Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

My brother had gone to see this movie in its theatrical release a couple of months ago and his simple, succinct review of this film was ‘It was gay.’  Well I respect my brother and his opinion, but the three word review of ‘it was gay’ just isn’t going to cut it here and ‘The Fountain’ must be discussed a little deeper than that.  I was quite interested in seeing ‘The Fountain’ in its theatrical release but for whatever reason I couldn’t make it to the screening and by now, as I have attended so many critics screenings, it is physically impossible for me to reach into my pocket and pull out dollars to actually pay to go see a movie, I was more than content to wait for it to come out on DVD.  Especially considering my brothers glowing review.  Well ‘The Fountain’ has arrived on DVD in all of its glory and while it is one hell of a visual feast, Darren Arnofsky’s little epic masterpiece didn’t make a gatdamn lick of sense.  At least not to me.


As the film opens we greeted by Tomas (Hugh Jackman), a Spanish conquistador on a quest for Queen Isabella to find the ever elusive tree of life that God in his infinite wisdom has chosen to hide an protect from us silly, wanting to live forever humans.  Cut to another version of Tomas, seated high above the stars in the 26th century where man has obviously evolved from his ground dwelling previous self and has become something much greater.  This ethereal being is talking to a dying tree, attempting to convince it that he can save it.  A woman occasionally pops up to bother this being, asking him questions and the like.  This woman is Izzy Creo (Rachel Weisz), who we meet in depth as we are transported to the present time, as the wife of cancer researcher Thomas Creo.  Thomas is desperately trying to find a cure for the cancerous brain tumor that is slowly killing his most beloved, and has forsaken all, including his wife, to find this cure.  Somewhere he and his team have found that secret to a cure to cancer lies within the bark of mysterious tree that they have found a sample for.  A sample, when applied in its protease form to the simian guinea pig, had the amazing effect of rolling back the clock of time.

Back and forth the narrative goes switching between Tomas and his efforts to retrieve the sap of this mysterious tree before the mad Inquisitor can capture and kill his queen, To Thomas and his desperate efforts to save his wife, who by the way has written a book called ‘The Fountain’ which centers around a Spanish conquistador with the last chapter left blank for her husband to finish, and then off to the 26th century where our super ethereal being is doing something or another with the dying tree.  And there you go.


So with ‘The Fountain’ we have a group of people on one side of the aisle which includes my brother and the like who say this movie ‘is gay’, stupid, not very entertaining, uninvolving, lacks any kind of coherent narrative, is bloated, self-serving and pretentious.  On the other side of the aisle you will have those that will say that ‘The Fountain’ is genius, epic, a landmark of cinema, brilliant and a complete and total cinematic masterpiece.  Though I would certainly separate myself from those folks on that side of the aisle calling ‘The Fountain’ gay, I’d be over there somewhere wondering what the hell this overly pretentious crap was all about.


It seems that Arnofsky is touching on issues of life, death and life after death as Jackman’s various versions of Thomas each are trying desperately to extend the lives of something they love.  Arnofsky has chosen the road way less traveled to get to this desired message of his.  I admire this about the film, the fact that it was unique its presentation, style and narrative and I found ‘The Fountain’ a visually arresting film and one that was never boring or tedious to watch.  I did find it frustrating however with three disparate story lines, and all the associated characters suffering because of it.  Leads Jackman and Weisz are both skilled, good looking, charismatic actors who have no difficulty connecting to audiences, with the modern day story arc dominated the picture, along with fine help from veteran Ellen Burstyn and relative newcomer Sean Patrick Thomas.  I personally would have preferred the director focus more on this particular story arc and leave the fantasy behind as their story could have easily carried the story but that wasn’t the decision the man made.


Darren Arnofsky is a filmmaker of remarkable talent and skill and that skill is plainly evident in ‘The Fountain’.  This doesn’t mean that the movie is any good, just that the cat who made it has talent.  But hey, for all I know thirty years from now people will be remarking on ‘The Fountain’ the way people marvel at ‘2001: A space Odyssey’  Time will tell on that, but at least today, I going to have to roll with my brother on this one.  Minus the whole ‘gay’ thing.

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