Sunday, April 01, 2007

Death is the Road to Awe

The Fountain
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Saw this one on a plane from Auckland to Sydney, which is probably far from the best way to experience it (it's a big screen movie), but at least I now have an excuse to buy it on DVD at some stage.

The Fountain is the latest film from Darren Aronofsky, director of two of my favourite movies Pi and Requiem for a Dream, and it does not disappoint even in comparison to its forbears. The storyline follows three sort-of parallel plot threads, one focusing on a Spanish conquistador, another involving a modern day cancer researcher, and the last in a trippy sci-fi setting where our protagonist (all three are played by Hugh Jackman), in this incarnation some kind of martial artist slash mystic, floats through space in a giant bubble enclosing a big tree. In each scenario Jackman is trying to save someone or something (played by Rachel Weisz); his country, his wife, or the aforementioned tree, and each scenario features a tree of life that grants immortality.

We spend the most time with the cancer researcher and the other threads merely shadow or influence this main thread. Despite the mystical hooha in the other threads the movie's point is a simple, relatable one, about dealing with the death of a loved one, both after the event and as it approaches, and about finding meaning in their life, both for those who remain once it's all said and done, and for the person who is dying before they go.

It's a tremendously sad but beautiful movie, not just because of the story but also because of the astounding visuals, rendered entirely without the aid of CGI, just old fashioned smoke and mirrors, and the results are stunning:

It was done this way because of budgetary constraints but it clearly worked out to the advantage of the film. Over the last few years we have become very accustomed to being bombarded by sleek shiny CGI that it's eye opening to see just how beautiful the old-fashioned, imperfect but detailed, analogue way of doing things still is.

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