gone. They planted a seed over his grave. The seed became a tree. Moses said his father became a part of that tree. He grew into the wood, into the bloom. And when a sparrow ate the tree's fruit, his father flew with the birds. He said... death was his father's road to awe. That's what he called it. The road to awe."


The setting of her book is during the reign of Queen Isabelle of Spain whose rule is being threatened by an Inquisitor. So the Queen sends her loyal Conquistador to find the tree of life in her quest for immortality and her eternal hope that she and Tomas can live together, forever. Izzy visibly weakened and in the last stages of her life is struggling to write the final chapter of her book. Izzy's belief in astrology about Xibalba, the Mayan underworld, a peaceful state which occurs when a nebula is born also sustains her acceptance of her impending death.

Her husband, Dr Tom is hell bent on finding a cure before she dies so that they can be together forever. Eventually, the film shifts to a forlorn image of a bald man living in a space bubble with a nurturing tree that seems to drift aimlessly in outer space. In my opinion, the bald man is none other than Dr Tom himself who has outlived everybody on earth and wanders across the vast universe in hopes of reaching Xibalba so he can be reunited with Izzy, his beloved wife. Being a scientist, his 'solution' for immortality is to keep testing Donovan (the monkey) for a cure to eradicate the tumor in its brain so he could use the same formula to heal his dying wife. When in theory Izzy believes they could only be together forever in death. However, since Dr. Tom did find the 'cure' to immortality, he continues to live eternally in that little space bubble with the tree. The tree which for me symbolized Izzy. It is the same tree which sprouted from the little seed he buried on Izzy's grave over 500 years ago. She is the tree of life, the tree is Izzy. His only connection with his dead wife are the 500 (representing the amount of years that Izzy has been dead) black rings he tattooed all over his body. This can be attest by the fact when he realizes near the end when the bubble is about to reach Xibalba that Izzy through the blooming tree was with him all along.

"All these years, all these memories, there was you. You pull me through time. You pull me through time."

Towards the end, Dr Tom now more spiritually sound in mind and body is calmer and at peace with himself because he knows he will finally be reunited with his Izzy.

Yes, I admit it was a pretty complex film to grasp and not everyone will like it. Heck they might even hate it for good measure. It can be quite claustrophobic when most of the scenes are enveloped with a dark overtone. The somber subject matter too - Death and Immortality - can be a bit depressing. You need to be in a certain state of mind, be it coherently alert or a bit spaced out to understand the film. But I admit, it is a refreshing change from the usual fare of love stories with happy endings. I do certainly recommend it. Just be sure you are in the proper state of mind so you can appreciate this existentially provocative cinematic masterpiece from Darren Aronofsky.

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