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If you’re a ‘Requiem For A Dream’ fan, leave now," the deep-voiced, scruffy, thirty-something Brooklynite commanded an anxious audience of admirers at Superb’s Wheeler screening of "The Fountain” last month. This may not have been the most appropriate or expected thing to say coming from the Harvard grad, considering that his new film, “The Fountain,” is only his third, and while he has garnered the respect and acclaim from selected critics for his first two projects, the name Darren Aronofsky remains, for the most part, foreign.

It is difficult to say whether “The Fountain” will change that “largely unknown” status, as Aronofsky continues to follow his intellectual ambitions through a more expansive and ambiguous lens. The film centers on modern-day scientist Tommy Creo, played by Hugh Jackman, who is trying to develop a cure for the brain cancer killing his wife Izzi, played by Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz. In his research, the stubborn and driven Dr. Creo stumbles upon a compound extracted from Natal Tortuosa, a unique tree located in Central America that Creo finds is able to restore youth and eventually destroy malignant growth.

Herein begins the denouement, which happens to manifest itself in two parallel stories being told simultaneously: that of the 16th century Spanish conquistador Tomas, and the 26th century spiritual hermit Tom. All three Toms are played skillfully by Jackman, and all are integral steps in the revelations and romances that the film develops in dealing with modern man’s inability to accept mortality and the sacrifices one must make for love and inner peace.

This seems like a hell of a lot to cover in an hour and a half. It is, and the extent to which anything is completely covered is debatable; the film’s ending sequenc can have multiple interpretations upon repeat viewings.

“The Fountain” is told in suspenseful episodes separated by fade-to-blacks and Aronofsky’s trademark fade-to-white, although the convergent streams of consciousness intermittently react directly to reflect on the moments of each respective story. Although this approach may feel drawn out during the first expository act, the technique proves remarkably rewarding as the last two acts climax so as to reaffirm the tributary states of these streams in relation to one unifying train of thought and its consequent epiphany.

At times, the film overshoots the main goal of pure entertainment, as its philosophical and romantic musings often inspire the far too challenging need for dialogical profundity without any breathing room both for the audience.

There is no shortage of entertaining the senses, however, with the meticulous framing, the red and gold soft-lit color schemes, the sharp sound editing and yet another fantastic score by Clint Mansell, this time helped by Scottish ambi-rockers Mogwai and former collaborators the Kronos Quartet. Aronofsky’s fascination with the body reappears here, as fingers, mouths, necks, saliva, blood, and hair receive great amounts of close ups, not to mention instances of flagellating and self-tattooing. The most evident spectacle in the film is the use of micro-photography to create the unbelievable special effects rather than resorting to hackneyed and awkward looking computer generated graphics. The dazzling depiction of the future cosmos will leave audiences mesmerized at its depth and tangibility.

When the acting is not hindered by the limitations of the script, the performances are truly wonderful. Sincere emotions penetrate every moment of Tommy and Izzi’s existence as if it were each other’s last.

Every shot enters either like a landscape or a perfect movement deeper into the subject, whether it’s an extreme close-up of a face speechless with awe or a shot of a nebula enveloping a snow-globe spaceship. The overall flow of the film feels like watching the most honest painting of eternity develop, where every age is a dark age striving to find that lux aeterna of surrender.

To those who did not enjoy or simply could not handle “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream,” fear not. This is an entirely different film, an intricate and difficult experimentation with myth, testing it against time and space so as to create a film out of questions rather than answers. It is a journey worth experiencing, and though the writing periodically limits its timelessness, “The Fountain” provides something very new in the midst of today’s trend of formulaic sensationalism.


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