Cosmic Psychobabble: The Fountain Review

the_fountain

It’s all that Deepak fuckin’ Chopra’s fault. Most things are when you think about it. How else to explain the profusion of bullshititis that permeates the entire world these days? It’s a great gig if you can get it. Cherry pick a bunch of half-arsed ideas from the last few thousand years worth of religious belief, mix ’em in with a bit of  materialistic endorsement designed to make people feel good about their slavishness to consumer culture, give a cursory nod to modern science by inserting a few quixotic links to quantum physics, sprinkle a bit of faux-esoteric terminology over the top, and there you have it: a big steaming pile of new age “spirituality” – a shopping list summary of the worst philosophical ideas ever conceived of by the human mind. The only genuine talent you need for this kind of thing is one for self-publicity. In other words, you need to be shameless enough to pass such snake oil pig-swill off as “profundity”. That’s Deepak Chopra for you. Darren Aronofsky, on the other hand, is not so easy to dislike. At the very least, he does have a modicum of talent. Even if his movie, The Fountain, is not very good and equates portentous mumbo jumbo with depth – a most Choprakian conceit. Now I don’t buy for a minute that Chopra actually believes in half the crapola he spouts. But the thing is, Aronofsky really does appear to believe in his own schtick. This movie is so naively earnest and heartfelt that you almost want to forgive it, even when it’s indulging in the worst kind of new age mystical wankery, which it frequently does. Frankly, however, forgiveness is not counted among the virtues here at The Grand Inquisitor. If something looks like bullshit and smells like bullshit, then bullshit is what it is, however sincerely it was intended.

What you basically have here is three convoluted plot strands that are supposed to come together and make some sort of grand statement about humanity’s attempt to escape death. All well and good. But the three story arcs are linked together so tenuously and with such puffed up self importance, that it all becomes rather a mess. Worse, it’s a pretentious mess. None of the plot strands stand up very well by themselves. They add up to even less when they’re jammed together as clumsily as they are here, with no respect at all for the rudiments of narrative cohesion.

The central plot strand concerns the desperate efforts of a medical scientist, Tommy (Hugh Jackman) to discover a cure for a brain tumour before his wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz) dies from this very same condition. This is the most coherently realised and digestible portion of the film. That’s not to say that it’s very engaging.  The performances of Jackman and Weisz have been praised in some quarters, but everything is delivered with such a po-faced, “look, aren’t we all getting into serious dramatic territory here!” self-consciousness that it verges on self parody. Let’s face it, it’s not much fun to watch the protracted final moments of terminal illness at the best of times, less so when it’s not much more than plot artifice. Aronofsky’s treatment of this material is all so turgid and heavy handed that the effect produced in the viewer is not so much grief or sympathy as it is weariness. As in, I’m already looking at my watch to check the running time and thinking about taking a cigarette break. The Fountain is only 96 minutes long, but it feels like a hell of a lot more.

But it’s when we get into the  other two plot strands that the extent of The Fountain’s grasping contrivance really manifests itself. Y’see, it turns out the dying wife is actually a writer, and she’s working on a novel that deals with a medieval quest to find the Tree of Life, dontcha’ know? Which sorta kinda ties in with this theme of striving to escape from death that Aronofsky is pummeling us over the head with. So while the good Dr. Tommy is reading his wife’s final book, we get to see the plot unfold on the screen, NeverEnding Story style. “The Nevuh-ending stoor-ree! Ah ah ah!” Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Incidentally, guess what movie is currently scheduled for a remake? Hollywood just can’t leave ’em alone, can they? No word on whether Limahl will be brought back to perform the theme song this time around.

Limahl

Limahl: Probably likes The Fountain

Anyway, as the scenes from Izzie’s book unfold, another reason for not feeling especially sympathetic to her plight is established: she’s a fucking awful writer. At least, if the storybook aspect of this film is anything to go by. These sequences appear to have been introduced in order to get a bit of an action adventure element in the movie. Again, nothing against that necessarily, but we’re talking real sub-Indiana Jones territory here. We see Hugh Jackman facing off against some Mayan warriors in a couple of dimly lit, blurrily edited action sequences. As far as adventure stories go, there’s not much to quicken the pulse. But then, it’s really only a device to get us to the third – and weirdest – plot strand, which involves a shaven headed Jackman floating through space with The Tree of Life in a magic bubble, eating bits of bark and carving tattoos onto himself. It’s in these sequences that the film really plums the depths of psuedo-metaphysical gibberish. We’re even treated to extensive use of such images as this one:

meditation

Wow man, this shit is intense!

Like, hand me the love beads and light me an incense stick, man, because this movie is cosmic. Whether all the stuff with Jackman as an intergalactic Grasshopper Kane floating through the nebula is supposed to be taken as something that the character is actually experiencing, or intended purely as a visual metaphor, is one of those things that will be eternally debated. Among the fans who are prepared to take this movie seriously, at any rate. I must confess that I don’t really care. No matter what the interpretation, these sequences are ridiculous balderdash. I’ve read some reviews that have actually compared The Fountain to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Preposterous. Kubrick’s science fiction opus is a majestic, visually poetic masterpiece that conjures up a genuine sense of wonder. The Fountaindoes not conjure up much beyond the kind of imagery you can find in any New Age trinket shop. Y’know, those places that sell magic crystals and that sort of thing. If you frequent those shops and buy this kind of stuff, then this might be the movie for you.

