Weekend Review: The Fountain

We look this week at a comparatively recent film (2006) that we missed first time around. For that matter, so did most people. It’s doing a little better on DVD.

Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) spent six year trying to get this film made. Original stars Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett quit, funding was slashed, original set pieces were auctioned….

Title: The Fountain

Available from Amazon.com

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky.


Hugh Jackman as Tomas/Tommy/Tom
Rachel Weisz as Queen Isobel/Izzi
Ellen Burnstyn as Dr. Guzetti

Cast and Crew


The film features Jackman and Weisz in three connected stories: a conquistador seeks eternal youth, a contemporary doctor experiments with a compound that could save his dying wife, and a future traveler searches for answers in a distant nebula.1

High Point:

The sixteenth-century storyline features several strong scenes. I wish Aronofsky had devoted more of the script to this narrative, which has so much potential yet feels truncated.

Low Point:

It’s an interesting film, but not consistently an engaging one. Despite a comparatively brief running time and three separate stories, it’s too slow-moving and self-serious.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6. The narrative is complex; the underlying premise and message less so. However, I cannot think of another recent film quite like this one.

Story: 4/6. It’s a brave attempt, but the three tales never cohere in a dramatically powerful way.

Effects: 5/6. When the film’s budget was slashed, the filmmakers took a missed cue from 2001: A Space Odyssey. A couple of the shots in that film’s rebirth sequence used extreme close-ups of chemical reactions. The Fountain uses similar effects, cheaper than CGI and in this case, more effective. I have to wonder why the technique has been used so infrequently.

Acting. 4/6. Jackman does well as three overwrought incarnations of Tom. The rest of the cast is average.

Production: 5/6. The filmmakers accomplished much on a limited budget.

Emotional Response: 4/6.

Overall: 4/6.

In total, The Fountain receives a score of 31/42.

1. Obligatory nerdy footnote: the film clearly identifies the great nebula in Orion, and claims it results from a star dying. In fact, that nebula is a stellar nursery, collapsing into new stars. Is this a deliberate mistake meant to reflect the film’s themes, or the usual bad Hollywood science?

8 replies on “Weekend Review: The Fountain”

  1. Mental health effects?
    I would make it illegal to show Requiem to anyone suffering from depression, how’s the Fountain in this regard?

    • Re: Mental health effects?

      Well, a film with a dying woman and an appearance by the Inquisition (real version) isn’t a laugh a minute, but it aims to be uplifting in its conclusions. It has a very different tone from Requiem.

  2. Thumbs Down
    I caught this in theatres and came away fairly dissapointed. It was pretty to look at but the stories didn’t have any "umph" to them. The "future traveler" one was just outright confusing.

    As soon as the credits started rolling the theatre was just dead silent, most people were surprised it was over. Then the booing started.

    Maybe like 2001 I’ll appreciate it more in the privacy of my own home with others that like the "slow, topical, sci-fi" genre. As it stands though The Fountain was a borefest.

  3. I just didn’t get it.
    Now, while I don’t claim to be a genius, I am fairly intelligent. I get things a lot of times. I did NOT get this movie. It made no sense. I assume that the 3 different versions of the guy was him from 3 different times, but there was nothing connecting them at all other than him, her, and the search for eternal life or something? Was that the same woman? She didn’t go to the tree, why would she live that long?

    This movie was a mess.

    • Re: I just didn’t get it.
      **spoiler alert**

      Hah, I’m with you on the confusing part. The trailer made it seem like it was what you are describing but, no, it wasn’t the same guy. Not the conquistador anyway.

      The hunt for the fountain of youth story was a novel the woman was writing. It was an analogy of her husband’s search for a cure to her disease.

      The whole space travel thing is the confusing part. He was either losing his mind due to the medicine he found or he was really traveling through space in a bubble. Either way it was kind of stupid :P

      • Re: I just didn’t get it.

        **spoiler alert**

        Right. The conquistador exists in his wife’s book and may be inspired by him, but is not him. The Guy in the Bubble could actually be him in the 26th century (he’s discovered a secret of eternal life) or some fantasy projection through which he comes to accept death. Either way, it strikes me as a very confusing way to say something obvious.

        Movies I’ve enjoyed more have received lower ratings, but this film had some very strong technical elements.

    • Re: I just didn’t get it.
      I think the problematic assumtion you have is that the three stories are supposed to tie together in an entirely clean and neatly describable way. I don’t think they were intended that way. They start with that kind of relation, one the present, one the future, one a story about the past. But in the fugue the walls between them break down and out comes the message.

      Or maybe I’m just too lazy to trace the way the neat relations held together "really".

      • Re: I just didn’t get it.

        Or maybe I’m just too lazy to trace the way the neat relations held together "really".

        Man, its a movie, you shouldn’t have to work that hard to get it! haha

Comments are closed.