The Fountain (2006)
When presenting allegoric existentialistic concepts on film, a filmmaker must take into account trivial challenges that an author can disregard, such as the acting or the visualizing of objects that will inadvertently represent something palpable and associative for every viewer. This gives someone working in film more tools and options to use in order to grasp the viewer, but it might also make it more difficult to draw focus to the concept, because no matter how general you want to be, your images will always be specific. With his long awaited new film, The Fountain, Darren Aronofsky is struggling to balance the general and the specific. His goal is arguably either to present an idea, or at any rate a rendition on some of mankind's most ancient meditations: the source of life and how we are connected to the discontinuation of it, or to evoke reflections around this in the viewer and open his intellectual or visual channels - or, preferably, both. The Fountain isn't about suspense, narration or entertainment, but about thought-processes - in the leading characters as well as in the viewer.
And Aronofsky's ideas aren't banal or stupid. What he presents will to some extent be fascinating to most of us. But while potentially interesting, it’s hard to not consider the life-death-rebirth circle as an over-analysed and highly glorified concept nurtured by our inseparable bond to Christianity. The question is whether this approach is retained due to the fact that it is the most significant one, or because of our lack of vision - in this case from Aronofsky. To what extent does The Fountain have artistic or philosophical value? Does it present something new and fresh, or does it simply recycle and inflate existing and highly debatable (at its best) or trivial stances?
Regardless of the answer to the above questions, Aronofsky seems very content with his symbols and parallels, because he keeps repeating them. His film clings to its own awe, hence removing any fertile soil for the immediate, for the unconcerned. The craftsmanship is impressive, and so is the portrayal of the combined sadness and vigour that exists in Tommy's unwillingness to let go of life, but the film lacks the subtlety and simpleness that a poem or a painting with a similar objective would have had. The Fountain persists without protruding, and flaunts its crescendo to a level that Aronofsky's cogitations cannot justify. The sad part about this is that his simple but poignant story is marginalized by the dazzle.
The acting in The Fountain ranges from brilliant to mushy. Hugh Jackman has moments of sheer inspiration followed by segments that completely passes him by, that he can't seem to find a way into. But I don't really blame him, because the way this film is assembled, it's hard to capture the necessary emotional relevance between its three sections. The Fountain remains interesting throughout, and it definitely makes you think, but the film's brilliance is only visible in fragments behind a veil of pomposity and recycled imagery.