Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Fountain: Not a Movie Review

(Sorry it's long and rambles a bit.)
When I go see a movie I always step into the situation without preconceived ideas. When I saw the previews for The Fountain I thought it looked cool. I went online and read some article somewhere about it saying it was scifi, which is my genre of choice, and that the director, Darren Aronofsky, used bacteria grown in petri dishes instead of computer graphics for as many shots in the movie as he could. I thought it was something I would have to see for myself, and that it would be interesting at the very least.

When I say I like scifi, I don't mean that I like giant cyborg chihuahuas running around destroying mankind with the help of evil one eyed aliens from Hell. What I mean is I like scifi with meaning and thought behind it. So when The Fountain started I was more than willing to let it unveil itself.

It started out with Thomas the conquistador finishing his quest, and I thought oh no, not the old show the ending first trick. (It's like reading the end of a book first. What's the point of reading it after that? You might as well save your money and just read a review.) After finishing the movie, I could almost forgive Aronofsky for the trick, but I still think it would be a better show if they would have started with the journey and not the conclusion.

Besides the tricks of story telling, as I was watching the movie I noticed that throughout the show people would periodically get up and leave, never to return. I've walked out on my fair share of movies but usually for offensive reasons, and so far I couldn't think of anything offensive about the show. So I started thinking that there must be a disconnect between what people thought they were going to see and what they were actually seeing.

This made me wonder why people go to see movies. Do they see previews, form an idea of what the movie is about, see the show, and go home to compare notes, checking off where the movie did and did not conform to their view of things? Do people go to movies just to forget for two hours how crappy they've made their lives? There are many more questions I could think of, but without an official poll, (assuming people even think about why they see movies in the first place) I couldn't guess their reasons.

But I do know my own reasons. Number one on my list are the looks. Film is first and foremost a visual medium and if it doesn't grab my attention visually I might still think it a good show but I feel the lack of decent visuals.

Second, I love a show with a story line, a.k.a. a plot. A plot is defined as, a situation is revealed, there is a struggle over the situation, and the situation is resolved. This could involve people or lumps of play dough, but it has to come to a conclusion. I am not a fan of the "slice of life" genre.

One other reason I watch movies, but certainly not the last, is when it provokes new thoughts. If a movie can make me think about things I haven't thought of before, especially things beyond the here and now, it gets extra marks.

Given a choice between saying I hate The Fountain, or I like it. I would have to say that I liked it. For most people I believe they would say they hate it, since it lacks the typical Hollywood predictability. But I will say that this isn't going to be a movie I watch repeatedly.

After leaving the movie I kept thinking about it and what Aronofsky was trying to say. One review I read says, it's all about the "cycle of life", but this trite answer ignores many of the details of the show. Yes I believe that that's in there but it isn't an accurate summation.

Another review tried to simplify things by saying that there are three separate Thomases, but this doesn't fit with the movie since clearly the doctor and the space faring Thomas have the same tattoos, same pen, and same wife with a brain tumor. And at the end of the movie space Thomas is clearly recognised as the Mayans First Father, (sort of like a cross between Adam and the Norse god Odin, if you haven't seen the movie.)

So here's my take on it, (subject to change of course.) I believe that doctor and space Thomas are the same. The doctor does find a way to stop death, using the tree, but living forever doesn't answer the question of death. After humanity gets to a certain level of technology he sets off to the place where he believes Izzy, his dead wife, will be resurrected by the dying star by pulling her spirit from the tree.

The tree is the key to living forever and the conquistador Thomas and the other Thomas are linked spiritually at the least. In the movie time is like a circle, (actually it's more like a sphere but that's another post.) Space/doctor Thomas is actually the Mayan First Father, and the tree he creates to keep him alive turns out to be the tree of life of the Mayans. (Hey it's science fiction. If it was simple, more people would be reading it.)

But by dying space/doctor Thomas starts the cycle up/over and if you listen carefully to the Mayan lore in the movie, becomes the First Father through sacrifice of his desperate clinging to life, his preconceived ideas, and his belief that he knows everything.

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