You can say that this  movie is pretty to look at… I guess. But it’s pretty to look at in the same sense that a department store Christmas display is pretty to look at, in that it’s really just glittering and garish and desperate for attention, rather than possessing any genuine visual elegance.

It might sound like I’m being flippant. I will honestly say that I tried hard to be patient with this film. I stayed with it until the end, hoping that it would all pay off in some fashion that would allow me to forgive all the baloney I was being subjected to. And it didn’t. Look, making a film with a fractured narrative structure involving intervalic leaps through time and space is all well and good. But it has to be handled with a sense of skill and purpose. In The Fountain it just feels as if Aronofsky is trying too hard to make something that is special and unique. It’s convoluted and opaque for its own sake, not because this adds anything of worth to the movie.  Deliberate obscuration does not make  for profundity. It’s only the masquerade of profundity. This is a movie that thinks it has a lot more to say than it actually does.

In some respects, I feel a sense of misgiving for slamming The Fountain. I’ve made a habit of vilifying Hollywood and its directors for relentlessly churning out formulaic drivel, and when a guy finally comes along who is really willing to put his balls on the chopping block with a risky project like this one, he gets burned for it. The scale of Aronofsky’s ambition is not in any doubt – it’s his execution that leaves a lot to be desired. This is a movie that must have seemed like a much better idea in Aronofsky’s imagination than what has actually been realised on the screen.

The Fountainbombed at the box office and was met with a querulous critical reception. Rather predictably, however, there is already a critical revision underway on the part of a small but dedicated cult following. Predictably I say, because The Fountain has all the trappings – if not the actual merits – of an overlooked gem. It’s different. It’s ambitious. It’s almost wilfully “difficult”. There’s a puzzle in there to be figured out, if you can be bothered with it. But being esoteric, obscure or original does not in itself necessarily make for a good film. In this case, the obscurantism is a substitute for actual depth. The movie’s fans, of course, will cry out that I “just didn’t get it”.  I would rather suggest that there’s not actually a hell of a lot to get. For all the convoluted artifice of The Fountain, the basic “point” of the story is actually pretty simple. It’s only the resort to portentous mumbo jumbo that will fool some into believing that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. Hey, we’re back to Deepak Chopra again. The Fountainis an exercise in selling snake oil. Whether or not you’re prepared to buy it might tell you something about your general susceptibility to the kind of psychobabble that characterises our age.

The Fountain – 4/10

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27 Responses to Cosmic Psychobabble: The Fountain Review

  1. timlarsen01 says:

    I’m intruiged by how you seem to not be a fan of Aronofsky, yet I recall you wishing to see him direct The Hobbit a while ago? Speaking of which, given up with PESFan?

    I agree with your thoughts that the film isn’t close to being as deep as it feels it does, but it’s a bit unfair to almost criticise the fans for liking it; the (lack of) ‘depth’ and (lack of) ‘complexity’ isn’t really the main reason why people like the film, I would say – this isn’t Donnie Darko.

    If you haven’t seen The Wrestler, by the way, you should – it’s comfortably better than this and Requiem for a Dream (I’ve not seen Pi).

  2. robertod says:

    Did I really suggest that Aronofsky should direct the Hobbit? I musn’t have been in my right mind on that day! I’m happy with the choice of Guillermo Del Toro and looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. I certainly think Pan’s Labyrinth was a far superior fantasy film to the Fountain.

    As far as Aronofsky goes, I think Pi was an interesting film that showed a lot of promise. I didn’t think much of Requiem for a Dream and now, after the Fountain, my estimation of the guy’s worth as a director is fairly low. I haven’t seen the Wrestler yet, but I will be at some point or other.

    It wasn’t so much the lack of depth in the Fountain that I didn’t like, but rather the film’s self important tone. It certainly goes out of its way to make out that something interesting and significant is going on, but then it doesn’t really add up to very much. It’s all a bit of a muddle. It feels like the structure of the film is convoluted for its own sake, rather than because this really adds anything worthwhile to the experience. It’s the sort of film that picks up a cult following almost by default, although in this case I don’t think it’s really warranted. Others will differ, of course. My review attracted a few angry responses on IMDB.

    As for PESFan, I don’t think I’ll be returning, no. I haven’t really got the time for it these days. I’d rather devote my efforts to my own blog, which gives me the freedom to write about whatever I feel like, according to nobody’s rules other than my own. I do still pop into PESFan from time to time, but generally it’s to plunder my old posts for material, rather than to contribute to the site.

  3. Ana Laura says:

    I thought it was basically a pompous film, with badly tied stories that left too many loose ends. I got immensely bored half way through the film.

  4. Ben says:

    Let me start with I like the belligerent tone of your review, check out spill.com and watch some of their reviews, specifically their review of “Disaster Movie” They rip it a new asshole, not that its hard.

    Moving on though I dont agree with a word you put down here, and I wouldnt say “You dont get it” When discussing this movie with people Ive never said that, I find it to be presumtuous. I do however feel you didnt “feel” it. This movie isnt about getting something, or agreeing with any ideas on life and spirituality, its about life and death. Simple as that, if it makes sense or not I couldnt care less, it makes me cry. It makes me want to continue to make movies (Im a DP for Indie films) The DP of this Matthew Libitique is a genius.

