The fountain is an interesting film, directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a dream, Black Swan, Noah) this film is full of hidden meaning and intriguing imagery. This film is based over three timelines and three personas of the main character. In the past is the conquistador (Tomas) following his beloved queens instructions to find the tree of life. Second, the modern day researcher (Tommy) trying to find the cure to cancer. Third, the future is the slightly more obscure portion of the film, here the lead is a traveler (Tom) who is transporting a near death tree to a dying star.
There are also in many ways thee aspects of his lover. The first being the queen (Isabella) who sets Tomas the task also promising that if he returns with news of the tree they will both live forever together. The second being Tommy’s wife (Izzy) who is dying of cancer and is content with dying which he does not understand. The third again being the obscure is the tree Tom is transporting. He is willing it to survive, caresses it like the modern researchers wife and most of all the tree responds to his near touch by reaching out with hair-like strands.
This film has gained a lot of different opinions about what it means, is the tree of life real and most of all where is reality? The director has made this film extremely obscure, so obscure in fact that I’m sure anyone will draw a different conclusion with similar sources. This film first and foremost is about death and how to cope. The modern day timeline is enough to prove this but the others tie in too.
Tommy during this time is in a constant battle to find a cure for cancer a personal mission to save his wife. During the process of the film Izzy begins to tell Tommy in many ways that she is ready to die however he doesn’t accept it. An example of this is when Izzy tells Tommy the story of a Mayan guide she once was with to gain research on their culture and myths. She spoke of how her guide buried his father.
“They planted a seed over his grave. The seed became a tree. Moses said his father became a part of that tree. He grew into the wood, into the bloom. And when a sparrow ate the tree’s fruit, his father flew with the birds. He said… death was his father’s road to awe.”
He responded by asking why she is telling him this and she replys by saying she is “not afraid anymore”. He ignores her and then tells her to “stop it”. Through out the film he is fearing her death and towards the end (at Izzys funeral) he declares that he will find the cure for death.
The three Toms are connected in ways differing in some opinions. When I watched this film I saw the present day Tommy as the real person, the living man struggling with the certain death of his wife.
Tomas (and Isabella for that matter) is an entire work of fiction written in Izzys book about the tree of life. This is proven in many ways, the scenes set in the past most of the time only appear either in dream or most commonly when Tommy is reading Izzys book. Izzy also briefly talks about her book to Tommy which is very similar.
The future is much different from the other two, however is most similar to the concept of the past scenes of Isabella and Tomas in the sense that I do not believe it is reality. It is infact Tommy’s mind, most of all his grief, fears and depressive state after Izzys death. I see this as everything Tommy is thinking after he claims that he will cure death. this is proven by the journey the character Tom is traveling in, he himself is trying to prevent a death in a very odd and mythological way. It is not a fact that the source of rebirth is centred around a dying star, that is infact something Izzy told Tommy in the film based of Mayan mythology.
another hint is that the film begins with Izzys dilemma of finishing the book, where the book as Izzy left it ends, however this occurs in the nightmare of Tom. Tom is also constantly haunted by visions and memories of Izzy. Which all linger on Tom/Tommy’s regrets. Visually the film also heavily hints that this is a state of mind by starting in the dark atmosphere of space (depression, uncertainty, grief, fear) and slowly heads towards an extreme bright light (resolution, acceptance).
The loss of the wedding ring also symblises the missing piece which is a key part of this film (the absent wife, the lack of acceptance, the missing end to a story). The ring is given to Tomas first as a promise, an engagement. It is then lost while Tommy is at his lab researching and ignoring his wife’s please for attention, the broken promise and the soon to be death . It is replaced with a tattoo that Tommy gives himself as he grieves, the missing piece. At the end it is found by Tom, Tommy’s state of mind. The missing piece is filled in every way, acceptance.
The ending is the biggest hint that all the characters are essentially the same (other than their name). This is the rush of them all connecting, Izzys story is given an end. Tomas makes it to the tree of life drinking the sap but dying becoming a part of the tree in the process. Not only could this mean Tommy has finished Izzys book but it also indicates his acceptance of death, he sees the cure of death as wrong and believes it is impossible. The fact Tomas becomes a part of the tree indicates that Tommy no longer sees death as lonely but as becoming one with something unknown.
Tom accepts the tree is dead and leaves in a seperate “bubble” content with his own death. As he turns to sand he re-vitalises the tree as it grows tall and magnificent. This means that Tommy has let go of all of his grief and pain, he accepts that although Izzy is dead she is at peace.
The camera zooms in the the newly healthy tree and reveals a seed which is picked by the spirit of Izzy and handed to Tommy. He then plants it at Izzys grave in memory of her and believing in her story of moses’ dead father, that Izzy is now a part of everything, she is at peace.
The Fountain (2006) Directed by Darren Aronofsky [Film]. USA: Warner Brothers inc.
All images used are property of Warner Bothers inc. and have been used to illustrate this review.