The Fountain (2006) review


I have literally just finished watching this film and all I can say is, wow.

The film encompasses historical mythology, religion and science in a dramatic tale of defeating death, for the one you love.

The film was written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. Putting it as simply as I can the storyline follows three men (all played by Jackman) in the past, present and the future who are trying to save their loves, the three stories span over a Millennium and are interspersed among each other. This includes a 15th Century conquistador searching for the tree of life to save the Queen, a medical researcher, working eccentrically to save his dying wife and a space traveler in the year 2500, flying through a dying star wrapped in a nebular, in a bubble (yes, a flying bubble) with the dying tree of life at centre.

images (2)This is the kind of film that you can watch with a group of friends, and none of you will have come to the same conclusion – it’ll be like you have all sat there watching totally different things. I looked at some other people’s take on the film and it is like marmite among film-fanatics. Though, the only real reason people do not like it is because they don’t understand it. But Aronofsky didn’t want to make a straight-forward, direct film. There’s enough of them already. Instead, he created a film that will make you think, talk, and question. And whether you love it or hate it, he succeeded there.

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There’s a few different possible explanations of the film. The three men throughout time could be the same spirit – the same man, re-living similar circumstances throughout time. I think that no matter what, the present day story is reality, that’s important to remember. In the present day Tommy (Jackman) is trying to save his dying wife Izzy (Weisz) who has a brain tumour. Izzy is captivated by the Mayan idea of death being used to create life – and this is a central theme in her book. Now, importantly, the sections of the film that show the 15th Century conquistador appear to be the extracts of Izzy’s book read by Tommy. So, is the historical story Izzy imagining her present day Tommy as her saviour, her conquistador; as he is shown with such bravery and integrity, putting everything he has into finding the tree of life to save his captured Queen in Spain. If he finds the tree – she will be free. If he finds a cure for her illness, she will too, be free.

downloadI believe, that the historical story is not real. It is fantasy. Simply Tommy reading the pages of the book, which we see come to life in his mind. Izzy, who is nearing the end of her life asks Tommy to complete the final chapter of her book, knowing and accepting that she wont be there to finish it. Tommy, like any loving husband would – is still in denial and doing all he can to keep her with him. As Izzy passes away Tommy learns that the work he has been doing with shrinking tumours by use of medicine extracted by trees has worked (he has essentially found the tree of life here), but of course, it is too late. At Izzy’s funeral Tommy angrily states that ‘death is a disease’ and ‘he will find a cure’. This is where I believe that the future and present men link. As present day  Tommy manages to keep himself alive for centuries (in the film he finds ways to reverse age using this tree extract), he finds the dying tree of life and travels with it to bring it back to life in the dying star because death can be used to create life – and this star is the underworld for the Mayans, it is a place where souls go to be reborn, which he learns from Izzy. And uses to try and bring Izzy back.

His future self sees both the Queen (Weisz) and Izzy when he is travelling in his bubble – are they really there? Probably images (3)not…more of a manifestation, but this furthers the idea that future Tommy and present are the same man, with the same drive and memories. Unfortunately, just as Izzy died right before the cure was discovered, the tree dies before they travel through the dying star. This is interesting because remember how Izzy asked Tommy to finish the book? Which is the 15th Century conquistador story, well he decides to finish it by making him fail. He finds the tree, drinks the sap and turns into a bush. Sounds odd I know, but it links in. He has found the tree (the cure) but cannot deliver it to the Queen (Izzy) and so, he no longer exists as Tommy, he is reborn as part of nature because you cannot cheat death, you can’t hide from it and you can’t defeat it. The key is acceptance.

In the end future Tommy decides to end his quest, and life in the future, “and together we will live forever” – Izzy.

He goes back to redo his final days with Izzy. And says goodbye at her grave properly once she has gone.

The credits then show the death, and rebirth of the Universe.

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I don’t think the film is too complicated – maybe my attempt at an explanation is! Aronofsky wanted it to be ambiguous, but through that he produced something unique, and I believe it was both Jackman and Weisz’ best performances! The film is so beautifully shot, and edited. Even if you feel totally lost by the narrative, the golden colours and the visual links between stories will pull you in. Brilliant film. – here’s a link to the trailer. I definitely recommend you go watch the film, and see how you interpret it. You won’t regret it!