    Arronofsky on the same page is incredible, and this is his best work to date.

    I think you made a mistake in part of your description, you say that Tom is bringing the tree of life to the nebula, I think he’s brining the tree that he planted over Izzy’s grave there. It makes a lot more sense.

    Its a difficult movie, and when people say they dont like it I dont blame them, its a hard movie to like. BUT I feel its the best movie Ive seen….ever. Difficult or not, loose ends or not, I think you have to admit that there is something there, if you like the movie or not.

    But a good review regardless, very indepth. Check out my blog if you want where I review movies, I just started last month, but think Im doing okay so far.

    benkurstin.blogspot.com

  5. Tara says:

    Robert – I thought your review was going to actually have a substantial argument about WHY The Fountain is Psychobabble. You know – actually using references in the film to prove why you think the story Aronofsky told is less deep than others think. I thought it would describe WHY you think the scenes don’t tie well together, and HOW Aronofsky lacked the experience/understanding necessary for the proper uses of the terms he used. Instead you just rattled off a bunch of paragraphs detailing how it’s a bunch of “new age” cosmic crap that people claim is “deep” that isn’t. The worst part is not once do you make SPECIFIC references to ideas in the film. This proves to me and other readers that you haven’t any solid basis of argument, and that yes, “You didn’t get it.”

    First of all, the fact that you think this film is only about “new age” spirituality is entirely laughable. Why did you barely make any reference to how the film begins with a quote from Genesis? What did that quote mean? How does that quote tie into the movie as a whole? What about all the Adam and Eve references? Oddly, no mention in your review. What about all the references to the dying star Xibalba Izzy mentions is in Mayan mythology? Phsychobabble? These are facts. Since you didn’t prove in your review how this is all crap, I’ll have to assume you were “spaced out” during more than half the movie. Which means, you can’t really give a proper review in that case.

    “Whether all the stuff with Jackman as an intergalactic Grasshopper Kane floating through the nebula is supposed to be taken as something that the character is actually experiencing, or intended purely as a visual metaphor, is one of those things that will be eternally debated….I must confess that I really don’t care”

    Yes sir, the fact that you reacted that way towards a movie immediately speaks volumes about your character, and why you are one of those that didn’t “get” this movie, and proves that it went right over your head. Which is why you probably shouldn’t be critiquing any kind of art if you are so deeply bored with thinking on your own instead of having something easily laid out on the table for you.

    In all the bad reviews I’ve read about this movie, it’s always the same kind of critic. The one that just says, “It wasn’t coherent, I was bored, it was cheesy”

    Yet, in all the good reviews of the movie I see, critics are actually making specific references. Interesting indeed.

    I say it all the time – the art that is the most well done, intricate, and loaded with reference, is the most hated by the masses. It’s just boring and over their heads.

    Ben is right – this is one of the best movies I have ever seen. David Lynch, Hendrix, and Picasso weren’t for everyone either.

    • robertod says:

      I’ll respond to these points one by one:

      “Robert – I thought your review was going to actually have a substantial argument about WHY The Fountain is Psychobabble. You know – actually using references in the film to prove why you think the story Aronofsky told is less deep than others think.”

      I don’t think it’s the job of a film reviewer to “prove” anything. I think it’s the job of a film reviewer to give his impressions of a movie. In this case, needless to say, my impressions were not good. In fact, I thought the movie was lousy.

      “I thought it would describe WHY you think the scenes don’t tie well together, and HOW Aronofsky lacked the experience/understanding necessary for the proper uses of the terms he used.”

      I believe I already went to some trouble to explain why I didn’t think the movie tied together very well..

      If, however, you do require further explanation, you can check out the thread on this review on the discussion board for the Fountain on IMDB.

      I never claimed that Aronofsky “didn’t understand the terminology he was using” – not sure where you got that from, or what “terminology” you are referring to. I suggested that Aronofsky probably thought that his ideas were a lot more profound and interesting than they actually were. And I didn’t think he handled the tricky structure of the movie very well.

      “Instead you just rattled off a bunch of paragraphs detailing how it’s a bunch of “new age” cosmic crap that people claim is “deep” that isn’t.”

      Sorry, but I really hate the imagery that is associated with so called “new age spirituality” – imagery that this movie resorted to again and again. Y’know, bald guys in the lotus position, trees of life, cosmic “mind expansion” etc etc. I think it’s all preposterous tosh.

      And coming up with a “difficult” narrative structure in itself is not the same thing as possessing “depth”.”

      “The worst part is not once do you make SPECIFIC references to ideas in the film.”

      Well that’s hardly a fair comment. The movie is essentially dealing with ideas about mortality and the attempts of human beings to come to terms with mortality. Which I did indeed make SPECIFIC reference to in the review.

      “This proves to me and other readers that you haven’t any solid basis of argument, and that yes, “You didn’t get it.””

