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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Death is the road to awe ....

... or so says a character in The Fountain, a 2006 film by Darren Aronofsky starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. I didn't see it when it came out because the reviews had been not so good, but when I saw it sitting forlornly at the library yesterday, I picked it up.

- a monstrance in the Spanish novel part of the film

This is a hard movie to explain. I almost stopped watching it in the beginning, but after about ten minutes, it began to take shape and involve me. There's been a lot of speculation on what's really happening in the film but I'll give you my interpretation (which is the same as Roger Ebert's and Matt Withers').

* beware of spoilers *

The story is about Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman), a research scientist doing experiments on monkeys' brains to find a cure for cancer, and who has a wife (Rachel Weisz) with a soon to be fatal brain tumor.

- Tommy and Izzy

Izzy, Tommy's wife, has been writing a novel titled "The Fountain", and the movie viewer gets glimpses of the novel's story with Jackman and Weisz as the main characters in it. The novel takes place in medieval Spain at the time of the Inquisition, and tells of beautiful Queen Isabella who, when threatened by the creepy self-flagellating Grand Inquisitor, sends her true love, a conquistador, to the New World to find the Tree of Eternal Life, as guided by a Franciscan priest to a secret pyramid located at the world's naval, where a Mayan guards the tree and the mysteries of Xibalba, the underworld contained in a star (the Orion nebula).

- Tomas the conquistador

- Queen Isabella

Izzy realizes she won't be able to finish the novel before she dies, so she asks Tommy to write the last chapter. He does so, and the futuristic scenes of the movie seem to be the events in the chapter he writes: an older and sadder (and bald!) Tom lives in a transparent bubble spaceship with a huge almost dead tree, en route to Xibalba, a golden nebula wrapped around a dying star, working frantically at actions that seem ritualistically formed to keep his dead wife's person present to him and to bring her back to life.

- the bubble space-ship in the nebula

- the future Tom tattoos his arms with the ink and crow quill pen point given to him by Izzy to write the last chapter of the novel

There three different scenarios, one real-time and the other two fictional past and future, flit back and forth kind of like in Slaughterhouse-Five, but in the end of the movie we're back with Tommy in the present after his wife's death.

There was a lot about the movie that was visually interesting, and there was some disturbing stuff too - I myself found the parts about the experimentation on monkeys to be creepy, but doubtless everyone would find the pathos of Tommy trying so hard to save his wife, and his devastation when all comes to nothing, to be painful. Tommy tries to save his wife from death through science, sheer force of will, and love. Tomas, the conquistador, tries to save his Queen by finding the Tree of Life which bestows immortality. The future Tom tries to bring his dead wife and the dead tree back to life through devotion and sacrifice. They all fail.

Do I recommend the movie? I'm not sure, but it did really touch me.


Anonymous Freda said...

Sounds a bit like hard work, but I shall look out for it. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

10:48 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks, Freda. If you're a fan of Hugh Jackman, like me, you might find it worth the trouble :)

1:10 PM  

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