Saturday, 4 April 2009

All these years, all these memories, there was you. You pull me through time.

No 484 - The Fountain
Director - Darren Aronofsky

Right, Toby's computer has the worst, and most temperamental keyboard in the world. Hence my appallingly written last blog (I know, a bad workman yadda yadda yadda) and the fact that I didn't write all three last night. But I'm back. And I haven't learnt my lesson because I'm back on the knackered old Presario, only this time I'm being VERY careful with my typing.... I don't want people to think I'm a simpleton.

So, I finally got round to seeing The Wrestler, which is a fabulous film and as I had a roughly 2 hour flight to Spain ahead of me I thought I would crack out my lovely little Archos device and watch something. With Aronofsky fresh in my head, I selected this little gem.

This film is a very confusing confusing number. I'm aware that this isn't the exact story, as originally planned and that it had been scaled down for budget. I'm also aware that there are other parts of the Fountain Canon that I have not partaken in. However, the film can be viewed on its own, if you don't mind a bit of head fuckery.

The film follow Thomas as he searches for a cure for his dying love Isabelle. This may seem like a simple enough concept but it is here where we throw the interesting curve ball of Time. Incidentally, I don't know if curve ball was the right word to use in this analogy as I have very little knowledge in armoured rounders.
But... back to Time.
  • Tomas is a Spanish Conquistador, asked by Queen Isabella of Spain to find the Tree of Life so that she will not die and so that she can liberate Spain from bondage.
  • Tommy is a modern day doctor using a mysterious tree sap to find a cure for the cancer killing his wife Izzi.
  • Tom Creo is a bald headed man floating in a bubble through space. Taking a dying Tree of Life to Xibalba. A nebula in space, that is also the Mayan Afterlife.

These three stories flit and change and interweave and open up a difficult aspect. Is Thomas the same person throughout. Is Isabella the same person throughout? It is certainly hinted that Tom Creo is supposed to be Tommy many many years in the future (in an act of grief, Tommy tattoos his wedding ring onto his finger. The future Tom Creo not only has the wedding band tattoo but also has tattoo rings going up both arms as a reminder of his time spent without Izzi.)

It is with Tomas, that the continuation becomes a bit more standard and less ingenious. For Tomas is a fictional character written in the book Izzi is writing. If Tomas' story just fluttered through the narrative in the same way that Tommy's and Tom's do, it would create a far more interesting structure. I know that the graphic novel has a different set up that couldn't be done in the film (budgetary reasons) so I may have to hunt it out in order to get the full story.

The structure o the film is also quite easy to follow. Aspects of Tomas' story echo what is happening with Tommy or with Tom. The 3 strands are all telling the same tale in different ways. It is only at the end of the story that things begin to go mad. As Tommy tarts to finish The Fountain for Izzi, his tale blends the three Thomases together into one wibbly wobbly timey wimey head fuck where Xibalba causes time travel and flying and exploding into flowers. All a bit mental but culminating into the dying Tree of Life exploding into... well... life.

It is said that the Mayans believed that from the Stomach of First Father came creation. The tree of life erupted out of him leaving only his head. In this film Tomas is killed by flowers and plants erupting from a wound in his stomach and taking over his body. This only happens in the narrative once Tom Creo takes the tree to Xibalba. It could be that Tommy is first father.... that he creates the universe and that the simple constraints of time should not be taken into account.

Whatever happens and however you view this film I don't think you should take the chronology of it into consideration. If you accept the story as a study of love and man's determination to stay with the person they love, it becomes a lot more rewarding than if you try and make the three story strains fit comfortably together.

So that is my view on the story.... It isn't the clearest view in the world, but it isn't the clearest story in the world either. Watch it and form your own opinions.

However, there are some other None story points that I wish to discuss. Beginning with the visual style. Aronofsky has always conjured up some amazing images (check out Pi, for some disturbing examples) and in this, his Mayan world is something beautiful. As his swirly inky depiction of space. It looks like when you dip paper into oil paints and water (a technique called Marbling at my old nursery), only with light, and it is truly beautiful.

And finally, the acting. Whilst Rachel Weisz is excellent, portraying the fragile innocence and strong determination that makes up her character, the spotlight here really shines on Hugh Jackman. His three Thomases create a massive range of action, emotion and cerebral stillness. It shows how talented and varied an actor he can be and sets him nicely away from his chiseled beefcake comic book star.

And he sings too!

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