Tree for Two

The Fountain. Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, and Ellen
Burstyn star in a film written and directed by Darren
Aronofsky.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

Has there ever been another filmmaking era in which the
“geniuses” are given so much rope with which to hang themselves,
and as a result promptly do so? Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut,
Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, Malick’s The New World, and now this
mess from an auteur barely out of his thirties with total artistic
control of his third film.

Undeniably there is an art film look to The Fountain, with its
palette of tans, blacks, golds, and sudden bursts of white. It is
averse to narrative, and most of the settings seem like
claustrophobic mind spaces because the film is an idea, and a
half-formed one at that. Aronofsky tells the story of a Spanish
conquistador and an American research surgeon both inching their
way toward immortality potions. To tell his story, he jumps across
the eons via a work of fiction, daring to suggest that the only way
we immortalize ourselves is through the act of creation. No
duh.

This being a film, and Aronofsky being a genius, the stories are
told with motifs of unquestionable symbol-likenesses: snow, rings,
trees both barren and lush, daggers, and a gushing serum that seems
to be white, sticky, and life-giving. Thus we get a lesson in
creepy do-it-yourself Jung, and, just to seal the deal, Aronofsky
throws in a floating lotus position, guys in bubbles, and (I swear)
Kung Fu’s David Carradine in starry silhouette. The term hodgepodge
is inadequate to describe this.

Finally there is the casting. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz have
been all about B movies since X-Men and The Mummy, respectively.
Here they sink into caricatures of passion, and the constant
smoldering is undercut by their lightweight box office images.
Besides, like everything else, they function mostly as symbols.
There isn’t a moment of humor in this because the characters are
woven into a tapestry of cloudy meaning. It’s a head film you
wouldn’t want to see stoned and Aronofsky, like all the geniuses
listed above, is visually exciting, but too bent on grandeur to get
anything humanly correct.

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