Films & Architecture: “The Fountain”

  • 06 Nov 2012
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  • Films & Architecture

Everyone that has seen an Aronofsky film can recognize there is something beyond “special” in his work. This is not the exception, and specifically for us in terms of space, the movie travels from the past to the future, and back to the present utilising amazing contrasts for the three realities. These realities could mean a theocentric, scientific and anthropocentric views of the world. In any case, the director generates amazing transitions and spatial effects to represent those ideas.

Nothing more to say, enjoy of a great movie and let us know your comments and ideas about it!

MAIN INFO

Original title: The Fountain
Year: 2006
Runtime: 96 min.
Country: United States
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Steve Koren, Ari Handel
Soundtrack: Clint Mansell
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn

PLOT

At its core, The Fountain is the story of a 21st century man, Tom, (Hugh Jackman), losing his wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz) to cancer in 2005. As she is dying, Izzi begs Tommy 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, 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 Tommy 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 Tom, 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.”

Tomás the conquistador

One of the film’s narratives takes place during the Spanish Inquisition, where public trials of heresy could endanger the lives of those accused. The film opens with conquistador Tomás 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.

 

Tommy the neuroscientist

Tommy 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 Tommy 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 Tommy to write the final chapter. She dies shortly thereafter and Tommy 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, Tommy 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.

 

Tom the space traveler

The narrative for Tom 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 Tommy 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 Tommy the present day neuroscientist, who plants it in Izzi’s grave.

TRAILER

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Previously posted on this section…

Cite: Portilla, Daniel. "Films & Architecture: “The Fountain”" 06 Nov 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=289551>

5 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Another movie to add could be dogville by lars von trier. The lack of architecture in the film highlights its function

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Lord of the Rings series needs to be added here just for its sheer use of beautiful architectural themes, colors, materials,etc..

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Lord of the rings series needs to be put up here just for its sheer use of beautiful architectural themes, colors,materials, etc…

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This ‘little’ film still affects me deeply since I first saw it in the middle of a snowstorm at a local theatre. It was truly magical–the snow theme in the film matched real life and to add, I was personally grieving the loss of a loved one just that winter. Watch it not for popcorn-induced expectation of ‘entertainment’ but for the artfilm and its ethereal heart message so eloquently woven throughout. It might catch you offguard as it did me…

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think the inclusion of this film in a list of movies with architectonic themes is a little tenuous. A good film, and visually rich but less relevant to architecture than many of the other films on your list.

    The ArchDaily blurb talks about the amazing contrast in representations of space between the three realities presented in the film which I do not agree with.

    All that said, I enjoyed the film and probably more so than a couple of other Aronofsky’s ‘masterpieces’ – I do still think Pi will be his standout.

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