Friday, 11 December 2009

Together We Will Live Forever.

Darren Aronofsky had a bit of a bad time with his third film, The Fountain. Initially, he had a US$75mil budget and Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in the lead roles, but when Pitt left the project shortly before principal photography was due to begin, the project was scrapped for a couple of years. US$20mil or so had already been spent creating sets and props in Queensland, and many of these were auctioned off. The film was then reimagined with less than half the budget and with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz taking on the leads.

The films takes place over a thousand years, ultimately about the search for eternal life, specifically the Tree of Life from the bible, hidden away after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Tom Creo (Jackman) occurs in three different eras - back in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, sent on a search for the tree at the behest of the Queen (chronogically, Weisz's first character also); in 2005, part of a research team to try and slow the development of brain tumours (with Weisz as his wife); and far in the future, as the protector of the tree of life, drifting through space to a dying star in order to save it.

Weisz as Issi, Tom's wife in the 2005 time period, has a brain tumour also, which is untreatable. This storyline is the primary narrative force, with Tom ignoring other progresses in his work (such as neurological regression, effectively reversing the aging process) in a desperate attempt to find a cure for his wife. It is a race against time, intercut with segments from the initial quest for the tree and the subsequent attempt to take it to the stars. However, the search for eternal life, as offered by the tree, is shown to be somewhat fruitless. Not in the sense that the tree doesn't hold those powers, but that in struggling so hard to discover these secrets, Tom actually misses so much of the life that he is meant to be living - pointed out abstractly by his superior at the research facility Dr Lillian Guzetti (Ellen Burstyn - how I love her.) He misses the opportunity to spend time with his dying wife (who is, incidentally, writing the story of the search for the tree and its raising to the heavens) because he is so focused on trying to cure her, and to make her live forever. Indeed, the Mayan/Spanish section of the story has a similar ending - the quest for eternal life in fact brings quite the opposite for so many.

It is a very, very bold undertaking from Aronofsky. Coming off Pi and Requiem for a Dream, he did away with so many elements that had hitherto defined him (though not quite managing to do away with the repeated short cuts and closeups! Not quite!) as he attempted to reimagine the sci-fi genre. It only succeeded to a limited degree, though definite props for the scope, vision and idea behind it.

Jackman... I just think he looks too young for a film where he has to carry emotion through centuries. His face doesn't have the ability to look wizened or craggy. At the end, he still looks young and innocent, and I felt like he should have been so, so much more tired. He does put in a valiant effort, though I think Pitt would have suited it better. Weisz (who I honestly think looks alternately like Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley in everything I see her in) does a very good job as the wife battling cancer who is resigned and content with her fate to die, and channels Natalie Portman in the Star Wars prequels (vomit) as the Spanish queen. The supporting cast is solid (did I mention that Ellen Burstyn is in it? And how I love her? I did? Well, you can't bring her up too often), the film does look a treat (though some of the Mayan sets seem a little false...) and Clint Mansell does another astonishing job with the score. It just didn't quite gel the way I think it was aiming. It's not a write-off, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm going to give it 3 stars.

1 comment:

  1. Nice, objective review, R-Co.
    I must admit THE FOUNTAIN is the only Darren's work I've actually liked. Although I agree that the movie was maybe a bit too complicated, and thus some viewers might miss its point, it is a really magical and astonishing piece of art, which needs to be praised for its creative vision and boldness.
    I liked both Weisz and Jackman, although I do believe Blanchett would give this role a more profound and less pathetic aspect.

    I've had a chance to see Weisz and her husband Darren with my own eyes :) while she was filming THE BROTHERS BLOOM in my town, and I must say they seem positively charming and charismatic as a couple :)