The Fountain

Starring: Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 28 May 2007

The Fountain is an odyssey about one man's struggle to save the woman he loves. His epic journey begins in 16th century Spain, where conquistador Tomas Creo commences his search for the Tree of Life, the legendary entity believed to grant eternal life to those who drink of its sap. As modern-day scientist Tommy Creo, he desperately struggles to find a cure for the cancer that is killing his beloved wife Isabel. Travelling through deep space as a 26th century astronaut, Tom begins to grasp the mysteries of life that have consumed him for more than a millennium...

The Fountain could be one of the most pretentious pieces of filmmaking you ever witnesses - if you actually manage to watch the whole thing.

I suppose I should have known what to expect. I'd already read the graphic novel, and wasn't overly struck by that. But I thought I'd come to this with a totally open mind.

According to the press release the movie is set in three different time periods:

The Fountain examines the fragility of our existence in this world through one couple's eternal love story and seeks to discover whether it's really possible to live forever. The story begins in 16th Century Spain as Conquistador Tomas Creo is sent on a holy mission by Queen Isabel to locate the Tree Of Life, which is believed to grant immortality to anyone who drinks of its sap. With only the aid of a cryptic map in the form of an ancient Mayan dagger, will Creo discover the key to everlasting life and save New Spain and its Queen?

In 2005, Tommy is a medical scientist desperately searching for the cure to cancer in order to save his wife Isabel who is battling the deadly disease. Tommy cannot face the fact that Izzi is going to die and is wracked with guilt as he tries to find a scientific breakthrough. She aches for him to accept the inevitable, to spend her final days with her and to find a way to embrace death as an act of creation. However, will Tom find a cure in time or will he join his wife in accepting that death is another part of life?

Travelling through space in the 26th Century, Tom Creo finds a magical, tranquil place amongst the stars that Izzi spoke fondly of 500 years earlier. Using the Tree Of Life as a device to unravel the mystery of death, he is faced with flashbacks of his previous lives and amazingly receives guidance from the woman he has loved for a millennium - but will this experience end his search and allow him to finally embrace death?

As I mentioned previously, I'd already read the graphic novel and so I already knew what the plot was all about. But I sat there, as the film unravelled, wondering if anyone else would understand what on earth was going on. The futuristic segments, supposedly set in a spacecraft, looked a little too retro to me. What we end up with is Jackman, shaven headed, and in a pair of pyjamas, sitting in the middle of a swamp underneath a gnarly old tree... um... yes, that says futuristic spacecraft to me.

Oh, and before you start e-mailing... yes, I did watch the featurette which shows the designers explaining that they have designed a spherical spacecraft because they want to be original... and I laughed myself almost unconscious. That's baloney. They designed it that way because of the budget. The graphic novel has a standard metal spaceship, as did the original film that was ditched before filming started proper - the new organic space vessel design was simply a way of cutting the budget.

The press release comes with two priceless quotes:

... and one of the most moving and thought-provoking films of the year - Empire

Settle in, give it time, go with the flow and chances are you'll be rewarded hundredfold - SFX

Okay, so Empire's reviewer didn't understand a bloody thing that was going on "thought-provoking" is always a dead give-away - it translates as "I'm still trying to work out what it's all about - I didn't get it, but I don't want to appear stupid."

And SFX's reviewer also didn't get it, but is hoping that by not committing him/herself either way that they will appear to be of a higher intelligence than the average movie lover.

I get it (as much as I'm supposed to). But what I don't get is why this film was ever made?

The on screen relationship between Jackman and Weisz is stretched to breaking point. They are both great actors, but they really have to go the full distance to pull it off here.

They also have the world's most unintentionally funny love scene, when Weisz pulls Jackman, fully clothed, into her bath. With saliva all over the place I couldn't help wonder why the passion wasn't broken by one of them yelling: "Stop! Let some water out. It's going all over the floor." Obviously a moment badly inspired by that classic '80s Cadbury's Flake TV commercial [click here to see it].

In fact, maybe director Nick Lewin should sue Darren Aronofsky for plagiarism. Watch the commercial - it could almost be a condensed version of The Fountain. No, wait. Go with me on this. We have a short dark-haired woman in a very similar bath tub, the water overflows and falls on a spherical glass object (the space ship of the movie) there are also leaves on the floor! Okay, maybe he just "borrowed" the bath scene from there, and not the entire movie... but you get my point.

Maybe a great tag line on the DVD box would have been: "Aronofsky's The Fountain. The crumbliest, flakiest movie in the world." No, maybe not.

Extras (which thankfully don't include the director's audio commentary as promised on the press release - I may just have slipped into a coma if I'd been subjected to that) are almost as badly handled as the main feature. There's a deleted scene (so ridiculous I nearly lost bladder control - basically it's a long scene of Jackman growing mushrooms in the futuristic spacecraft and living off them as his main food source); a whole collection of behind the scenes featurettes and an interview with Jackman, where Weisz asks the questions - basically a great big love in.

In truth, other than the lighting and photography, I can't think of one good thing to say about this film. In summing up it is a self-indulgent piece of crap. Thanks Aronofsky for stealing two-hours (I sat through the extras too) of my life that I'll never get back.

One to give to someone you really, really hate.

Nick Smithson

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