      Yawn. This is really a typically precious defence from a fan who can’t deal with somebody attacking their pet movie. “You just didn’t get it!” For all its awkwardly (and unnecessarily) difficult structure, The Fountain is not really all that difficult “to get”. You just have to be bothered to sift your way through the “puzzle” in order to arrive at some sort of conclusion. I am sure some of the minor details escaped me. Precisely how everything linked together and so forth. But I got the gist of it. Enough to know that I don’t really want to be bothered delving any further.

      Another reader comment further back probably hit the nail more on the head when he suggested that it wasn’t that I “didn’t get it”, but that I didn’t “feel it”. I’d go with that. This film didn’t connect with me emotionally. But then, melodrama ‘aint really my thing.

      “First of all, the fact that you think this film is only about “new age” spirituality is entirely laughable. Why did you barely make any reference to how the film begins with a quote from Genesis? What did that quote mean? How does that quote tie into the movie as a whole? What about all the Adam and Eve references?”

      Who cares? Conan the Barbarian opens with a quote from Nietzsche. What does it tell us about Nietzschean philosophy? What does it even tell us about the movie? Nothing at all, really. I don’t really care if Aronofsky has inserted Biblical references into his movie. The Bible is a load of twaddle itself.

      “Oddly, no mention in your review. What about all the references to the dying star Xibalba Izzy mentions is in Mayan mythology? Phsychobabble?”

      Oh yes, very much so. That’s one of the hallmarks of new age clap trap. Attempting to derive “authenticity” from ancient myth.

      “These are facts.”

      What are facts? Don’t you mean they are myths?

      “Since you didn’t prove in your review how this is all crap,”

      Again, we are not dealing with scientific theory here, but with subjective impressions of a movie. There is no “proof” involved. I can tell you what I think about the movie, but I can in no way “prove” my impressions than I can prove that I like roast chicken dinners. Indeed, the very notion is preposterous.

      “I’ll have to assume you were “spaced out” during more than half the movie. Which means, you can’t really give a proper review in that case.”

      Define what is meant by a “proper review”. I gave you exactly what I thought of the movie. You can’t really get any more “proper” than that. That’s what a review does.

      “Yes sir, the fact that you reacted that way towards a movie immediately speaks volumes about your character,”

      It immediately speaks volumes about my character because I didn’t like a movie? That’s not at all a sweeping assumption now is it?

      Is that how you go through day to day life? Defining people according to whether or not they have sufficient reverence towards your pet movie?

      “and why you are one of those that didn’t “get” this movie, and proves that it went right over your head. Which is why you probably shouldn’t be critiquing any kind of art if you are so deeply bored with thinking on your own instead of having something easily laid out on the table for you.”

      Here we go again with the preciousness:

      “Oooh you just don’t want to think for yourself”.

      “Oooh you just don’t appreciate art”.

      Please spare me the tiresome condescension.

      “In all the bad reviews I’ve read about this movie, it’s always the same kind of critic. The one that just says, “It wasn’t coherent, I was bored, it was cheesy”

      Yet, in all the good reviews of the movie I see, critics are actually making specific references. Interesting indeed.”

      In other words, the good reviews were those that you personally agreed with, because the reviewer liked the movie. The bad reviews were those you didn’t agree with, because the reviewer didn’t like the movie.

      That’s not at all predictable.

      “I say it all the time – the art that is the most well done, intricate, and loaded with reference, is the most hated by the masses. It’s just boring and over their heads.”

      What an inordinately pretentious statement. And how much you take on assumption! Those hateful masses, always bored by the stuff that goes over their heads.

      And I can imagine you do say this all the time. And I can also imagine what a pompous twit it makes you sound like to everybody you repeat it to.

      “Ben is right – this is one of the best movies I have ever seen. David Lynch, Hendrix, and Picasso weren’t for everyone either.”

      Hahahaha. Sorry, but this comment was pretty funny. You’ve just listed your favourite “artists” here and linked them with your pet movie.

      Hendrix, by the way, is just about one of the most popular rock stars of the 20th century, so it’s difficult to see how he ties into your rather trite theories about “art appreciation.”

      “Oooh, it’s just not for everybody. It’s only for us select few. Y’know, the ones smart enough and with sufficient “apprecitation of art” to get it.” – This is about as silly, boring and predictable a defence of a movie as you can get.

      You’re attributing far too much credit to yourself, my dear.

  6. Tara says:

    Oy.

    “Aronofsky thought his ideas were probably more profound than they are” STILL needs some explaining. Firstly, WHAT are his ideas. And secondly, WHY are they not as profound as he thinks? Is this just your assumption? Or do you have solid basis?

    That said – you seem to be confused about what a myth is. A myth is not Psychobabble. It is a FACT that the Myans had these Myths the film makes reference to. It is a fact that there is a Bible that has stories. So how could making reference to these myths be Psychobabble, it’s simply making a reference to a belief? The whole basis of your argument is….um…wrong.

    Aronofsky was not trying to use his own ideas to make anyone BELIEVE THE MYTHS WERE TRUE, or PROFOUND. This is a sci fi movie, it is actually not a melodrama as you incorrectly noted. The only Myan mythology in the film are the sections that were from the book Izzy was writing – not from the actual present day narrative.

    The fact that you wrote, “Who Cares” about how some movies begin with quotes is a riot. “What do they tell us about the movie?”
    HAHAHAHAHHA!!!!!!

