Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Together We Will Live Forever: Love, Death, and “The Fountain”

Now that you all know why I harbor such a ridiculously intense crush on Hugh Jackman, it’s time for the Hugh-a-Palooza to continue!

Source: Wikipedia

While Hugh has starred in some wonderful films over the years, today I want to focus on one of my favorites: The Fountain, directed by Darren Aronofsky and co-starring Rachel Weisz. It’s one of those movies that seems to defy genre: one-part romance, one-part science fiction, one-part fantasy.

Aronofsky’s experimental style, as well as the non-linear storyline, makes it a bit odd and off-beat. It’s little wonder that the movie elicits divided reactions from fans and critics alike. It was allegedly booed by critics during its initial screening at the Venice Film Festival; fan reactions usually range from “Love It!” to “Hate It!”, with a fair number of people scratching their heads and saying, “Huh?”

The movie encompasses three storylines, all of which involve men battling the inevitability of death to save the women that they love. The core storyline takes place in the present-day, where Tommy Creo (Jackman) is a scientist struggling to find a cure for cancer. His motivations are as much personal as they are altruistic — his wife, Izzi, is fighting brain cancer. As he works to find a way to cure her disease and to keep her alive, she is learning to accept death, turning to an ancient Mayan myth about death and rebirth.

Probably the sweetest/hottest bathtub love scene ever. Source: Crash Landen

Izzi uses writing as a vehicle for healing and acceptance, weaving a fictional tale about Queen Isabella of Spain’s quest for the mythical Tree of Life, found in “the jungles of New Spain.” This is the second strand of the film, where Queen Isabella (also played by Weisz) commands her loyal conquistador, Tomas, to journey to South America, find the tree, and bring back its secrets.

Arm Tattoos from "The Fountain"

The third strand of the film takes place in the future, with Tom Creo as a space traveler taking the Tree of Life to Xibalba, the dying nebula that the ancient Mayans believed to be their underworld. Tom measures the years of his life in tattoos that run up and down his arms like tree rings, and as he sails through space to the place where he and the tree will be reborn, he is haunted by moments from the past: Izzi commanding him to finish her book, Isabella charging him with the task of finding the tree, Izzi asking him to take a break from his work to walk through the first snowfall with her.

Tommy and Izzi stargazing. Source: Greg Saltiel

There are different interpretations of this third strand. Did Tommy invent a way to stop death and aging? Or are the solitary adventures of Tom the Space Traveler present-day Tommy’s way of ending Izzi’s book? Although I prefer the latter perspective, the film is told in a way that allows for multiple readings.

Tom, the Tree, and the spaceship.

This is a movie that is incredibly rich with symbols and themes, from the use of trees and circles (Tommy’s wedding ring, Tom’s bubble-like spaceship, and other imagery), to the use of color. In all 3 storylines, Tommy is always dressed in black, save for the final scene of the film, when he is wearing silver. Izzi, on the other hand, is almost always in white, with the exception of the Spain storyline, where she is clad in a gown of rich bronze and gold, embroidered with the recurring tree motif.

Tomas the Conquistador and Queen Isabella

When it comes to themes, the battle between life and death, and the tension between acceptance of nature and control over nature, reign supreme. As a scientist, Tommy represents the urge to control life: he wants to cure cancer, to stop aging, to bring an end to death and suffering. Historically, this is a characteristic associated with masculinity, the old Cartesian dualism where mind exerts control over body, where man can shape and harness nature according to his will.

Izzi gives us the opposite side of the coin: the desire to embrace nature, to see death as just another part of the human journey. Throughout the film, she utters a single refrain: “Death is the road to awe.” While Tommy is single-mindedly focused on developing a drug to cure her brain cancer, Izzi wants him to walk in the snow and watch the stars. Tommy tells her, in a voice filled with anguish, that he wants her to stay with him, she reminds him that she will always be with him… but what is left unspoken is that her presence may not always be a physical one.

