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The Fountain
The year’s most promising conceptual spectacle
The Fountain
Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz Star in "The Fountain".
OPENING WEEKEND: $10,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $43,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

July 7th, 2006: During the 16th Century, Spanish conquistador Tom (Hugh Jackman) battles Mayan warriors as he searches Central America for the fountain of youth that will save the life of Izzi (Rachel Weisz), the woman he loves. As a doctor in a modern day American city, Tom desperately hopes to find a cure for the cancer that is killing his beloved wife. In the 26th Century, while traveling through space’s vast oblivion as an astronaut, Tom’s journey brings him closer to the answers in his quest for eternal life. Three distinct periods that span a millennium, merge in an epic romance. A man’s search for the fountain of youth takes on mysterious and mythic proportions as his love endures above all.

What to Expect: Writer-director Darren Aronofsky is no stranger to existential rumination. Just watch his independent feature debut Pi, a paranoid and psychedelically claustrophobic take on a mathematician’s search for the meaning of life within the pure logic of his calculations. It’s a fascinating ride through ideas, albeit a low-budget one. Of course, the young director is probably most famous for his second movie, the devastating and disturbing portrait of the many forms of addiction, Requiem for a Dream. It has been six years since that film made a startling and profound impact, but Aronofsky is finally ready to unveil his highly anticipated follow-up. The Fountain is the type of project a director pours his heart and soul into. It’s gone through numerous delays and a lengthy production timeline, but after all the tribulations, it is finally ready for an audience.

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Aronofsky wrote the screenplay for The Fountain with his friend Ari Handel, who coincidentally happens to hold a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Handel’s influence will be felt mostly in the middle portion of the story that takes place in the present and centers on Doctor Tom. Originally, Brad Pitt was attached to play the lead with Cate Blancett as the object of his affection. When Blanchett’s pregnancy had to be accommodated, the production suffered its first setback. The prospects took a turn for the worse when early in 2002 Brad Pitt left after already putting in a good amount of time helping shape the material. Citing creative differences, the superstar chose to do Troy with director Wolfgang Peterson instead, which may not have been the better career move after all. Unfortunately, Blanchett soon followed her Babel costar and the production had to be shut down. Aronofsky was stuck and his dream project no longer looked like a possibility, primarily due to its hefty $75 million budget, which no studio wanted to touch without Pitt and Blanchett on board. As a result, the director entertained some other options for a while, including a new Batman film, which was eventually helmed by Christopher Nolan under the title Batman Begins. Unable to think of anything other than The Fountain and determined to make it work, Aronofsky revised the script and managed to trim the budget down to about $35 million. The production reopened early in 2004 with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in the leads. Aronofsky also developed The Fountain into a graphic novel (which will be released soon) to help preserve the original vision prior to some of the cuts he had been forced to make. Principal photography ended in February of 2005 and the film has been going through quite an extensive post-production period since. Clint Mansell, whose music from Requiem for a Dream can now be heard over every other movie trailer, returned to provide the score for Aronofsky for the third consecutive time.

Surprisingly, the busiest man in Hollywood this year appears to be Hugh Jackman, but none of his projects are as challenging and intriguing as this one. Up until 2006, I had never thought of Jackman as an actor that could star in films of this caliber, but his image may alter drastically before the end of the year. Aronofsky has reportedly been highly impressed with the actor’s ability to hit distinct physical and emotional notes on demand. That is probably an essential attribute for anyone that has the tricky task of playing a Spanish conquistador, a doctor, and a futuristic explorer in totally dissimilar environments, all in one movie that somehow needs to tie them all together. Reportedly, Jackman changes his physical appearance as well as his demeanor when switching between the three and has even shaved off all of his hair on his head and chest for the part of Tom, the space traveler. Part of the mystery that the filmmakers maintain is whether the three Toms are all the same one person or if they are three distinct, but thematically connected people. The same can probably be said of Izzi, his better half. Rachel Weisz comes off a well-deserved best supporting actress Oscar win for The Constant Gardener to take on the multi-dimensional role. Since she and Aronofsky are actually engaged, the director did not have to look far for a worthy replacement for Blanchett. Of course, he always tends to work with familiar faces. The director wrote parts especially for Mark Margolis and Ellen Burstyn, two actors that he has worked with before, with the former appearing in both of his films and the latter earning an Academy Award nomination for her incredible performance in Requiem for a Dream.

Aronofsky has remained focused on using as little CGI as possible in order to help the film ultimately preserve the type of timeless quality that can be seen when watching classics like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stylistically, the 16th Century piece is said to be the most impressive, but all three time periods are linked through recurring visual themes. The ancient Mayan empire that is the subject of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto is likely to play a crucial role in that part of the film. Oddly enough, the part that takes place a half a millennium into the future is inspired by David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” (ground control to Major Tom).

When describing his film, Aronofsky has called it psychedelic and metaphysical science fiction. However, his primary concern has been in conceptualizing the idea of eternal life, a thought that has pervaded our society’s collective consciousness for ages and has had great influence over the arts, but has rarely been explored in feature films. Tom’s quest for the Fountain of Youth and also in this case Aronofsky’s personal invention, the Tree of Life, and his attempts to save his dying wife, will ultimately lead him to self-awareness and to a comprehensive understanding of his own mortality.

The intriguing concept and the low-key production have given this film incredible clout among film buffs. Aronofsky helped generate more buzz when he turned down a non-competition slot at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. He’s so confident in the final product that he desired Palme d’Or eligibility or nothing at all. The Fountain is without a doubt an ambitious and possibly even revolutionary undertaking, a film that could have that inexplicable ability to transform into a rarely paralleled theatrical experience. Thematically, it could become the type of existential marvel that evokes the likes of Stanley Kubrick. As excited as I get about challenging films, I somehow sense that it will not be a cerebral or incomprehensible film necessarily, at least not to the point that 2001: A Spacey Odyssey was for many. Aronofsky has assured that it is a simple love story at the core and I feel like the universal theme and the director’s fairly accessible delivery may not turn-off mainstream audiences entirely. With its audacious visuals, the film could provide more satisfaction than anything else simply as a wonderful visceral experience.

In Conclusion: This is Darren Aronofsky’s boldest attempt yet and I fully expect him to bask in songs of critical praise come October. Personally, I gravitate toward inspiring and thematically-rich films of this sort and I have to admit that I cannot wait for this one. Gauging how general audiences will respond to this movie will be done with some uncertainty, but I believe that open minded viewers will be fully rewarded for seeking this adventure out. Conceptually speaking, I see The Fountain pushing the film medium further than anything else this year, and for that alone it deserves a 10.

Similar Titles: Pi, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris
November 22nd, 2006 (wide)
May 15th, 2007 (DVD)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Darren Aronofsky

Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Gullette, Sean Patrick Thomas, Donna Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Mark Margolis, Ethan Suplee

Total: 157 vote(s).

Drama, Science Fiction

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language

96 min





The Fountain at AskMen.com

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