The Red Right Hand
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THE FOUNTAIN
Death Frees Every Soul

Director
Darren Aronofsky
Starring
Hugh Jackman
Rachel Weisz
Ellen Burnstyn

Set over the course of one thousand years, Aronofsky's long awaited Fountain will finally be on general release early next year. Is it worth the hype? Does it live up to its predecessors? Well, yes and no. Opening in 16th Century Spain, we are shown fragmented elements of a conquistador [Jackman] setting out through the jungles of Central America. With the sun rising in the background, Tomas finds himself atop a large ziggurat with one Mayan warrior standing in his way. As the Mayan's flaming sword comes crashing down on Tomas, he awakes in deep space. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous but bear with me. A bald man sits in a garden, centred by a dying tree, in a large bubble, floating through space; the year is now 2500, exactly one thousand years after the opening sequence. It would be an extreme logic jump to assume the audience has even the slightest clue what's going on, so Aronofsky introduces an even more ambiguous side to the proceedings. The year is now 2000 and Dr. Tom Creo is furiously working on a new drug to combat cancerous tumours. His wife, Izzi [Weisz], is suffering from a brain tumour and as her symptoms become more and more aggressive it becomes clear that she has entered the late stages and Tom is working against the clock. Throughout the film the timeline is cut and shifted, focusing primarily on the present day Tom, then the future Tommy as a secondary element and occasionally showing past Tomas as a tertiary reflective note.

The acting throughout is beautifully portrayed, mainly calling on the efforts of Hugh Jackman. The supporting cast around him keep up but he's leaps-and-bounds ahead of everyone else, adding to the notion that the main focus should be on Tom & Izzi. Rachel Weisz is also astoundingly good but at the same time she is a cancer patient who has not only come to terms with death, she seems to be living on some weird spiritual plain and has accepted her fate. The Fountain is an exceptionally cryptic piece that boasts some incredible revelations but seems to have difficulty explaining them. Most people will enjoy the back and forth story-telling but get immensely irritated with the final scenes, which I feel seems to be due to time constraints. I seem to recall that this started out as a three hour project that had to be cut down after completion. I have no idea why. If you have a movie that needs three hours to explain then use the three hours! I agree, some films need to be cut (something like a new American Pie film comes to mind) but you can't have studios limiting pieces that need time to explain all the ideas, images and emotions they're trying to convey.

This is Aronofsky's third feature-length film and shows the young director not only knows what he's doing and what he wants but that he is the closest thing our generation has to Stanley Kubrick. Unfortunately, one vital element that Aronofsky lacks is one that made Kubrick one of the greatest directors of all time; development. In his quest for a deeply meaningful film, Aronofsky has neglected character development in favour of a clinically executed piece. In other words, this film is too cold. Having said that, this is the only fault I can find with this film. It's a glorious achievement for Aronofsky and really proves that he has a firm grasp on the nature of the cinematograph as an artistic medium, using a new technique to tell an age-old theory. I'm sure that's all very cryptic and you're probably screaming, "Yes, that's all very well and good but I saw that film and I haven't a clue what I was supposed to think or feel!" Once again, I am offering myself and my thoughts up for public scrutiny; if you would like an idea of what this film is about (in my opinion, as Aronofsky openly stated that it means whatever you want it to) then feel free to send me an e-mail and I will send you an explanation. Ultimately, this is a fairy tale. It doesn't really make scientific sense but then it doesn't need to. The whole point of a fable is the moral of the story that helps us live our lives in a fuller way. The moral here is don't fear death, don't welcome death, simply accept death. For the majority of cinemagoers this film is going to be one they respect and admire as opposed to one they like and understand.

Release Date:
26th January 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
It's hard for me not to pick a revealing scene that will give away too much but in a Memento-esque way, future Tommy begins to inspect the tattoos on his arms, starting with the one around the fourth finger on his left hand. I mainly enjoyed this scene above all others because we witness present day Tom tattooing himself, almost as a punishable act of self flagellation but when he finally realises why he's done this to himself, the overwhelming sense of pleasure reeling from his eyes is fantastic to behold; or at least I thought so.

Notable Characters:
It would be wrong of me to pick anyone other than Hugh Jackman but I'm going to. Ellen Burstyn offers a superb performance as Dr. Lillian Guzetti, Tom's superior and close friend to both of them. She acts as an anchor and tries to show Tom that it's not a case of trying to cure Izzi, you have to simply spend as much time with her as is permitted.

Highlighted Quote:
"Tommy, no one invents new drugs overnight, no one! You're not being rational. You can't fix everything!"

In A Few Words:
"I truly loved and respected this version of The Fountain but I doubt it will be appreciated until we get a Director's Cut DVD"

Total Score:
9/10


Matthew Stogdon