    That’s your job as a viewer (CRITIC!!!) to figure it out. Just because the Bible “is a bunch of Twaddle” doesn’t mean that quotes from it have no meaning or aren’t a good preface. I didn’t see “Conan the Barbarian” so I don’t know what specific Nietzsche quote you’re referring to or how it relates to the film, but I can tell you that I do read Nietzsche pieces. So while someone like you may think the quote at the beginning is MEANINGLESS (duh) I do know that overall Nietzsche believed that barbarians were people that had a strong will to power or rule over others. It made them a more “powerful” person than the weak, kinder, religious person. What does that mean for the movie? Well, it means the director wanted you to understand that in relation to his film!

    “I’m sure some of the minor details escaped me”
    Me too. The movie is 90 min long, the script is as tight as it can get, and you’re admitting that “some details escaped you”. I’d say so. Even funnier that you seem presumptuous by accusing them to be MINOR.
    “I got the gist of it”
    The gist?! Hmmm, not the film in its entirety?

    “Melodrama aint my thing”
    Not a melodrama, A, and B – anyone who makes this statement doesn’t love film and shouldn’t be critiquing any and expecting NOT to be torn to pieces by people who know more than them about the subject.

    That leads me to what a film critic should be. The trained film critic can and does offer specific references about WHY a movie is bad. I can understand that you don’t believe me, but you’d be wrong. I’ve read coherent reviews many times in film class. Oh wait, lemme guess. You weren’t paying attention in film class. Or was it just that you never went? Anyone who hasn’t spent time in film theory classes shouldn’t consider themselves a good film critic that needs to have his reviews taken seriously. In that case, you’re just a dude with an opinion and a blog. It’s like me suddenly taking up food criticism. How many cooking classes have I taken? 0, and I know nothing about why a dish is bad, though I can tell you “I DONT LIKE IT”. But that doesn’t make me want to start writing blogs about it. And I really don’t think anyone would want to read my ideas that have no basis either.

    Overall – a good lesson in life is that you probably shouldn’t be spewing your ideas or “impressions” about something publicly if you don’t have any solid intellectual basis to back them up. It just makes you look foolish.

  7. Mick says:

    The plot concerning the search for the “Holy Grai…i mean “The Tree of Life” Would have made for a much better film ,the other two subplots just make this movie feel like an extended “twilight zone” episode. At the very least “The Fountain” is a thinking man’s “Creepshow”.

  8. robertod says:

    Aronofsky thought his ideas were probably more profound than they are” STILL needs some explaining. Firstly, WHAT are his ideas. And secondly, WHY are they not as profound as he thinks? Is this just your assumption? Or do you have solid basis?

    I already went into Aronosky’s ideas in the review. And again in my response. And furthermore on IMDB. The fact that Aronofsky has taken on some fairly heavyweight themes (man’s fear of mortality and attempt to escape death for example) does not mean that he has anything especially compelling, interesting or coherent to say about these things. Heavyweight subject matter in itself is not evidence of a good film. Not when the execution is as clumsy, incoherent and dull as it is here.

    That said – you seem to be confused about what a myth is. A myth is not Psychobabble. It is a FACT that the Myans had these Myths the film makes reference to. It is a fact that there is a Bible that has stories. So how could making reference to these myths be Psychobabble, it’s simply making a reference to a belief? The whole basis of your argument is….um…wrong.

    I never said that myths are “psychobabble”. However, I do think Aronoksky’s resort to new age imagery and themes, along with an awkward and unnecessarily difficult narrative structure – constitutes psychobabble. Precisely because he desperately wants his film to be taken as something profound. When it isn’t, not really. Ultimately, for all the science fiction window dressing, the movie really boils down to bathetic, insipid melodrama.

    Aronofsky was not trying to use his own ideas to make anyone BELIEVE THE MYTHS WERE TRUE, or PROFOUND. This is a sci fi movie, it is actually not a melodrama as you incorrectly noted.

    Sorry, couldn’t agree with you at all there. The movie has some sci-fi trappings (and fantasy trappings). The core of the movie is still weepy melodrama. And like I said, weepy melodrama just ‘aint my thing.

    The only Myan mythology in the film are the sections that were from the book Izzy was writing – not from the actual present day narrative.

    So what? What difference does this make to my impression of the movie?

    The fact that you wrote, “Who Cares” about how some movies begin with quotes is a riot. “What do they tell us about the movie?”
    HAHAHAHAHHA!!!!!!

    What I don’t care about is the fact that this movie has quotes from the Bibles, Mayan mythology, wherever… it was still tedious nonsense.

    What do you do? Judge movies based on how many references to other sources they have?

    That’s your job as a viewer (CRITIC!!!)

    Why did you write CRITIC!!! like that with all the explanation marks? Did you suddenly stub your toe as you were writing this or something?

    to figure it out. Just because the Bible “is a bunch of Twaddle” doesn’t mean that quotes from it have no meaning or aren’t a good preface.

    However, I didn’t think that they did in the context of this film.

    I didn’t see “Conan the Barbarian” so I don’t know what specific Nietzsche quote you’re referring to or how it relates to the film, but I can tell you that I do read Nietzsche pieces.

    Bully for you. I’m not going to go into a discussion on Nietzschean philosophy here and now. Come back another day when I talk about one of his books.

