This is one of those rare films that comes along and totally inspires you, reinvigorating your faith in cinema. I'm so impressed and moved by it that I find it difficult to write about. Going into it I knew it had been equally reviled and well-received, and to be honest the main attraction of it was the actors involved rather than the director. I find Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz eminently watchable in pretty much anything they do.
The Fountain is that breed of film that's very much open to interpretation. Much like 2001 the creators had in mind a specific story (I don't want to use the word explanation, because that implies the film needs explaining). Ostensibly it's a story of the search for immortality, though the motivation behind that search is almost entirely selfless. However - like 2001 - to seek out and follow a given reading of it would be to lessen the impact. Different viewers will come away from it with different thoughts and opinions on the narrative, all of them correct. The film offers you exactly what you need to take. In a time when so much on TV and in film is laboriously spelled out for us this kind of intelligent treatment is a welcome return to more adventurous cinematic times.
And it is adventurous in every sense of the word. Despite a budget ruthlessly sliced in half after the loss of his initial casting choice, director Aaronofsky fought hard to get his film made and the result triumphantly belies its comparatively humble production. Dense, dark South American jungle contrasts with the serene, infinitely open cosmos of the far future. The story bounds across space and time, between fantasy and hard reality, and at no point does it ever feel less than epic.
Adventurous performances, too, from Jackman - emotionally naked, desperately driven, and Weisz - beautifully playing strength edged with serenity, fear and hope. From the very first we're completely invested in these characters. Time and space in the narrative is effortlessly shifted, each part equally compelling yet still eager to pick up the thread of the others.
Other things I can talk about are the stunning cinematography, production design and remarkably effective score (which reaches a kind of euphoria towards the climax of the film, and most certainly contributes a great deal to its emotional power).
The Fountain is heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. Go into this film with an open mind and an open heart and you will be richly rewarded. Triumph tinged with sadness, the end result possibly not what you expect or even hope for, but so perfectly right on every emotional and philosophical level. It's a true masterpiece.