A Fountain of Metaphors

23 Oct

Why are we alive? Why are we born? What Happens when we die?  The movie The Fountain doesn’t explicitly ask these questions. However  it implicitly does through the films fantastic use of numerous metaphors and motifs.

If you haven’t seen the film from acclaimed director Darren Arnofsky, which is likely considering the critical divide and box office failure that this film had back in 2006 then a little background might be useful.

It follows the story of a man and a woman through three different dimensions in time with three completely non-linear story lines. However in each dimension the goal remains the same. Immortality.

The main character of focus in each dimension is the male figure of the film played by Hugh Jackman. In the first dimension we encounter Tomas the Spanish Conquistador on an expedition seeking the mythical fountain of youth.  He has been sent on this expedition by Queen Isabel played by Rachel Weisz who also plays the female character in each dimension. Isabel sent them to find this fountain, so that she could gain power over the inquisitor who is trying to enact a coup on her regime by killing her. The fountain symbolizes the queen’s desire for immortality and her fear of death.

In each dimension it is the female character whose life is in danger.  The 2nd story follows Tommy the neurosurgeons quest for the cure of a degenerative brain disease that is ailing his wife Izzi. Notice the correlation in names between the characters of each dimension. Izzi and Isabel. Tomas and Tommy. In creating a correlation with the characters names Aronofsky is symbolizing the ongoing cycle of life.  Once we live we die and once we die we live. This motif appears several times over specifically we see it again with the appearance of rings which also symbolizes a cycle of life.

In the third dimension we find Tom as a space traveler on a golden nebula. Here he seeks answers to the cure for his wife Izzi from the metaphorical tree of life. This is part of the ongoing continuity of symbols representing the quest for immortality and the fear of death.

This movie is a film of great interest. It is Aronofsky producing pure genius once again. Critics were very divided by this film but perhaps that comes from the convoluted nature of the film. It is a film that requires at least two views to fully understand, but at the same time it was made with such meticulous precision that it would almost be a disservice not to revisit this film after an initial watch.

You have plenty of time after all because as this movie suggests, even after death we still keep coming back for more.



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