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The Fountain is a 2006 American romantic drama film that blends elements of fantasy, history, religion, and science fiction. It is directed by Darren Aronofsky, and stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. The film consists of three story lines, in which Jackman and Weisz play different sets of characters who may or may not be the same two people: a modern-day scientist and his cancer-stricken wife, a conquistador and his queen, and a space traveler in the future who hallucinates his lost love. The story lines—interwoven with use of match cuts and recurring visual motifs—reflect the themes of love and mortality.
Aronofsky originally planned to direct The Fountain on a $70 million budget with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in the lead roles, but Pitt's withdrawal and cost overruns led Warner Bros. to shut down production. The director rewrote the script to be sparser, and was able to resurrect the film with a $35 million budget with Jackman and Weisz in the lead roles. Production mainly took place on a sound stage in Montreal, Quebec, and the director used macro photography to create key visual effects for The Fountain at a low cost.
The film was released theatrically in the United States and Canada on November 22, 2006. It grossed $10,144,010 in the United States and Canada and $5,761,344 in other territories for a worldwide total of $15,978,422. Critics' reactions to the film were divided, but it has gained a large cult following since its release.
At its core, The Fountain is the story of a 21st-century doctor, Tom Creo (Hugh Jackman), losing his wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz) to cancer in 2005. As she is dying, Izzi begs Tom to share what time they have left together, but he is focused on his quest to find a cure for her.
While he's working in the lab, she writes a story about 16th century Queen Isabella losing her territory to the Inquisition while her betrothed, conquistador Tomás Verde plunges through the Central America forest in Mayan territory, searching for the Tree of Life for his Queen.
Since she does not have time herself, Izzi asks Tom to finish the story for her. As they look out to the stars, she imagines that their souls will meet there when the star dies. And we see astronaut Tommy, in 2500, travelling there for the event, in a spaceship made of an enclosed biosphere containing the Tree of Life.
The three story lines are told nonlinearly, each separated by five centuries. The three periods are interwoven with match cuts and recurring visual motifs; Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz play the main characters for all three narratives. Even within a given narrative, the elements of that particular story are not told in chronological order.
Whether these stories are actual events, or symbolic, is not clarified; and, director Darren Aronofsky emphasized that the storylines in their time periods and their respective convergences were open to interpretation.
The director has said of The Fountain's intricacy and underlying message, "[The film is] very much like a Rubik's Cube, where you can solve it in several different ways, but ultimately there's only one solution at the end."
In a 2012 interview, Aronofsky stated that "ultimately the film is about coming to terms with your own death".
Tomás the conquistadorEdit
One of the film's narratives takes place during the Spanish Inquisition, where public trials of heresy could endanger the lives of those accusedThe film opens with conquistador Tomás Verde in New Spain fighting a horde of Mayans to gain entry into a pyramid, where he is attacked by a Mayan priest with a flaming sword. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that the conquistador has been commissioned by Queen Isabella of Spain to travel to the New World in search of the Biblical Tree of Life. If Tomás can find it, she is convinced that she can put an end to the struggle between herself and an influential cleric during the Spanish Inquisition who is attempting to usurp the throne. Isabella vows to wed Tomás upon his return, citing a correlation with Adam and Eve. When Tomás arrives at his destination, he finds that his fellow knights are exhausted and refuse to continue searching for the Tree of Life. A Franciscan monk discovers the location of the temple, but is accidentally killed while Tomás represses the mutiny amongst his officers. As the priest dies, he gives Tomás a ceremonial dagger and directs him towards the pyramid. Once he arrives at the pyramid, Tomás and his men are ambushed and Tomás is captured. He is forced to the top of the pyramid, and engages in hand-to-hand combat with a Mayan priest. Tomás is stabbed in the stomach, but the priest narrowly avoids killing him when he notices that Tomás is carrying the ceremonial dagger that fulfills a Mayan prophecy. The priest believes Tomás is the "First Father", apologizes and asks Tomás to sacrifice him by slitting his throat. Tomás kills the priest and proceeds to a garden with a large tree; convinced this is the Tree of Life, Tomás applies some of its sap to his torso and is cured of his stab wound. He drinks the sap flowing from the bark. But in a reenactment of the Mayan creation myth told earlier in the film, flowers and grass burst forth from his body and he literally gives rise to new life.
Tom the neuroscientistEdit
Tom Creo is a doctor working on a cure using samples of the "Tree of Life", found through exploration in Central America, which are being tested for medicinal use for degenerative brain diseases in his lab in 2005. He is motivated by his wife Izzi's brain tumor, which has caused a rapid decline in her health. Izzi has used this time to assess the meaning of life and come to terms with her mortality, but Tom refuses to accept that she might die and has increasing resolve to find a cure. She has written a book which apparently tells the story of Tomás the conquistador, but when she collapses at a museum, she becomes convinced that she won't live long enough to finish the book and asks Tom to write the final chapter. She dies shortly thereafter and Tom dedicates himself to curing not only her disease, but death itself. His colleagues fear that this drive has made him reckless, but they try to support him emotionally at Izzi's funeral. As a final act of love and devotion, Tom plants a tree seed at Izzi's grave in the manner of a story she told him relating how a Mayan guide's dead father lived on in a tree nourished by the organic nutrients of the buried body.
Tommy the space travelerEdit
The narrative for Tommy is set entirely in deep space in a small, self-contained biosphere bubble. Jackman's character in this plot is alone flying in outer space toward the golden nebula of Xibalba with a large tree and a few personal effects inside his ship. While traveling, he meditates, performs t'ai chi, tattoos himself, with the ink pot Izzi left for 21st century Tom to finish her story; and carries on a conversation with an apparition of Izzi from 2005. It is implied that she is somehow alive inside the tree; but, it is dying and they need to reach Xibalba in order to bring it back to life.
At the climax of the film, the tree dies and the star goes supernova, engulfing the traveler's ship. His body is incinerated, but the tree is brought back to life. Izzi's apparition picks a fruit from the new tree and hands it to Tom, the present-day neuroscientist, who plants it in Izzi's grave.