Cat Soup – Nekojiru-So review

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Cat Soup (Nekojiru-So) is probably one of the most enticingly surreal films that I have watched. It lasts only half an hour – thank God, because I don’t think my brain could interpret much more! It was written and directed by Tatsuo Sato and released back in 2001.

The film is likened to ‘Hello Kitty on acid’ … and I can see why. Though, it’s such a captivating representation of a reality that, in some way, you really want to explore more.

cat soup pullTo be honest, I can’t coherently explain this film, nobody really can – even Sato himself! The basic premise of the film consists of a kitten trying to save his sister’s soul after death comes to take it away. Unfortunately, as he tugs at the soul against death’s firm grip, it splits in two – so, he returns half the soul to his sister and they both embark on an incredibly bizarre journey to the ‘other side’ to retrieve the other half of her soul. There is no dialogue, the occasional speech bubble appears and in the circus we do hear voices – which is interesting because the sound is simply what you would hear if you listen as you fast-forward a tape. It’s refreshing to watch something that isn’t driven by dialogue.

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cat soup cut upThe film looks pretty innocent and happy from the outside but, that – it is not! It actually gets pretty violent…for a start the little kittens father is a massive alcoholic. And some scenes, for example at the circus – we see, who I believe to be God chop up a woman, brutally. And then fly the body pieces around the room and put her back together in the air. God a circus attraction, eh? Take what you will from that.

This is one of those films where, if you’re the type of person who can just sit back, enjoy some trippy, psychedelic visuals and not get caught up in the specifics – you will love it. And if like me, you search for hidden meanings in every image – prepare for cat-soup-42your brain to go into overdrive. I actually do think that this is a brilliant film, and the thing that I love the most about it is how non-specific it actually is. After watching the film I was still fairly confused, so I did a little research on what inspired the film, the surreal images and the overall premise. Basically, Sato tends to get questioned a lot on: why he put this in that shot, and what that sign means…what that character represents. And really…he doesn’t always have an answer! He admitted that on occasion he didn’t have anything specific in mind when he was drawing up a scene, it was just there. I find this comical, because if you have ever been in a media studies lesson, you will be told that every single piece of a film, every character, every shot, every noise has this huge significant underlying message – when in reality, sometimes it is actually…just there.

That itself is what I love most about the film. Also, it seems really powerful and interesting to me that each individual who watches this will take so many completely different meanings from it.

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To me, it’s like fairytales and biblical stories merged into one insane adventure. We see God, performing in a circus – and then a giant wave floods the entire world – no land is to be found. The kittens and a pig are left on a small wooden boat (intertextual with Noah’s Ark), the flood eventually dries up and the adventure continues on land. This is where we eventually get to a man who takes the kittens in, he gives them food – lots, and lots of food! Birds (which he kills in front of them, and the younger kitten enjoys watching a live bird burn a tad too much), a giant gingerbread house smothered in syrup, and bigger birds. Eventually the kittens end up in a giant cooking pot…remind you of a certain fairytale? Anyway, the list goes on. You do also see time fast forward, then slowly rewind, as it rewinds you cat soup pigsee all of the harm and damage mankind has inflicted on earth – atom bombs, murders, cars crashing, the great depression suicides and wars. When the time is reversing, it does so by God pulling a lever and stopping the cogs of the earth from moving, the earth is a part of a giant clock – reminds me of the watchmaker (design) analogy by William Paley, relevant? Maybe, maybe not…that’s what I love about the film – it actually allows you to delve into your own personal little interpretations!

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Final point…as I am now rambling, the end of the film – time has re-wound, the soul is back in big sis’ body and the family are watching television – the little bro kitten has excused himself. One by one each of the kittens’ family members get ‘switched off’ as you would switch off a TV. The kitten returns, confused. We then cut to an exterior shot of the house in darkness – just one flickering street light until – the shot is too, switched off. Now, this could refer back to God who was originally controlling the worlds or the power and reliance our contemporary world has on media OR – as the film does circulate around the bad nature of humans (warning I may be looking waaaay too far into this) but it does kind of remind me of the whole controversy of the electronic banking conspiracy – and the great global blackout which plunges the world into chaos and slavery. Probably over thinking there, admittedly that is just how my brain works! Either way, thought I’d share my odd interpretations so watch the film and let me know some of your own!

Catch the trailer here: