What is going on? You may as well ask. In as much as it's about anything, "The Fountain" is about the many myths cultures have around the idea of eternal life. For the Spaniards, it was a fountain. For the Mayas, it was a tree.
One of the more complex symbols is The Tree of Life. The tree at once represents the tree that would have granted Adam and Eve everlasting life in the Garden of Eden; the Sephirot diagram that's the cosmology of Kabbalah; the sacred fig tree under which Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became Buddha; the Sidrat al-Muntaha that in Islam marks the end of the seventh heaven; and the Norse Yggdrasil, which Odin hanged himself from in order to achieve wisdom. All of these connect the three incarnations of Thomas to the tree, especially in Tommy's pursuit of knowledge, but the Yggdrasil myth seems to especially be of significance since Tom's tree-filled spacecraft looks like the Nordic interpretation of the world. According to myth the first humans were made from the Yggdrasil, and the tree is tellingly said to protect the last man and woman when the world ends. Most wonderfully of all, the Mayan Tree of Life is the Milky Way, where Xibalba is located and Tom journeys. Just as the Tree of Life connects "The Fountain's" triptych, Mayans used trees to symbolize the connection between the Earth, the sky and the afterlife.
But as with Apocalypto, the Maya civilization was gone before the first white man arrived. Apparently filmmakers can't get enough of human sacrifice as a symbolic act.
I think the Fountain was voted one of the worst movies of the year. If I remember correctly, it was in theaters only a short time.
Writerfella here --
Of course it surfaced and submerged again in short order. It was a film depending more on communication through imagery rather than speeches or narration, such as was Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. That other film of Aronofsky's, PI, left writerfella thirsting for more, and THE FOUNTAIN helped him slake that thirst. Modern audiences are too accustomed to being spoonfed by television, with their attention spans made only several microseconds long before they turn away in impatience for other, more instantaneous gratifications. That writerfella saw the film in a theater with two hundred others was gratification enough...
I didn't see The Fountain, but I did see Pi. It left me scratching my head and wondering if Aronofsky would learn to tell stories more clearly. In other words, it was interesting but flawed.
Writerfella here --
Or, better said, if Aronofsky's audiences would learn more clearly to understand his stories. In motion pictures, George Lucas has done two specific services/disservices: 1, that his audiences use their TV-trained expectations to match his abbreviated storytelling skills, and 2, that their attention spans would continue to become shorter and more demanding. In essence, Lucas has helped to establish 'speed-viewing' along the lines of 'speed-reading' but in actuality he has done his audiences several disfavors. Audiences now are conditioned to appreciate his filmic styles very well, but they find themselves unable to appreciate the older filmic styles of being able to follow a story through images alone. Instead of being a step forward or backward, Lucas' contribution has been to educate audiences away from knowing and understanding filmic symbolism that has been an inherent quantity in films from their very inception. Is this good or bad? writerfella says, 'bad', if only because human inborn understanding of sign language has been circumvented. Yet, the audiences do not understand that their minds no longer are being challenged by the general run of motion pictures to interpret what the filmmakers are trying to communicate. The disservice is that the reason motion pictures exist at all slowly is being defeated...
I've wanted clarity in storytelling since I began reading, watching TV, and seeing movies almost half a century ago. It has nothing to do with Star Wars. I didn't like the overlong psychedelic ending of 2001 when I saw it in the theater, either.
Unclear storytelling is usually if not always bad. I suppose there are exceptions, and if I think of one, I'll let you know. Pi isn't the exception that proves the rule.
Writerfella here --
No one said that PI was any kind of exception at all. What was said is that motion picture audiences have lost the appreciation for filmic content that exists in areas that they no longer can understand. Silent films likely were the most successful form of motion pictures because the images were able to communicate human concepts that are universally understood regardless of language or culture or nationality. 'Clarity in storytelling' now is what the average viewer gains if it is explained to them by dialog, progression, and simplicity. What would happen to painted art, if there had to be written texts attached to each and every one? That is the 'state of the art' in motion pictures. The viewer must be made totally aware of what the film is saying, or they lose touch with what they are seeing.
'The overlong psychedelic ending of 2001' actually was very simple: the astronaut was passing through a stargate that took him more than halfway across the universe to the region where the Old Ones now exist. Period. But the audience members who wanted that explained to them in dialog completely missed the point. writerfella has told this to far too many people over the years who either misunderstood or who missed the point entirely. The film is very plain, but its audiences were not and in fact were searching for their spoons...
Many paintings would be improved by written texts, or at least by titles. This might make them less "mysterious," but mystery is overrated as a quality in art.
I didn't understand or appreciate a lot of art until I took an art history class in college. After reading experts explain various aspects of the art, it made more sense to me.
More to the point, I could appreciate the art more emotionally as well as intellectually. Generally speaking, the more you understand something, the deeper you feel it.
I loved this movie!! It was very deep and finally a break from the norm. I thought it was brilliant!!
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