Friday, November 16, 2007

Watching: The Fountain

I don't know what to think about this one. It's probably best to not think about it at all, but to feel it instead. I don't think (there's that word again) it is meant to be experienced literally or intellectually. It is one of those movies that is intended to be experienced on a more intuitive, emotional level. The problem is, it didn't completely work on that level.

The Fountain is a lousy title for a movie, and it's kind of misleading. It's not the Fountain of Youth that's the subject here, but rather the Tree of Life. Same thing, really, but still.

Hugh Jackman plays a character who has, more or less, become unstuck in time. He's a Spanish conquistador, a medical researcher in the present or near future, and some sort of bubble boy floating up to the Mayan underworld in an imagined future. In all three settings, he's seeking and/or tending the Tree of Life as a promise of immortality, trying to keep himself alive and Rachel Weisz from dying.

The Fountain raises some of the same kind of Big Questions as 2001: A Space Odyssey or other meditations on man's place in the universe, the end of life, etc., but it ultimately backs away from the answers it suggests. In fact, it is probably a mistake to suggest answers at all. A film like this succeeds best by being open-ended and non-literal. This one was too specific and tethered to the main plot.

I am not sure what the people who made this film were thinking. I am not sure what motivated Darren Aronofsky, a talented and provocative director, to make this movie, and I am perplexed as to why any major studio would greenlight it. What kind of expectations could they have had? They couldn't have expected it would be a hit, or make (much) money, even with semi-big stars like Jackman and Weisz in it. There wasn't even any gratuitous sex or violence to exploit, just one semi-suggestive scene with the stars making out in a bathtub.

Where is the audience for this movie? Did they think this was going to fill theaters for weeks at a time? How were they going to market it? As it turns out, it's a good movie to watch on a big new high-definition TV, because it does look great, and the dialogue is so hushed and whispered that you almost need the subtitles on, but was that really the marketing plan for this movie? I'm curious.

So maybe this movie wasn't a success, but at least it was an interesting... failure is the wrong word... attempt.

2 comments:

D.B. Echo said...

This movie has a long and interesting history. Brad Pitt was originally attached to it as the star, and I believe things got to the pre-production stage - crew hired, sets under construction, shooting scheduled in New Zealand, Brad Pitt growing long hair and a grizzly beard for the scenes that required it - when without warning the star decided to pull out, leaving a lot of people suddenly out of work. Something else happened then - I forget what, but I think it involved Perter Jackson. This was all afew years before the version that made it onto film was actually made.

Michael Plank said...

See, a movie about the history of the movie would probably be pretty good.