08/06/2010 11:25 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Worth Watching: The Fountain

If you're in the mood for an ethereal journey, a philosophical, psychological thought-provoker of a film, The Fountain should satisfy. Written by Harvard-educated Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream), this visually lush fantasy explores, in an ambitious plot, what happens when we indulge the human tendency to try to cheat nature and harvest its mysteries and miracles without consequence.

The characters know that, somewhere on the planet, probably in a tree, is hidden the elixir for immortality; the story plays out over three distinct moments in time that fleck a millennium. Two people -- Tommy, played by an overly passionate Hugh Jackman (in a role intended for Brad Pitt) and Izzy (an enchanting, believable Rachel Weisz) -- inhabit colonial-era Spain, present-day America, and an unidentifiable but striking place in the heavens. Respectively, Tommy is a conquistador pursuing treasures for his queen, a scientist chasing a cancer cure for his wife, and a yogic space traveler who spends much of his time literally hugging a tree. Fittingly, it's in these future-set scenes where the plot falls apart a bit, becoming vague and confusing.

But throughout the movie, it's clear that Tommy's biggest motivation is his race to outrun the end of life -- an overwrought attempt, basically, to elude nature's will. His chief error is that he tries to fool nature with nature; at various points, he thinks he finds death's "cure" in plants, or in the nighttime stars. He is constantly denying that in dying, we become part of the natural universe, or that, as the film gracefully phrases it, "Death is the road to awe."

Though The Fountain can be hard to follow at points, it is wholly worth watching -- if not for its breadth (of themes) and depth (of thought), then for its massive visual appeal and stunning score. Even if you come away slightly baffled, it will have been 96 minutes well-spent.

[via The Green Life blog]

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