    So while someone like you may think the quote at the beginning is MEANINGLESS (duh

    Not meaningless, no. But the fact that there is a Nietzsche quote before Conan the Barbarian doesn’t make it a good film. You appear to establish your opinion on the Fountain based merely on the fact that it has a lot of references to other sources.

    “I’m sure some of the minor details escaped me”
    Me too. The movie is 90 min long, the script is as tight as it can get,

    I don’t think the script was tight at all. It was all over the goddamn place. Often arbitrarily so.

    and you’re admitting that “some details escaped you”. I’d say so. Even funnier that you seem presumptuous by accusing them to be MINOR.

    I’m sure I haven’t bothered to figure out all of the precise relationships between the various time lines and so on, no. I didn’t share your reverence for the movie and everything in it, and hence, had no interest in doing so. Figuring I had more interesting things to do with my time, I moved on. It wasn’t, however, especialy difficult to discern where the movie was coming from.

    “Melodrama aint my thing”
    Not a melodrama, A, and B – anyone who makes this statement doesn’t love film

    What an inordinately precious statement. But it’s typical of the kind of defence you have tried to mount for the Fountain and your insipid, condescending little theories about “art appreciation” in general.

    “Oooh you didn’t like the Fountain! You’re just… you’re just… you’re not a film lover! Booo!”

    This is the argumentative equivalent of stamping your little foot up and down and throwing a tantrum, because somebody doesn’t share your pet reverance for a particular film.

    and shouldn’t be critiquing any and expecting NOT to be torn to pieces by people who know more than them about the subject.

    Again, how much you attribute to yourself! Your defence of the Fountain is not based so much on the content of the film, as it is trying to claim the higher ground for yourself.

    “The Fountain is a good film! It is! It is! It is! Because… I just know more about movies than you do!”

    What a remarkably silly point of view.

    If you think that’s equivalent to “tearing me to pieces” then you have a lot to learn about substantive argument.

    Oh wait, lemme guess. You weren’t paying attention in film class.

    I didn’t go to film class. I wasn’t aware that it was necessary to study at film class in order to appreciate film, or to comment on it.

    This, of course, will be news to Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Quentin Tarantino, Jean Luc Goddard and Fritz Lang… among dozens of others.

    Or was it just that you never went?

    See answer above.

    Anyone who hasn’t spent time in film theory classes shouldn’t consider themselves a good film critic that needs to have his reviews taken seriously.

    Well, I don’t think I have much to worry about if you don’t take my reviews seriously.

    Again, it will be news to the likes of Stanley Kubrick that his views on film are not to be taken seriously, since he never attended film school.

    And of course, textual analysis is hardly the exclusive preserve of film studies.

    In that case, you’re just a dude with an opinion and a blog.

    You seem to be operating under the misconception that because you attended a couple of film classes somewhere (or so you claim) and have half-developed a rather silly and trite theory about art appreciation, then this gives your opinion some sort of added weight.

    In actual fact, all you are succeeding in doing here is coming off as a condescending twerp. My dear, the fact that you have attended film class (and let’s face it – so have a lot of terminally dull and uninspired people) does not in itself lend your arguments any weight. Let your arguments do your talking for you, not your “resume”.

    It is quite funny that you would expect people to just be impressed by the mere fact that you attended school, however.

    It’s like me suddenly taking up food criticism. How many cooking classes have I taken? 0, and I know nothing about why a dish is bad, though I can tell you “I DONT LIKE IT”. But that doesn’t make me want to start writing blogs about it. And I really don’t think anyone would want to read my ideas that have no basis either.

    After reading what you’ve written here, I’m not sure I would want to read any of your ideas about ANYTHING, no.

    Overall – a good lesson in life is that you probably shouldn’t be spewing your ideas or “impressions” about something publicly if you don’t have any solid intellectual basis to back them up. It just makes you look foolish..

    Oh, I think my blog is going along just fine. In fact, its getting more and more hits and attracting more positive commentary every day. I’m continually surprised about how popular this particular review is becoming in fact.

    So thanks for your concern, my dear, but it’s quite unwarranted in this instance.

    As you’ve been so thoughtful as to furnish some council, however, I’ll give you some in return: You might want to cut down on your rather obnoxious habit of repeatedly attributing superior critical faculties to yourself, my dear, so as not to come off as such a condescending twit in the future. If you expect people to be impressed by the fact that you’ve been to film school, and that this will carry your arguments for you, then your expectations in life are going to be severely disappointed.

  9. Tara says:

    Yawn. Anyone that admits to not liking a certain ENTIRE GENRE OF AN ART is lame. I’m a music critic but classical bores me. DUMB.

    Yes, you should be learned before you have an solid, well rounded opinion about something. Get a clue.

    Just because I went to film school doesn’t make me special, but it does help me to understand that your review isn’t one to be taken more seriously than just a opinion blog that has barely any basis.

    You were too bored with this film from the beginning to even try to do any work towards gripping it. You’ve admitted this.

    Let’s move on.

  10. robertod says:

    “Yawn. Anyone that admits to not liking a certain ENTIRE GENRE OF AN ART is lame. I’m a music critic but classical bores me. DUMB.”

