We watched The Fountain last week and I didn’t like it much at all. I sort of knew the plot from reading about it beforehand and I was not sure how it was going to be, but I had decently high expectations for it and it failed on most levels for me. It’s essentially pretentious, boring mush.
It’s a mix of Kabbalah, Mayan mysticism, reincarnation, and nonsense, with a dash of anti-Catholicism. The only thing I liked about the film was Aranofsky’s use of light, particularly the ‘modern’ scenes which occur in dark rooms mainly at night.
Somehow we are to believe that a Spanish Conquistador and Queen Isabella are later reincarnated in our day and then at some future point this same man (apparently again reincarnated) fly a bubble like craft with a tree in it into a star, from which all life again begins (I guess). I expected more from the past and future sections of the movie, but didn’t get it. The Inquisition is of course brought up, and the Inquisitor is portrayed as an evil power monger who is out to convict Isabella, the most Catholic Queen, of heresy. You hear him inveighing against her as wanting an earthly paradise rather than life in the hereafter. This is because she believes that the Tree of Life has been found in the New World, hidden by the Mayans. Somehow this tree’s sap will save Spain from “tyranny” although I’m not sure how. Apparently the Conquistador is to find the tree and return to Spain where Isabella will ‘be his Eve.’ Simple problems with this are: why couldn’t evil people also drink this sap and also live forever? How would living forever deliver Spain from tyranny? How could people like Isabella who believe in original sin think that living forever would solve anything in our current condition? Never mind all that, the bottom line here is that the Church was tyrannous and the mystical Mayans are closer to the meaning of it all with their astral religion, thoughts of rebirth, star-gazing and the Tree of Life.
The modern scenes are probably the best in terms of drama, and I think they are well played, if a bit over the top. Again the Mayans are venerated as having all kinds of knowledge that we have lost in the modern world. Let us remember that the Mayans practiced human sacrifice in a particularly brutal way. It is hard to see how this ‘civilization’ holds the key to freeing Spain or enlightening our present, but that’s what you have here. Against this type of nonsense our Apostle Paul says ‘Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Our modern re-interpreters of the ancient religions are probably not comfortable with worshiping bugs and animals, but they do like the mystical core of the religion which promises reincarnation, everlasting life and all without any apparent need to do anything other than gain knowledge.
Finally in the future you have an exceedingly boring trip in a quiet bubble towards an exploding nebula with a dying tree – perhaps an incarnation of the dead woman….or something, I’m not quite sure. The extra material on the DVD featured some guy talking breathlessly about the whole movie being about a journey from darkness into light. In the Mayan scenes we move from night into a lighted Mayan pyramid and eventually the Tree of Life, in modern times there is a dark hallway that the guy walks down, and in the future the space bubble journey into a Nebula. Wow. How profound.
To me this whole thing is cooked up by kids who saw the Matrix and wanted to do something cool. They wanted to re-invent sci-fi, so they threw together a bunch of incongruous ideas that make no sense together and then talked a lot about how it changes sci-fi, about darkness into light, about reincarnation and the meaning of life, about facing death, and so forth. See how serious Hugh Jackman is? He frowns a lot, he shaved his head, he’s in the lotus position or doing Tai Chi. I suppose shallow moderns who have had their culture evacuated of the wisdom of 19 centuries think this sort of thing is profound, it produces feelings of weird mystical stuff that is just beyond our knowledge but could be obtained if we only knew more and meditated a bit. Isn’t this getting a little old? These modern American mish-mash attempts at ‘spirituality’ or so much shallow drivel. None of it in any way holds together, makes sense, or brings any change to a person’s life – only an encounter with the Living God does that. And this even fails disastrously at being science-fiction, much less changing sci-fi forever. I’m beginning to wonder if any of our post-modern filmmakers can sustain a really good narrative without the moorings of the Christian faith informing their stories. Star Wars descended into corniness and ‘downcenter on yourself’ inanities, the Matrix collapsed after one movie into another collage of incongruent, sophomoric talk, only the Lord of the Rings, written by a Christian, sustained a consistent narrative with hope for man.
Anyway, I don’t suggest watching this unless you are a huge sci-fi fan willing to be bored for a couple hours.