The Fountain
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Darren Aronofsky
with Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Mark Margolis, Sean Patrick Thomas, Ethan Suplee, Donna Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Stephen McHattie, Fernando Hernandez, Richard McMillan, Lorne Brass
release US 22.Nov.06,
UK 26.Jan.07
06/US Warner 1h36

Lust for life: Jackman and Weisz

jackman weisz burstyn

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The Fountain Lyrical and haunting, this film is a powerfully engaging examination of mortality and grief wrapped up in a sci-fi fantasy. It's hugely original, absolutely gorgeous to watch and skilfully performed.

Tommy (Jackman) is a doctor, researching a cure that involves turning back aging. He hopes it will help his fatally ill wife Izzy (Weisz), although his colleagues (Burstyn, Thomas, Suplee and Murphy) are more realistic. From this core story, we see two related timelines (also starring Jackman and Weisz): one follows Spanish conquistador Tomas, sent by Queen Isabel to Guatemala to investigate a possible source of immortality, while far in the future, Tom is travelling through space to a golden nebula, where he'll finally achieve immortality with Izzi.

The title refers to the Fountain of Youth, which Aronofsky casts as the Tree of Life from the book of Genesis. And as the film flicks back and forth between its three timelines, an overall story comes into focus that really takes the breath away. This is a very strong, moving examination of a man struggling to cope with the mortality of his wife and himself. And it of course helps to have actors like Jackman and Weisz in these roles--adept at the intense personal drama, the throwaway comedy and the extremely physical scenes.

Visually, Aronofsky creates a swirl of echoing images that dazzle the eyes and also touch something much deeper. Matthew Libatique's cinematography is dark and textured, elegant and stylish--dotted with golden lights, inviting us in with profoundly sensuous textures, circles within circles, rings within rings. It's so gorgeously shot and edited, and performed with such potent resonance by the actors, that it feels like a cinematic poem about life and longing.

As Tommy struggles with his wife's fragile humanity, he decides that death must be just another disease, and there must be a cure. Anyone who has ever lost someone close to them can identify with this emotion, as well as the accompanying guilt and regret. And the catharsis. Aronofsky impressively anchors a surreal structure with fiercely grounded acting. Yes, there are times when it feels pretentious, but this is magical filmmaking--achingly beautiful and impossible to get out of your head.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 28.Nov.06

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall