The Fountain – DVD Review

Directed by:
Darren Aronofsky

Hugh Jackman … Tomas/Tommy/Dr. Tom Creo
Rachel Weisz … Queen Isabel/Izzi Creo
Ellen Burstyn … Dr. Lillian Guzetti
Mark Margolis … Father Avila
Stephen McHattie … Grand Inquisitor Silecio
Fernando Hernandez … Lord of Xibalba
Cliff Curtis … Captain Ariel
Sean Patrick Thomas … Antonio
Donna Murphy … Betty
Ethan Suplee … Manny

Warner Brothers presents The Fountain. Written by Darren Aronofsky. Running time: 96 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for some intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language). Released on DVD: May 15, 2007. Available at Amazon.com.

The Movie


The Fountain, two words that have been on Darren Aronofsky’s mind for almost an entire decade now. A project that he’s held so dear that nothing could get in his way of making this film his next project. After being the toast of the town due to his massive critical praise, every studio wanted to make the next Darren Aronofsky film. And Warner’s was the team to do it, only when they read the script, they had no idea what to make of it. Sure the films script was marvelous and proof that Aronofsky is truly one of cinemas next greats, but it was just too “out there” to be marketable. Enter Brad Pitt.

Pitt signed on to the film after having only read the first forty pages, and with his attachment the film was greenlit and the budget was set at 70 million dollars. Aronofsky and his partner Ari Handel were in heaven that the film was being made, and having more money than they knew what to do with made the whole project feel like anything was possible. There were no limitations to what they could accomplish with that much freedom. Then Brad dropped out of the project just weeks before filming, the project was permanently closed down, the dream was dead. Aronofsky didn’t know what to do, it got to a point where his work was eating at him, mocking him as something he was so close to accomplishing only to have it taken away at the last second.

This happened back in around 2000 shortly after his film Requiem for a Dream came out. And he hadn’t made a film since, every time anyone asked what he was doing next, his answer was simple: The Fountain. He refused to give up on the one project he felt was a part of himself. Having written the film around the time of his thirtieth birthday, it was something very deeply a part of him in that story. And come hell or high water, it was going to happen. Then one night he took all the material he cultivated when preparing to write the screenplay, grabbed a copy of the last draft he wrote and then re-imagined it all in a way that was both financially possible for studios to get behind, yet still held on to every single theorem he believed the film was about and stood for.

If there’s one thing about the film that has been talked about the most, it’s the complex story structure that takes place in three separate time periods. One based in 16th century Spain about a conquistador searching for the tree of life, a modern tale about a surgeon trying to find a cure to his wife’s brain tumor and the a leap to the 25th century which follows a man and a tree on their way to Xibalba, the Myan underworld. But don’t let that scare you away from experiencing The Fountain, because Aronofsky has compiled it all together to tell a sweeping epic about human emotion and the circle of life.

The main focus of the movie is a tale about Dr. Tom Creo who is in a race against time to save his wife Izzi who is dying of a brain tumor. A very basic story, right? Well, seeing as this is a Darren Aronofsky film, there’s obviously a more complex story happening underneath the surface. Tom becomes so obsessed with finding a cure, trying to save tomorrow, that he doesn’t relish in the time he has with Izzi now. He’s trying to race against the clock and find a cure not realizing that these last days are the only time he has left with her, and that he needs to make these final ones count.

While all of that is going on we find out that Izzi is writing a manuscript about a Myan conquistador who is commissioned by the queen to find the tree of life for her to help Spain from the clutches of an overzealous Grand Inquisitor who threatens to throw the country in to civil war. She then asks Tom to finish the story after she’s gone. This story Izzi has strung together is her way of allowing her husband to find closure. To accept death as a part of life, and realize how precious everything is. Then there’s the space section, which is mainly left up to interpretation. And that’s what makes the movie so enjoyable, it doesn’t give us all of the answers, it makes us try and figure things out on our own.

You’ll be left speechless when the end credits roll, there’s so much to take in during the films last fifteen minutes that it’ll all be stuck in the back of your head for days trying to deconstruct exactly what happened and why. But in the moment of the film, everything makes sense, the story clicks and the characters journey is one that will be felt by all. Because this isn’t a film about Tom or Izzi, it’s about you, me and everyone else on this planet. Those characters are only there as vessels to show us the way and take us on the journey.

We don’t need to know their back story, we don’t need to know where they went o their first date, their first kiss or the planning of their wedding. All we need to know is that their love for one another is immeasurable. We don’t need that stuff because these characters are meant to represent any person watching the film, being able to relate to these last few days with your one true love and wanting to make them last, to not be afraid of death anymore.

There’s something inside The Fountain that completely captures the human emotions of coping with the loss of a loved one. Or worse, knowing that you have limited time with them never knowing quite when the last day will be. It’s a heart wrenching film that doesn’t play up the emotions, or have overly dramatic musical scores kick in to tell you how to feel, it’s a human story of love and what people will do the preserve it. The layers of complexity and depth are at times over whelming, but never hamper the actual story being told. They’re simply pieces of the puzzle that make it more and more intriguing with each viewing.

To say this film is a masterpiece would be putting it lightly. The Fountain is the type of film that is hard to come by in these days of nine figure budgets for book adaptations or sequels. It’s the types of film we all hoped would come from the rising class of filmmakers, a movie where there were ideals implanted, where we connect with the characters and what they’re going through. A movie that could move us to tears.

The DVD


Video:
(Presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
Slightly opened up from its original 1.85:1 aspect ration, the movie is still just as stunning as it looked on the big screen. Aronofsky uses a lot of circles and symmetry in his film as a personal choice to add more texture to the film, and they are reproduced here perfectly fine. Even his choice of using contrasting blacks and whites are never affected on this DVD transfer.

Audio:
(English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround)
Composer Clint Mansell truly outdoes himself with his work on this movie, creating an atmosphere to the picture without making the music take precedence over the film. And his score comes out magically in 5.1 surround. Apart from that, the dialogue is perfect and no audio problems are noticeable during playback.

Extras:

Inside The Fountain: Death and Rebirth (1:03:49) – When one reads on the back of the DVD packaging that the DVD boasts a “gallery of six featurettes exploring the movies various periods and settings,” one would probably expect an in-depth look at the movie. Well, prepare to be under whelmed folks.

It starts off with Australia (7:39), which is perhaps the most interesting part of the entire six-part documentary. Here we see the early stages — along with some shots of art designs and location scouting — of the film back in 2002 before the project was shut down by the studio.

The next one, The 21st Century (10:19), picks up two years after the project was shut down and Aronofsky had re-written the project to be made for half the initial budget. Film finally starts rolling, only this time it’s in Montreal Canada. Director of Photography Matthew Libatique talks about the style of photography used and how difficult the shoot was.

Spain-16th Century (13:31), is mainly about the importance of cinematography and how most of the shots were set up in a way to tell a linear story. But the bulk of this featurette is a look at the preparations that go in to just one scene. From set construction to rehearsals, all the way down to hair, make-up and costumes we see how much work is required on a film set each and every day.

Following that we have New Spain (9:58), which looks at the fight scenes that were needed in front of the Myan temple that was guarding the tree of life. We get a look at the rehearsals for the scenes as well as how they created the flaming sword. It also features more Mark Margolis, and who could complain about that?

Like the last part, The Endless Field (7:10) takes a look at the rehearsals, along with all of the other components that went in to the scene, with the tree of life at the end of the film. It’s interesting to watch what was CGI and what was practical effects. And who knew that creamy frosting was the sap of life?

Finally, we have The Future (15:12), which is all about how the crew essentially created something entirely original with their spherical ship, along with how they created the space around it. Shown here is how they went about designing the physical properties of space in the film, along with some of the greenscreen work that was required with actors Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.

The main problem with this featurette is that there is no flow to what is happening and very little is actually revealed about the making of the film or its troubled past. A play all button is included but these are best watched separately to get an understanding of what each one is about. Essentially, this documentary starts out like it’ll be similar to “The Hamster Factor” featurette from the 12 Monkeys DVD but quickly turns into the exact opposite.

Also here is the films Theatrical Trailer (2:22), which rounds out the disc.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Fountain
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

10
THE VIDEO

8.5
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

6
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)