Darren Aronofsky’s previous films (Pi and Requiem for a Dream) were overrated exercises in style over substance, establishing Aronofsky as a talented visual director who needs a better grasp over his material. Unfortunately The Fountain is a giant step backwards into New Age nonsense.
The Fountain tackles the lofty themes of love, grief and death while referencing transcendental meditation, the Bible, Mayan mythology and some very dubious Spanish history. Hugh Jackman plays a scientist trying to cure his wife’s brain tumour (Rachel Weisz), a 16th century Spanish conquistador searching for the Tree of Life to save his queen (also Weisz), and a lone space traveller floating through the cosmos with the Tree of Life in a giant bubble. The thematic links between the three stories become blatantly obvious very quickly due to Aronofsky’s heavy handed and repetitious symbolism.
Despite some attractive cinematography The Fountain is too underdeveloped and pretentious for audiences who enjoy narrative and character driven films and too contrived and conservative for people who prefer experimental film and the avant-garde. There are some interesting ideas beneath the surface of The Fountain but the film is just too superficial and too silly to explore them with any integrity.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 270, 2007