An initially empty title clicks into place with infuriating ease once The Fountain rolls its end credits. Of course, the fountain. That fountain. Darren Aronofsky has done it yet again. What has he done, here, though? Desperate scientists looking for miracle cures, the banality of morality poured over once more by a director who believes their vision is the one that will let everyone finally make peace. Not quite the success Aronofsky was gunning for as he piled his cast higher and higher with big names and bigger legacies, but certainly, a feature deeply rooted in its faith not just in a higher power but in its desirable leading performers, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.
Symbolism takes the lead for much of The Fountain, with its bright lights casting aside any doubt over intention or desire. A narrative that flickers back and forth with little conviction but much elegance. Most of that comes from the crashing whiplash caused by the three narratives explored and exposed. They bring with them such varying degrees of competence and are as broad as necessary to tie them all together in a clumsy, satisfying fashion. Jackman takes the lead, Weisz feels like an object of desire. Not a lustful one, but a goal, an ambition to cure takes hold and is at the core of The Fountain for much of its running time. That does not relegate Weisz to unimportance but elevates her role in the feature to that of spiritual thematic.
That elevation is not endured all that well by Aronofsky, whose camerawork, while fixating on the extreme close-ups of a grieving, frightened Tommy, gives little mind to the meaning he tries to hold. Ambitious creativity comes in waves for The Fountain, which uses its freedom and exploration of such a relationship to declare that people aren’t here forever. Probably due to it being the same period of release, and because it feels vaguely similar in its tones of loss and acceptance of it, The Fountain channels some darker, brooding tones as Children of Men did more successfully. Jackman and Weisz are the lovers spiralling out of control, and a more conventional mind wouldn’t have pulled much success out of that. Aronofsky’s failures here are at least interesting.
A bullet point spectacle of all the necessary themes of a melodrama. Basic in its brooding but enjoyable for its set pieces, its fearless depiction of fantasy and civilisation in its many fractured parts. Jackman and Weisz play romantic volleyball with their emotions and persuasions, but as they do so they create an enchanting, almost intoxicating backdrop to the violence that surrounds them. Commentary on cowardice and bold ambitions are almost as clear as the frequent, blinding light Aronofsky seems so fond of. Is it the purity of the new world or the chase of something that will never be reached? It feels like both for The Fountain, which chases its own immortality in cementing its legacy. It doesn’t quite get there, but seeing the attempt is both warming and taxing.