    As I thought should have been obvious from the context, I was not referring to “melodrama” in the traditional sense – as a specific genre – but rather as a descriptive term. As in: the movie was characterised by false pathos and sentiment.

    “Yes, you should be learned before you have an solid, well rounded opinion about something. Get a clue.”

    Tara dearest, film school is a relatively new (and minor) phenomenon in the history of cinema. The fundamentals of the form, and many of the greatest practioners of the art – along with well developed methods of film criticism and textual reading – were in existence long before you ever had the option of pleasently wasting your time studying “film theory”. Your attendence at film class has no bearing whatsoever on you knowlege of film, or on the discussion here. Unless you can let your arguments do their talking for you, rather than resorting to glib attempts to claim the higher ground for yourself, then I’m afraid your attendence at film school counts for nothing more than a trifle.

    “Just because I went to film school doesn’t make me special, but it does help me to understand that your review isn’t one to be taken more seriously than just a opinion blog that has barely any basis.”

    Again, you will need to do rather better with some substantive argument, rather than claiming that you “understand” things merely because you have been to film school. It does not require any special insight or acumen to go to University. We’ve all been there and worn the T-shirt. Who cares? I’ve met some interesting and insightful people in my life, and some not so interesting and insightful people. Whether or not they attended University really didn’t seem to have all that much bearing on how interesting and insightful they were. Tell me something interesting. Incessantly bragging about going to film school is not going to impress anybody.

    “You were too bored with this film from the beginning to even try to do any work towards gripping it. You’ve admitted this.”

    Not only was the film boring, it came off as awkward, superficial and pompous. I tried hard to be patient with The Fountain, but alas, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the whole affair was rather bad… excrutiatingly so at times. I certainly saw enough to know that I didn’t want to delve any further. And sorry, no, I’m not going to expend my efforts on a 5,000 word hard, textual analysis of a film I didn’t like or remotely find interesting. Nor do I think that this is really the province of a film review – as you appear to have incorrectly presumed. A film review, correctly, deals with a viewer’s subjective impressions of a movie. It’s not hard analysis. That has it’s time and place, to be sure, but you’re not going to find that here. I’m not submitting essays for assessment. I got bored with formalism a long time ago. I’d rather just talk about the movies in a style I find engaging and entertaining to do so.

    “Let’s move on.”

    By all means feel free…

  11. Tara says:

    SNIP…

    Sorry Tara, but this was far too long, boring and irrelevant to the topic at hand to be included in the commentary for this blog. When you get to the point where you’re using hundreds of words to draw absurd, rambling comparisons with restaurant criticism, it’s time to call it quits. This long ceased to be a discussion of the merits (or lack thereof) of The Fountain, and more about your personal attempts at self validation. Feel free to engage in this kind of self indulgence on your own time, but you won’t be doing it here. Goodbye!

    – Rob

  12. Clint says:

    Nice. I shall cite your review rather than writing my own!

  13. Tara says:

    I’m still blathering on about my art school credentials and my slavish devotion to Aronoksky’s pompous, incoherent wankfest, The Fountain. I can’t seem to shut up about it. I’m becoming obssessed. Please take me seriously! Please! I went to film school and everything, don’t you know?

  14. Tara says:

    Sorry, Tara, but your use by date on this blog long ago expired. It’s time for you to move on and pester somebody else. I didn’t like The Fountain. I thought it sucked. Apparently, a lot of other people didn’t like it either. You really need to get over that and move on with your life now.

    – Rob

  15. Connor Rosine says:

    The Fountain is my favourite film of all time(That’s not to say I think it’s the best movie of all time), and I’m certainly not a fan of Chopra’s, or anything like him.

    The reason why I find the Fountain to be beautiful is its visual language, its tackling of the difficulty of facing one’s mortality and its simple and genuine love story. I do not think that you, or anyone who didn’t like it “didn’t get it” because there’s really not much to get. How what’s there speaks to you is another thing, and the Fountain is a movie that is very open to interpretation.

    I can appreciate a good movie review. I can appreciate a good movie review that’s ripping into a movie. I can appreciate a good movie review that’s ripping into a movie I love. I don’t appreciate movie reviews that try to make me feel stupid for loving that movie. You even tried to set me up as some pretentious snob with that first strike about “not getting it”. A good movie review can review the movie without review the people who watch it.

    Anyways, did you know that all of the special effects for the nebula wasn’t CGI? It was chemical reactions under a microscope. That’s pretty friggin cool in and of itself, am I right?

  16. Tara says:

    Please take notice of me somebody! Please! I really, really like the Fountain, and that’s because I really, really appreciate art! If you don’t agree with me, you’re not a film lover! You probably don’t even like Jimi Hendrix! No ma! – I won’t take my frickin’ medication! If you went into a restaurant, and tried to review the food, and they tried to give you medication, you wouldn’t be a real restaurant critic! CRITIC!!!

  17. Connor Rosine says:

    I don’t really know what I appear to have gotten myself into, so let me make myself clear. From your review, I did not assume that you missed anything. I agree with you when you say that there’s not a lot to get. It is, underneath all the layerings, an extremely simple tale. You seem to have gotten it quite well, and disliked it. I was just taking exception to your calling me a pretentious hippy snob for no reason. Also, I’m not trying to say that you didn’t get me the first time, I just don’t understand the hostility, so I wanted to make myself clear.