Tommy and Izzi together in a scene that always makes me cry. Source: Celebrating Cinema.

Above all, it is Hugh’s performance that draws me back to this movie time and again. While he exhibits all sorts of raw masculinity and berserker rage as Wolverine, his turn in The Fountain encompasses the greatest emotional range that I’ve ever seen him exhibit. In the present-day, he is a man standing on the brink of a breakdown, fighting to maintain control over his anger and his sadness.

With Izzi, he is tender and warm, and yet he can’t cry in front of her — that expression of grief is something that he can only do in solitude. As Tomas the Conquistador, he is intense and driven in his desire to protect his queen and carry out her wishes. As Tom the Space Traveler, he is somber and meditative, yet when Izzi/Isabella reappear and demand that he “finish it,” his grief is palpable. “I don’t know how it ends,” he keeps saying, and we can all feel his heartbreak.

The Fountain isn’t a perfect movie. At times it seems convoluted, and yet it is one of my favorites of all time. It is a movie that makes me think, one that makes me feel, and that is a rare thing in today’s world of cinema.

It’s also visually striking, and Clint Mansell’s soundtrack is so exquisite and evocative that I often put it on repeat and play it for hours on end. If you’ve got an open mind, and the desire to submerge yourself into a strange but beautiful world for an hour and a half, I encourage you to check out this movie.

Has anyone else seen The Fountain? Did you love it or hate it?

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29 Comments

  1. Great review Lena. I love Hugh. what a hunk. and what a marvelous actor – he’s had such a range of roles.
    Louise Behiel recently posted..The Family Hero – It’s Not All GoodMy Profile

    • Thanks, Louise! I didn’t want to give too much away, but I did want to talk about just how darn gorgeous this movie is (and Hugh!). Every time I watch it, I’m just so blown away by him.

  2. I loved this movie when I first saw it and then didn’t really think about it again, but now I need to see it. Not just for my love of Hugh, but I think I’m in a better place to understand and appreciate the movie. You know how sometimes you see something, but it isn’t the right time and you don’t appreciate it as much as you do on a later viewing. My husband was probably watching it with me making snarky comments because Hugh is so perfect and beautiful. 😉
    Tameri Etherton recently posted..Kickass Heroines ~ Danielle from ‘Ever After’My Profile

    • I totally know what you mean! I saw the film when it first came out, and I left the theater going, “Huh.” I liked it, but it’s really taken time (and multiple viewings) for me to deepen my understanding and my love for the movie.

  3. Okay, I haven’t even read it yet, but I couldn’t wait to scroll down and say, OH HECK YES!!

    Right.

    Now, I’m going back up to read.
    Myndi Shafer recently posted..Q&A: Alica McKenna JohnsonMy Profile

  4. A combination of genres I LOOOOOVE! I don’t always care for experimental structure, but having read the way you break it out, I might be able to understand what’s going on and enjoy it. And of course, what’s not to like about Hugh. 🙂 Bummer that this one’s not available in Netflix streaming, ’cause I just checked.
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..My Town Monday: Arts and Letters, with a Leap Year TwistMy Profile

  5. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this one but I’ve just added it to my MUST watch list. Sounds fantastic!

  6. Great review. I haven’t seen this movie – or even heard of it though if I saw a preview it might jog my memory. I like movies like this – but they drive the hubs crazy. Will have to wait for a night he’s out of town or busy to watch it. Thanks! I’m impressed with your restraint – no naked chest pics 😛
    Lisa Hall-Wilson recently posted..My Soldier CookiesMy Profile

    • You know, the only reason why I even came across this film is because I’ve made it a point to see every Hugh film since about 2004 or so. There have been complaints over the years that the production company (I think it was Warner Brothers?) did a less than stellar job of advertising the movie… but to be fair, I think this movie is a little hard to market.

