Three stories set in the 13th century, present day and the far future all overlap and tell the same story with the same characters. Together, the storylines make an allegory about love, life and transcendence.
A movie about love, life and death, molded into a search for eternal life. Director Darren Aronofsky (better known from Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler) has outdone himself in making such an intimate film. Either love it or think it is pretentious.
The Fountain has three different stories running that span a thousand years, but only figuratively. One story is set in 13th century Spanish America, one in modern times and one in a proposedly far future. The three overlap and are linked not only storywise but by similar scenes and words uttered, which get symbolic meanings near the end of the movie.
The story of the 13th century conquistador story is adventurous, romantic, told as an historic novel should be told. It has rhythms and a dark sweaty feel of mysterious past. The modern day story is realistic, passionate and sad. The future is a symbolic place, a landscape of the mind filled with symbolism.
The modern day story is the true heart of the movie, while the other stories comment upon it. Approaching the end of the movie, the three intertwine into a three part climax. It isn’t even clear whether we should take the past and future stories literally or simply as different interpretations of the present. The movies work better to take these two stories as metaphors for the story set in the present. After all, all three are about personal struggles.
It makes me wonder, how would you like your story to be told? As a swashbuckling adventure, as a bleak modern tragedy, or as a science fiction myth? It may not really matter because it is all the same, because we are talking about the same timeless struggle of life and meaning that is simply part of the human condition.
The Fountain is a unique piece of filmmaking unlike anything I have seen. Aronofsky gives only little information about what is actually going on in his movie but it is not hard to figure it out for those with a philosophical disposition. The scenes are awe-inspiring and its mood is intense and often serene. The soundtrack by Clint Mansell (also known from Requiem for a Dream) has become just as much a cult hit as the movie itself. The whole package is a beautiful poem about life and death, intelligent and evocative.