I’ve got a good running list in my head of not only movies that I love, but movies that impacted me in such a way that I can honestly say they changed my life. The Fountain is one such film.
There is slight spoiler territory below.
The Fountain is both written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. It tells a rather simple story of a man that both loves his wife and is terrified of death. While the story is simple, the journey through it is anything but. You see, the film, depending on the many different ways you can view it, spans 1000 years, 500 years or just a few years. There are 3 different time periods in the film: 1500 AD, 2000 AD and 2500 AD. The biggest constant in all 3 time periods are the two main characters: Tom, played by Hugh Jackman, and Izzi/Isabel, played by Rachel Weisz.
In the year 1500, Tom is a conquistador in a Mayan country and is tasked with delivering Spain from bondage by the queen, Isabel, by finding the Tree of Life. In the year 2000, Tom is a scientist looking for a cure to save his dying wife, Izzi. Finally, in the year 2500, Tom is an astronaut headed to a dying star to resurrect his dead wife, Izzi.
Personally, I view the elements in the year 2000 and 2500 as being literal and actually happening, while the stuff in 1500 is a story that Izzi was writing about her and Tom as an allegory to her ultimate death and Tom’s search to save her.
Not surprisingly, there’s many different ways to view these periods and theories as to how they relate. Darren did an astounding job of drawing parallels and using many similar techniques to make all 3 periods a cohesive whole by moving from darkness to light, certain repeated camera shots and similar dialogue.
Visually the movie is stunning and even jaw dropping at times. As I stated above, the constant deliberate movements of actors and camera work from darkness to light is not only visually striking, but also emphasizes the journey that Tom is undergoing as he moves from fear, regret and anger to acceptance, peace and enlightenment.
The music or score of a movie can truly make or break a film for me. Happily, Darren used his old standby composer, Clint Mansell, to make what is my favorite movie soundtrack of all time. Darren again teamed up with the Kronos Quartet to bring Clint’s music alive and even used the great band Mogwai to further lift the score to another level. Death is the Road to Awe is not just a moving piece of music, but follows the timeline of human life itself. Starting subtle and curious and building to the ultimate climax of life and coming back down for a timely and beautiful ending.
What’s most moving about this movie is Tom himself. Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his career here and I found myself being strongly sympathetic to his character as he fights to save his wife and even seek vengeance on death itself. While some view him as cold for working so hard in the year 2000 and distancing himself from Izzi, I actually found it to be the most loving thing a man could have done in that moment. He was working tirelessly to save her. She had accepted her own death, but it would take Tom another 500 years to come to the same moment of peace.
There are many more reasons I love this film and I could talk about it for pages and pages, but the biggest question remains: why did this movie change my life? Glad you asked! This movie asked profound questions of not only life but also death. While I’ve never struggled with a fear of dying, the road that Tom takes to enlightenment that death is actually what gives life meaning is both heart breaking and liberating. This movie made me see my life as more meaningful and significant than I had previously and it made me hug my wife a little bit tighter.
What more important lesson could something teach us?