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.
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.
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.
I 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 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.
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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAuxryJ6pv8 – 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!