In the extended poem Stan Brakhage called Metaphors on Vision (Anthology Film Archives, 2nd Ed. 1976), he wrote:
"the rhythms of change in the beam of illumination which now goes entirely over the heads of the audience would, in the work of art, contain in itself some quality of a spiritual experience."
To look at Darren Aronofsky's new film The Fountain, one would think he had just this Brakhage quote in mind during his arduous six-year production crusade. However, he cites Kubrick's 2001 as a greater influence than any experimental film he studied during either production or film school. As a result of this influence, The Fountain's visuals and storytelling hearken to older models of special effect: those that play as much with perception as they do with imagery. Aronofsky's hope was "to take [science fiction] from the tradition of outer space to inner space. Get away from the ray gun and go back to sci-fi that's more internal and more psychedelic." The product is a film that's a trip in (and for) many senses.
The Fountain concerns a couple that lives in perpetuity between three different epochs. In the 16th century, Conquistador Tomas is asked by Queen Isabella to search New Spain in pursuit of the Tree of Life which they think will save Spain from the infiltration of the Inquisitor; in the 21st century, Tom and Izzy suffer respectively under the burden of Izzy's brain cancer, Tom the unstoppable medical researcher who toils for a cure to her illness and Izzy the romantic writer, fascinated by the 16th century Conquest for the Tree of Life; and finally in the 26th century, Tom lives in a bubble of a space ship, tormented by Izzy's ghost as he ascends to the Orion Nebula, the place in the stars the Mayans called Xibalba. The film weaves these disparate timelines together with symbolic motifs: in each story, there is a flaming sword; in each story, we are mesmerized by points of "healthy light"; in each story, Adam and Eve recur.
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