Road to Awe - The Fountain as a matchmaker

Enjoying my Thursday evening listening to Clint Mansells film score for The Fountain. It's funny how the score evokes many of the same emotions felt every time i watch the film.

I've seen The Fountain roughly about 5 times now. Twice in theaters and 3 times in the comfort of my own home. Last time i watched it was this past Valentines day for a little film fest i set up with films all very mushy and love oriented. Only, it blew away all other films i watched that day. Eat your heart out John Cusack.

There's 3 kinds of people who dislike this film, these people unfortunately also make up most of the people who have seen the film. There are those who've seen it and hate it because it makes completely no sense to them and trying in any way to understand it is out of the question. Others find the film to be one big arty pretentious metaphor that is way too obvious to be taken seriously. And lastly the worse of the bunch are those who claim there's an obvious message that makes the film itself completely too "obvious" yet they can't for the life of them explain what that message is.

The rest of those who have seen the film are like me. They are completely in love with every frame of it. It's overflowing with life, emotion, and meaning. I have yet to meet someone who has said The Fountain was "just Ok". It strikes a chord with some but far from all. For those it does resonate with i can't help but feel somewhat of a connection with these people, i know how weird that sounds. but it's true, the first question i have on a date is "how do you feel about The Fountain?" and if they say something along the lines of "ah, it's alright. Blood Diamond was much better." or "It's way too pretentious. It cons people into thinking they're watching something artful or with meaning, but all it evokes in me is a sense that the film thinks i'm stupid." yeah, goodbye dolly.

It is very much one of the best films of the past decade and for me it's one of the best films i've ever seen. It's a film that sums up many things i love about cinema.

All that can really be said about it is that it's an epic love story that transcends time, reality, and space. The focus of which is mans inability to conquer death and being able to accept not just death, but the thought of death. The idea of it, what it actually means.

Shit if this one isn't a beauty. A permanent resident of the recommended and staff picks wall. I could go on. and i probably will. but i have a headache so there, maybe i'll do another post about the specifics. About the shots, the effects, the casting and all other things that i feel culminated to make a masterpiece. but for now, for today i'm hitting the showers.


the coelacanth said...

you go on "dates"? frightening. joking, good thoughts on a great film - also in my top 10 from the past decade. lend (burn) me the soundtrack?

La Sporgenza said...

What's that Joe... 308 films now occupying your top ten from the last decade?

Ok… good post Kris. The Fountain is a film that will divide audiences. It’s an attempt at pure arthouse avant-garde filmmaking (a rarity in American film) and it deals with topics vastly more complex than anything the multiplex crowd would typically gravitate toward.

Its ambition - while lofty and impressive - doesn’t necessarily make it a great film though. I found it too often oddly disjointed and distinctly lacking in authentic emotional connection to the characters. The films weakest moment was the sequence where Jackman’s character discovers the cure for Weisz’s faulty brain but doesn’t get there in time to save her. Jesus Christ….it reminded me of a bad episode of the old Emergency! TV show and sorely needed to be edited out of the plot.

Those few complaints aside, The Fountain is a film that speaks to some pretty heady existential and philosophical points, it is interestingly structured and beautifully shot. The most obvious comparisons have been to Stanley Kubrick’s opus, 2001 and even though The Fountain is vastly more intimate than the broad-brush strokes of 2001, Aronofsky lacks Kubrick’s precision and cold impartiality to his characters. Kubrick didn’t seem to care if you liked Dave and this granted the audience a rich critical distance from the human characters in 2001. Aronofsky seems to care too much what we think of them and he clouds the more metaphysical moments in the film by drawing the audience too close to the emotions and angst of Jackman’s character.

Another film that mined similar territory is King Hu’s Touch of Zen, a perennial top ten pick of mine. Kris, if you’ve not seen this film and you loved The Fountain, you’ll be blown away by this one.

I hate to come off sounding pithy about The Fountain, but it just didn’t work for me. I admired it, but didn’t love it.

the coelacanth said...

"I hate to come off sounding pithy about The Fountain, but it just didn’t work for me. I admired it, but didn’t love it."

oh, now you've done it - kris will never date you now!!!

Th. said...

I like avantgarde films as well as philosophical films which I think writers and directors should be doing more of, and sci-fi as a genre is perfect for bring both avantgarde and philosophy together to create an interesting breed of film genre, that is, metaphysical film.
2001: A Space Odyssey did just that and did it so well. It's an almost flawless film.
As it tries to be a metaphysical film (In an interview, Aronofsky did say it to be exactly a metaphysical film about death), The Fountain fails to do so and has a lot of weaknesses.

If one were to judge the film simply by its visual, then it's an amazing film. The work of a true visual artist. If you combine it with its themes it's addressing and representing, it starts to lose its strength because the themes although great ones such as love, death, imagination etc can appear as mere pretexts to do a film with stunning visual. That is why many people see the film as being pretentious and artsy...

Now if we combine the story in, it gets weaker because the story itself is weak. 2001's story was razor thin however still captivating. 2001 knew the fine line it was walking and manage to keep its balance and keep the audience's attention (the simple reason is, Kubrick is Kubrick, master of his craft).

Further, we combine the characters into the film, it just gets even weaker. Aronofsky's idea and intent to explore love and show love between the couple fall flat, and so on that level, the viewer cannot find any attachment to the characters as we cannot connect with the characters since we cannot believe in their love relationship. Perhaps more screen time of them together throughout the film or in the beginning would help us understand the pain and mission of Jackman's character.
As La Sporgenza explained above, Kubrick was clever enough to not get into too much emotional scenes or moments, not trying to get too close with the characters, because possibly because there isn't enough screen time or it simply doesn't work for the film.

Anyway, I'd be glad to watch it again for its dazzling visuals and that's all. In terms of meaning to be found in the film, there isn't much really.

The one important meaning or logic there is (and all abstract or unconventional films/stories have one, even Eraserhead for that matter) which I can appreciate, is much of the film is mix of real world and imagined world as Jackman's character is reading his lover's work/book (after she'd died I think, I can't exactly recall) and decides to 'finish it' by letting the character embrace death. Hence the recurring voice-over: Finish it, which could also mean, finish your life, come meet death.