Each summer in the Czech Republic, Prague's parks and public squares come alive with outdoor movies. Summer in Prague means one thing - letni kino, or open air cinema. The outdoor movie season starts in early June, and goes right on until mid-September. In this period, Prague residents and tourists alike are treated to the gamut of films, from Apocalypto right through to Zodiac. Prague's indie and arthouse film following is quite strong, and these audiences were particularly enamored by one film: Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain". Though misunderstood by most critics, and mostly rejected by American audiences, indie-enthusiasts argue for the film's artistic merit. The following is a review of "The Fountain" by Rob Gonsalves of eFilmCritic.com. You can read the original blog post about Prague's outdoor movies here
, a visually enthralling and emotionally overpowering fantasia by writer-director Darren Aronofsky (Pi
, Requiem for a Dream
), seems to have baffled many impatient critics and left many audiences cold. At this point, a lone reviewer's quest to save the movie is almost as challenging as Tom's quest to rescue Izzi. But I will try, and I will state it plainly: If you have ever taken my advice to see a movie and found yourself grateful you'd seen it, please go see The Fountain
Aronofsky has fashioned a spiritual triptych out of the story's main conflict, a doctor's drive to discover a remedy for his dying wife. Izzi is writing a book, called The Fountain, about a conquistador (Jackman) whose queen (Weisz) sends him to find the Tree of Life, whose sap gives eternal life. There is also the tale of a futuristic man (Jackman) speeding across the cosmos in a bubble that also contains the Tree. Yet underneath all the symbolic trappings is a very simple parable about how love can transcend death because it gives life meaning. That's what Tom, throwing himself into research and missing his chance to spend time with Izzi in her final days, must learn.
I admired Aronofsky's 1998 debut Pi
, but his 2000 Requiem for a Dream
seemed trendy and shallow, not honestly felt. The Fountain
is Aronofsky's triumph, an intoxicating blend of luscious cinematography (by Matthew Libatique) and brooding score (by Clint Mansell). Every frame hums with passion; like 2001 and Solaris (both versions), this is an art film in sci-fi dress, speaking eternal truths in the language of light shows. The actors shoulder the three-story burden effortlessly. By now we know Rachel Weisz can be winsome and enchanting, but here she brings a brittle kind of bliss to a woman who has come to terms with her own passing. The real revelation is Hugh Jackman, who jumps without fear into the sort of role that could've turned him into a laughingstock he brings emotional urgency and transparency to the saga.
is a fragile egg, easily cracked in cynical times. It's sure to be misread as a soft-headed, muddled New Age treatise, but what it actually has to say is a good deal more tough-minded: that you had better love honestly and well in this life, because you don't get a do-over. Death can be transcended but not conquered or denied. In all three incarnations, Tom is in perpetual motion, running away from his loved one towards something he believes will guarantee eternal life with her. Even his future-self having lived centuries thanks to his medical breakthrough turns away from the spirit of Izzi to hurtle through space towards Xibalba, the dying nebula wherein, he believes, he will be reunited with Izzi. But really the future Tom exists only in Tom's mind a cautionary tale of a literal bubble boy, sealed off from life and fixated on an impossible dream just as the conquistador Tomas lives only in Izzi's imagination. As in The Fisher King, the characters construct fantasy to process painful reality. The results may strike some as pretentious and others, like me, as adventurous and desperately moving.
Approach The Fountain
as a love story informed by a grab bag of philosophies Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, Mayan, take your pick with sumptuous images to match, and you'll have the key to its eternal life. It's really nothing more complicated than the story of a couple, one of whom embraces life and so embraces death as a part of life, the other of whom tries to control life and death and is ill-equipped to deal with either. It's a simple story told with Zen directness, its fingers deep in the age-old questions, its eyes and ears wide open to the sensual potential of cinema.
For my money, The Fountain
is the best that American film has to offer this year. If more movies equally daring and powerful are to be made, this one needs your support.
Source: Rob Gonsalves -eFilmCritic.com. Read full review at: http://efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15011&reviewer=416