[Film Review] The Fountain – Babel, Traffic, The Sounds of Music and Other Things.
Posted by inspir3d on February 27, 2007
Three separate motifs form up Darren Aronofsky’s – the fountain. A Spanish conquistador (Hugh Jackman) hacking his way through the Amazonian jungle looking for the mythical tree of life. An astronaut traveling through a gaseous nebula in space again searching (you’d think if they could make a machine that advanced, they could get him a toupee). And finally set in present day, a contemporary Jackman who is a researcher searching for an elixir to heal his wife (Rachel Weisz) who is suffering from terminal brain cancer.
If you are wondering whether this fragmented tapestry is a bit like Babel or Traffic, let me just tell you, they all belong to the same genre, which I call the three or four in one malaise. (if that sounds like a new brain disease, it’s a polite way of describing how all these films suffer from split / multiple personalities) It’s a collage where everything just swirls aimlessly pushing and pulling at different directions and speeds leaving us all wondering when is the other shoe going to drop for the moment – When it finally convalesce into a coherent understandable mass all it provokes is a slight whimper.
If Babel appeals to you, “the fountain” will go down quite nicely (bring some chilled vodka in a bunny Tupperware), but don’t expect it to congeal into a happy and understandable glob in the way Babel did. The Fountain is a film that’s very much based on a fuzzy metaphorical exploration of the mythical “tree of life” (which I suspect has nothing to do with the rambutan tree growing outside my window. Why can’t the fruit or sap of life be a durian or duku langsat for once. Why does it always have to a well formed apple or a lithe lychee?)
I am probably going to be labeled a Philistine for saying this, but I really don’t think very much of multiple personality type films, not even films like Babel which managed to garner so many platitudes. They remind me too much of committee films once favored by Stalin and the Soviet film industry i.e four directors who probably have nothing in common with each other agree to film 4 segments of a film in 4 different times zones. One disappears into the desert to befriend goat herders who can’t even figure out how a rifle is supposed to work but still somehow manage to pull off the shot of the century (makes Lee Harvey Oswald look like a kid with a BB gun). The other packs off to Tokyo only to discover a group of confused disabled kids who like to play peek a booh in assorted ways. Another to Mexico, to film a maid whose sense of direction is so appalling she needs color coded shoes. Finally the fourth director, doesn’t even know why they hired him which accounts for why he is just tagging along to document “the reality” series of how movie stars typically behave in location shoots, starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt. Then after 4 months , they just plonk 10 tons of celluloid on the editing table and hire an Armenian patch work blanket seamstress to sew it all up and sell it as art film. Nice try, you fooled all of them, but fortunately the brotherhood press has the BS snooper and we are telling you here only in the IS, that it registers a 10 count on our BS snooper meter which means Babel gets an excellent rating for curing insomnia and sleep apnea.
The fountain basically fails for the same reason, it tries to pull a fast one by tying pseudo scientific, biblical and mythical elements to mimic Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant 2001, only half way through the movie when all the threads fray and the subplots all burn a cinder, one just cannot help feel, this paramour which is supposed to carry a message is simply a dud.
As for all you Sci-Fi cognoscenti’s who typically make a beeline just to appraise the originality of the space sets and nothing else (I still have fond memories, when going to movies meant following the narrative) don’t bother with the fountain.
In the future scene set sometime in 2050 where a lone astronaut floats happily in space. There are no airlocks that go woosh, instead we have bead curtains. He (the astronaut) doesn’t even have the decency to don an atmospheric space suit and magnetic booties. Instead, he is wearing Yoga clothing, neither is there any space lingo like, “this is Houston, I think we have a problem with your pooh chute, do you copy?” Nope, there are no com-links, dials, safety harnesses, onboard computers, droids, not even a fire extinguisher just loads of yoga mats and incense burners. There isn’t even a power train or anything resembling a propulsion system. Trust me I have looked long and hard. This must be NASA’s (Need Another Stupid Astronaut) latest new age spaceship co designed by Deepak Choprak and the Aum Shinriko sect, it even comes complete with a ganja tree. (I am serious! I swear on my Mr Bean bear, there is a tree in this spaceship! It definitely leaves you wondering whether reality is just a crutch for people who don’t see space travel in such surreal terms.)
Am I surprised that the fountain has committed the greatest sacrilege ever in the Sci – Fi history? Non, after all, this is what it does so well, leveraging on a host of dusty lexicons, trite epigrams and pseudoscience clap trap. All these go into a blender along with a bag of magic mushrooms and after a quick whirl, it’s thrown serendipitously on a canvas, stomped on a few times by the family dog and cat and voila! – film d’art. The last time a film tried to pull me by the nose into such a hall of mirrors was the sound of music, which tried to brain wash all of us school boys Bavarians were anti Nazi’s. When the historical fact tell us otherwise, they (the Bavarians) were actually the most ardent and fanatical supporters of Adolf Hitler. This includes Julie Andrew’s CEO, who was hard at work earning his keep as Hitler’s pope in the Vatican. Yes the hills were certainly filled with the sounds of music along with the huffs and puffs of Jews as they were herded into cattle wagons headed for the death camps. Nice try, but like I said, we have the BS snooper and it never lies. The Fountain, I am afraid suffers from the same insufferable ponderous soliloquies – full of sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing.
(By Astroboy / Film / EP9900212-2007 / The Brotherhood Press 2007)
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