Posted by: Jack | April 23, 2007

The Fountain

I saw the trailer for this movie at least a year ago and had been long awaiting its release. Within minutes of the movie’s start I realized it was not going to be anything like what I expected. I felt that the trailer inferred a sci-fi/fantasy plot where the two lead characters somehow obtained immortality centuries ago and lived on to modern times. While this fountain of youth had ceased their aging it seemingly did not make them invulnerable to ailment as the female lead is shown lying in a hospital bed and the male lead explicitly states, “I will find a cure.”

After reading some movie discussion boards on the IMDb I found that even after seeing the movie, many people continued to interpret the plot just as I had interpreted the trailer above. If you see the film, you will realize that these people are clearly mistaken. Their confusion is understandable given the style of the film but there are a number of pretty obvious themes which contradict this supposition.

Despite my certainty about this misinterpretation of the plot, I believe the movie ends without committing itself to only one possible explanation for what has really happened, and this is what I feel really makes the movie excellent. Thus far I have only spoken of the story itself but obviously injustice can be done to any great idea through the all-to-common practice of poor acting, awkward dialog, terrible directing, etc. Thankfully I found no such faults in this film. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz are both flawless and therefore believable while delivering realistic but subtly powerful writing.

One feature which is ever-present yet hardly critical to the story is an undertone of religious dogma which is used as a basis for some of the fantastic occurrences. The reason I enjoyed this theme is that it relied on a number of different real religions which have existed on Earth. The symbolic Tree of Life from the garden of Eden is obviously a Christian concept but is seamlessly tied into the polytheistic beliefs of the ancient Mayans. The Mayans’ beliefs then lead to an acceptance of astrological superstition (nothing shallow like your modern astrology hot-line). There are a few additional and questionable references such as the meditation of Buddhism and a fairly random scene involving some Tai-Chi which can really only be tied to Taoism if anything at all. But what makes all of these symbols excellent is that through the end of the film (this is not a spoiler) all of these beliefs are shown to have at least some level of validity but at the same time, there is no affirmation of the full belief system of any of the aforementioned religions. This reflects the reality of religion in our world as each denomination certainly has very real bases which lie in our past but cannot be considered infallible in their full extent. So I interpreted this as invalidating any single Earth-born system through a sequence of contradictions but still promoting a need for a sort of spirituality which is based in the natural world. And I strongly feel that the events which would likely be considered miraculous by many are actually presented as an argument for realism and rationalism.

I recommend this movie to everyone. Approach it with an open mind and try to pay attention to the constant symbolism and parallelism.


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