      Totally lol’ing at the comment on restraint. I have to admit, this is less of an eyecandy film and more of a thinking one. There’s very little shirtlessness, unless you count the steamy bathtub scene, which still manages to be rather poignant. 😉

  7. I don’t think I’ve seen this but definitely adding it to the must watch list. Great review Lena. Thanks for bringing this to my attention 😀
    Raelyn Barclay recently posted..Sunday Summary & #ROW80My Profile

    • Yay, I’m glad you liked the review! I really wanted to do the movie justice, since it’s so much more complex than most of Hugh’s other films. If you get a chance to watch it, let me know what you think!

  8. I haven’t seen it, but now I have to it sounds amazing!

  9. Well Lena, you are really pumping out the blogs! But I see your source of inspiration! “Hugh!” Ah, Hugh. Well I must confess that I haven’t seen this one. But I take your word for it. I’m a little lost, but then you said you were until you saw it again. I think I’ve read too many blogs today or something. LOL! My mind is gone. Thank you Lena! Great review! 🙂
    Karen McFarland recently posted..ROW80: Alive and Kicking!My Profile

    • Haha, I can hardly believe that I got this one written! It’s only been in the works for, oh, a couple of months now. 😉

      Don’t worry if you’re a little lost — the movie is definitely on the complicated side, at least until you unfurl the interlocking storylines. Eventually, though, it starts to make sense, lol!

  10. I’m going to have to make time to watch this one again.

    When I watched it the first time, I thought it was very intriguing and I loved the imagery and the score. But I would have said it was a decent movie, good but not great.

    And yet.

    This movie has stuck with me in a way that few movies do. To the point that when I saw you’d written a review of this, it was just natural for me to click through and read it.

    I’ve listened to the score dozens of times since then and it evokes some of the feeling of the movie, but I really just need to make time to sit down and watch this one again…
    Michael Haynes recently posted..March Goals for #writemotivation and 11 Questions from the Writer’s CampaignMy Profile

    • Yes! This is exactly how I felt after I watched it the first time. I went because I am a diehard Hugh Jackman fan, and watch all of his movies, and I liked it, even though I was scratching my head after the credits. But so many points from the movie have troubled me and intrigued me, and it’s only in subsequent viewings that I’ve started to put my finger on why I’ve found it so compelling.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Michael!

  11. I can’t believe I’ve never heard o this. I have to seek it out.
    Sarah Pearson recently posted..The Evil Genius BlogfestMy Profile

    • Yes, you must! I really do think it’s worth an hour and a half. If anything, it’s just a really pretty movie (no CGI was used, either, which I think is awesome), and the music is nice. 😉

  12. I have to admit that I am one of the people who said “huh?” when I watched this. However, I did love it, and I think I will have to go find it and watch it again. I saw it only once, and I think it’s one of those movies you have to watch multiple times before you begin to understand.
    Esther recently posted..Requiem for InnocenceMy Profile

    • You’re definitely not alone in that, Esther, but I’m glad you’re thinking about watching it again! It’s definitely taken me at least a half dozen viewings to start figuring out what the heck is going on.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

  13. Fantastic review, Lena! The movie sounds really interesting, especially the way you present it. Now I have to watch it. :-)))

    • Thanks so much, Angela! There was so much I wanted to capture, but I really didn’t want to give too many spoilers away. The movie really is an experience, so I do hope you get a chance to see it. 😀

  14. It has been a long time since I saw this movie. You’ve made me want to watch it again with new eyes. Great review Lena!
    Debra Kristi recently posted..Dip Me in Chocolate! Healthy and HappyMy Profile

  15. This was an excellent review. I haven’t seen this movie, but you’ve sold me 🙂 My husband and I are thinking of signing up for Netflix. Do you know if it’s available there? (Netflix has such a variety that it probably is, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.)
    Marcy Kennedy recently posted..Do You Believe In Second Chances?My Profile

    • Yes, the movie is available on Netflix. Also, if you have an Amazon prime account, you can apparently stream it for free. I haven’t given that a try yet, but it’s on my to do list.

      So glad you enjoyed the review, Marcy! I really wanted to do this movie justice. 😀

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