Director Darren Aronofsky, the auteur behind Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan, and Mother! delivers a vivid impressionistic journey across time and space to meditate on life and death, featuring the talents of Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, and Mark Margolis. This is The Universal Theme with Keagen Fritz

Written by: Keagen Fritz – June 14th, 2020 12:52am pst

Long before humans had organized into civilizations, the fear of death reigned supreme over the human heart.  Even now, that fear remains king across all others. Continually lurking in the back seat, whispering, creating anxiety, and pushing us away from facing the concept of death through our mortality. This resistance to inevitability materializes fiercely in the Western world, as media that often discusses such topics are avoided by society.  

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Darren Aronofsky has shaped a professional reputation around exploring parts of humanity that we’d rather turn away from by diving into fear head-on, with aspirations of gaining some understanding of humanity. Arguably, in his overlooked film, ‘The Fountain,’ Aronofsky connects with possibly the most universal human fear of all, death. In which, Hugh Jackman plays three different characters across both time and space in a quest to assert dominance over death itself, save his wife, and achieve immortality.

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Originally planned to be a sweeping epic that looked to capture the envisioned scope, Warner Bros. got increasingly cold feet as the budget escalated to fit the production demands before they eventually cut the project altogether. As Aronofsky tried to move on, he kept getting pulled back to this story and decided to create a viable version of the script that would be a much tighter production with less set pieces, while still keeping the original vision intact.

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What ended up getting released was an incredibly vulnerable and impressionistic piece of cinema. An intimate study of a romantic relationship with opposing perspectives on life and death that floats in the same weightless wonder of poetry, looking to capture the human experience above all else. The confusion of what the movie actually was may have contributed to its lackluster reception, along with the societal resistance, but don’t let the numbers sway you. This film is a provoking meditation on what it means to die, and just because it’s proportionally as dazing as life itself, doesn’t mean it is a poorly constructed piece of art.        

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Tommy (Hugh Jackman) represents a Western perspective while Isabel (Rachel Weisz) portrays the Eastern counterpart as the couple deals with death. Isabel’s death, to be exact. We watch as the different views interact with each other through the characters, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each. Isabel lives content in the present, unafraid of her approaching death, for she sees it as a mere transition. Her only goal is to enjoy the time she has left with Tommy. But of course, Tommy deeply denies death’s inevitability and instead views it as a disease to be cured.

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‘The Fountain’ is best when these two worlds are in flux, plunging the audience into raw, unfiltered emotions. This impact lands best when approaching the movie as you would a dream. Allow yourself to step outside of your standard thinking patterns and welcome the experience as it comes.  For, it does more than simply give you an opportunity to think. It allows you to genuinely feel the emotions we don’t often access as a society—a chance to face the ruling fear of humanity and reach beyond it to discover an awaiting nirvana.     

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You can rent or buy The Fountain on Amazon Prime.

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About The Author:

Keagen Fritz is a screenwriting and production major at California State University Fullerton with growing industry experience.

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