Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Cheap Critic: The Fountain
The Fountain is a risky film for which to attempt a plot summary. It cuts back and forth between three stories featuring the the leading couple, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, in different (but similar) roles. One story is set 500 years in the past, one in the present and one 500 years in the future. Possible explanations for how the plot spans a thousand years are 1) reincarnation, 2) near-immortality, 3) the past and future scenes are from a book that one of the characters has written, or 4) some other new-age mumbo beyond my ability to understand or care. None of these quite seems to fill the bill so one probably needs to combine them to fully explain the plot -- which I will not attempt.
If you simply must have a plot summary I can recommend one by Ian Dalrymple. Dalrymple tries fairly hard to summarize the plot in his review, No Shiny Pennies in The Fountain, and does a fairly good job at sorting out which parts of the film are merely fiction and which parts are meta-fiction (fiction-within-a-fiction). After laboring mightily to summarize the plot he goes on to pan the film for reasons that are fairly sound although some of his critique comes from his religious perspective which not all readers of this blog will share.
Nonetheless, even leaving out his religious criticism there is quite a bit to dislike about The Fountain which is alternately pretentious, ponderous and dull. Having said that I must admit to having rather enjoyed the film for reasons that have little to do with its artistic merit. I found the film very nostalgic because it does a brilliant job of channeling the year 1970 for which I have very fond memories.
To start with, the part of the plot set in the present is basically Love Story. If you don't remember Love Story it concerns an attractive young couple who frolic in the snow ...
... until the girl becomes sick ...
... and dies. Our hero is left alone and all he has to console him is the idiotic tag line for the film. Death is the road to awe and Love means never having to say your're sorry, respectively.
In addition to this Readers Digest version of Love Story The Fountain had these really good 1970-style visuals for which we apparently have to thank Brad Pitt. You see, Pitt was originally cast in the male lead but he and the director had a falling out half-way through the filming and the project was put on hold for a couple of years. When it re-emerged with Hugh Jackman in the lead it had about half the budget it had before. In place of the rather expensive computer effects originally planned they used miniature photography of chemical reactions (crystals growing, oil films, etc.) which are visually stunning but give the film a sort of Roger Dean meets Barbarella vibe.
The future sequence takes place in a large bubble zooming through outer space with our hero and a tree inside...
... which rather reminds me of Roger Dean's logo for Virgin Records, not to mention his Floating Islands stuff...
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... and even more reminds me of the bubble that protects Pygar and Barbarella from the Matmus.
So, my recommendation: by all means go see The Fountain but get a copy of Barbarella
to see with it. It'll give you a whole different slant on the film.