Directed by Darren Aronofsky. 2006.

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Death is a creative act and, as part of the process of rebirth, it is to be embraced, not feared. This is the message of The Fountain, a dazzling visual extravaganza that spans thousands of years in the relationship between Thomas (Hugh Jackman) and his dying wife Izzy (Rachel Weisz). According to the director, Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem For a dream), it is a love story is about a man whose wife is dying. While trying to save her life, he stumbles upon the fountain of youth and "has to decide how that affects his own life and his own death." The film is about love and human emotion, but does not shrink from confronting the big questions - the nature of death, the search for enlightenment, and whether our true essence is human or divine. It has an epic feeling, a 2001 for the 21st century. 

The story takes place in three overlapping time frames. It begins in 16th century Spain where Tomas is a conquistador who is serving Queen Isabella. She is being threatened by the Inquisition for her belief that the Tree of Life has been found in New Spain and is being guarded by the Mayans. She sends Tomas to find the tree, promising to be his wife if he succeeds in finding the tree whose sap brings eternal life. Tommy Creo is also a present day research doctor who is experimenting on a monkey, using the bark of a South American tree to desperately try to find a cure for his wife's brain tumor. In the third sequence, Tom is a 25th century astronaut grieving over the death of his wife.  

He is traveling in a space bubble as he transports the dying Tree of Life to a distant galaxy that the Mayans identified as the home of the dead awaiting reincarnation. While the film is compelling on many different levels, its heart is the intimate relationship between husband and dying wife and both Jackman and Weisz turn in very strong performances as the film shifts seamlessly between time periods. Put on the backburner four years ago after Brad Pitt pulled out, The Fountain is a hypnotic work of imagination and creativity that cannot really be described. It must be experienced and reflected upon and its ultimate message will be different for each viewer. For me, it is clear - life is forever, love is forever. 


Howard Schumann

Seen at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) 2006.
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