The public’s reaction to The Fountain was formed months before the movie even had a release date. Director Darren Aaronofsky premiered the movie at the Venice Film Festival where it was met with a chorus of boos. The bad reaction was widely reported in the press and really shaped people’s ideas about the film. What didn’t get reported as much was that on the second night it received a standing ovation. The perceived festival snub is the public relations battle The Fountain has been fighting since Venice.
The Fountain is a difficult movie that will confound some viewers and entrance others. A love story that spans several centuries, it jumps around with wild abandon from the present day where a young doctor struggles to find a cure for his wife’s terminal illness, to 16th century France where the same couple, now a conquistador and queen search for the Fountain of Youth to the future where the doctor, now bald, floats through space in a large bubble, grappling with the vagaries of life.
This is a movie that isn’t afraid to be ponderous and pretentious, but in an era when Hollywood doesn’t try to make thoughtful movies, just successful ones, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Aaronofsky’s metaphysical story is almost incomprehensible, but has a lot of emotion and for the adventurous viewer should appeal to the head as well as the heart.