The Mysteries of the Fountain, Now on DVD

So I hear that if you play Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon while you're watching The Fountain and you start it exactly at the moment when the conquistador Hugh Jackman gets stabbed in the gut by the Mayan priest/warrior near the beginning of the movie, then it's like a totally awesome and mindblowing experience.

Or maybe it's the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed ....

When I saw The Fountain last year at a press screening, I pegged it as one of the trippier movies ever made, and maybe a new 2001: A Space Odyssey as far as freaking you out and making you wonder what the hell it's all about, or wonder at all the things it can be about in all its many varied interpretations. But I could never get my head around it enough to actually write a review. I couldn't figure out if I liked it or not. I suppose if lodging itself in your brain and hanging on like a rabid dog can be said to be a measure of success for a work of art, then The Fountain succeeds. But though the film intrigues me intellectually, it doesn't make me feel anything; and movies for me are primarily emotional experiences. By that measure, The Fountain fails for me. But it's one of the more interesting cinematic failures I've ever seen.

Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky -- whose low-budget 1998 film Pi is similarly brilliant and frustrating -- gets huge bonus points from me for being so damn audacious: for blending past, present, and future into one everpresent now; for recognizing the spiritual in the scientific, and vice versa; for daring to make a movie that is both so explicitly big-picture about the nature of human existence and so intimate as a love affair. The parallel tales of conquistador Hugh Jackman, servant to Queen Isabella five hundred years ago, and space-travelling Hugh Jackman, servant to his own transcendent mysticism five hundred years in the future ... are they but imaginary fancies sprung from the novel being written by the cancer-stricken wife of today's cancer-researcher Hugh Jackman? Or are they "real"? It's thrilling to think they could be both at the same time.

I was ambivalent about recommending the film while it was in theaters, but now that it's available on DVD it's definitely a must-see. See it for the wonderfully palpable chemistry between Jackman and Rachel Weisz as Queen Isabella and as the contemporary author and cancer victim. See it for the beautiful organic imagery of trees and neurons and nebulas that swell with golden light and merge to become a glorious metaphor for the, you know, fundamental interconnectedness of all things. And see it so you can tell me, maybe, just what the hell it's all about, anyway.

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MaryAnn Johanson (email me)

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