Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"The Fountain" (2006)

Sometimes an artist has something they want to say, they have a novel way in which they want to present their message, they put a lot of effort and craft into their attempt, and it falls flat anyway. “The Fountain” should play better than it does. The effects and visuals are beautiful. The intricate story is carefully pieced together in a way that it makes sense even though it designed so that the viewer has to work to discover the through line.

Of course, the reason this story does not ultimately work is because it is an attempt to present a message that rings false. It outthinks itself trying to marry various religious philosophies from Mayan thought, Jewish mysticism, and even archaic Catholic philosophies proposed in the film by the Grand Inquisitor of all people. (That last bit is perhaps unintentionally ironic, as the antagonist of one of the sub-plots makes essentially the same case that the film is trying to make, and it rings false is his mouth as well.)

The idea that this film is trying to propose is that death is good. We should just embrace it. And even though the film begins by misquoting Genesis 3:24, it is not to make the Biblical point—that the curse of death is a part of grace that ultimately gives men a chance at salvation and not an eternity of separation from God. Instead, the idea this story wants to propose is that, in death, we become a continuation of the life of the planet. Not a hopeful or meaningful message for self-aware beings.

The truth is that death is a curse. No one embraces the results of sin—the suffering, pain and evil that men do, or the death that cuts us off from the people we love. Even those that live in the hope of knowing that death need not be the end do not generally rejoice in the death of those we know.

Ultimately this film is a beautiful piece of macabre, like that portrait of the dead bull fighter by Edouard Manet. It might serve to stimulate meaningful conversations, but in response to, not support of the story.

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