  18. Connor Rosine says:

    Anyone that disagrees with your opinion is a snob?

    Wow. It’s been fun. I’m out.

  19. robertod says:

    Connor, I’m afraid you’ve been the victim of my internet stalker.

    Please ignore the replies to your comments that were attributed to myself. Somebody is trying to play silly buggers by posting up silly comments under my name. It’s an obssessed fan who can’t seem to help herself.

    The comments have now been deleted and the person will be dealt with accordingly.

    In the mean time, the comments section for this article is now closed. If anybody feels they want to comment further on this review, please feel free to drop me an email (addy in the “About” section) and I’ll tack it onto the page at some point.

    I’ll look at re opening the article for unmoderated discussion once the fuss has died down and my annoying stalker has gone away and found somebody else to pester.

  20. anon says:

    The Fountain was another good example of what you get when a director forces too many elements together that don’t mix well – if at all.

    What a shame, for it could have been a real tearjerker drama and a decent scifi if D.A. had had the good sense of scrapping all that embarrassing – and totally unnecessary – hippy sh*t that ultimately shot to pieces pretty much everything that was good or at least promising in the flick.

    Deciding to mesh together the present storyline with “read my story and finish it – it’s about us, darling” -storyline, did make sense to me. It would have worked without it too, sure, but it made the lil’ missus character much more flesh and blood, while adding some romance, adventure and action. Nothing wrong with that.

    A hardcore scientist has fallen for a fun-loving happy hippy girl, who happens to be a writer of some caliber (we don’t really know if it’s her actual profession or more like a hobby or just something she started doing only after she was diagnosed with cancer).

    What matters is the setting: we have a terminally ill woman who is writing a sort of part allegorical part wishful-thinking story about a driven man seeking to find a cure for eternal life. This is of course exactly the same thing that her hubby is trying to do for her in real life.

    Yes, there’s duality in life (man vs. woman, logic vs. belief, science vs. religion, technology vs. nature, certainty vs. uncertainty, holding on vs. letting go, life vs. death): we get it. The opposites attract, and they can work for you. I can appreciate that. While the pairing up of leading actor and actress might be a film cliche (or a real life cliche for that matter), it feels believable enough: if there ever was a thang called luv, these two had it, and now they both have to come to terms with the inevitable: letting go. Got it.

    The character dynamics are there. The story is there. All it is missing is a proper script, and that my friends, is everything.

    I do have to disagree with robertod on Jackman’s performance. I tought his acting was really heartfelt – it’s almost eerie how he well got inside his character – and above all, that in the end may be the only good reason of watching the film (again).

    Then again, after viewing the interview from the DVD, I could just as easily label Hugh as some sort of religious believer/supporter who would probably buy any random “cosmic world explanation” if it comes in an attractive package. At least he seems to speak quite sincerely about his views on the film’s mystic/religious underpinnings, while in the same time revealing his own attitudes. So, in that sense, he might not be so much as acting as he is just being himself on the big screen. Be that as it may – he does deliver a good solid performance.

    Now, if only A.D. would have listened to a voice of reason and edited out all that gimmicky, irritating and tiresome new age hippy crap coating…

    The Fountain reminds me of the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” in one way: the song starts out beautifully, then abruptly collapses into mediocre surfpop after only 23 seconds. And just when you’re ready to give up on the song, it comes back to life – just like that – only to relapse again, and again…

    The Fountain might very well have been good film – even great – with simple but crucial omissions. Now, instead of saying something important about life, love and death, it almost manages to make the viewer feel embarrassed of him/herself for allowing him/herself to be dragged into following how the film finally sinks into a one big chunk of trippy “cosmic psychobabble”.

    Tisk, tisk.

  21. Adrian says:

    The film is briliant, and you, mr RobertD did not understand shit.

  22. Adrian says:

    I’v never read so much shit in my life

  23. Brendon says:

    I liked it.

    And, unlike other fans, I like your critiques. I’ve shown this movie to friends, who hated it, not because of the new-age balderdash and such, but because it wasn’t tied up in a nice pretty package with a bow on top at the end. At least you have some legitimate critiques. Of course, the things you’re concerned about didn’t really bother me—guess we all have different tastes.

  24. […] This review, while being more passionate than I feel, pretty much describes a lot of my problems with this movie. And more. I probably would like the […]

  25. Clint says:

    In the downloadable audiocommentary Aronovsky makes it clear that the bubble REALLY IS an actual spaceship – they actually did futurist research to try to determine what a spaceship in the future would be like, and they came up with the bubble (kind of a poor choice, because I thought it was all a metaphor, but it’s supposed to be COMPLETELY LITERAL).

    My review, which links to your review, doesn’t say too much, but I agree with your assessments in general:

    http://clintjcl.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/video-movies-review-the-fountain-2006/

    • That’s kind of a misnomer. Aronofsky starts out by saying everything in the commentary is supposed to be about how the movie was made, not what it was about. I think Aronofsky was simply discussing how he came up with the idea for the bubble ship, which would allow for the possibility of it being an actual ship, rather than confirming that it IS a literal ship. I think he just wanted to be sure that he was creating something that could be interpreted either way. He’s publicly said this, along with virtually the rest of the film, are open to interpretation.

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