|My weekend; The Fountain
||[Dec. 2nd, 2006|07:42 am]
Here's a haiku to describe this weekend:
Locked in my office
Nine Twelve thousand
Page doc review. Swell.
(Corrected for the fact that I found yet another box of documents when I got in here this morning. This is high in the Not Fun category.)
Hence, I am up at quarter to seven, so I can get in and get this project done.
I was there until 7 last night, then Ferrett and I went to see The Fountain at The Tower City Cinemas, downtown. We were the only people in the theatre, and after 10 minutes Ferrett had to go ask them to correct the aspect ratio on the film, which was suffering a kind of funhouse width - and with the number of extreme face closeups already cluttering the movie, the last thing we needed was Hugh Jackman's 30-foot high face to be twice as wide!
The movie is a beautiful and ambitious...mess. But an interesting enough mess that I keep thinking about it. So, this is not a full review. It's more commentary on what went wrong. All further comments are going behind here.
First of all, it doesn't matter that much to me what happened at the end. Its vague incomprehensibility would not really be an issue to me if the rest of the structure of the movie held up. But it didn't.
If you are going to create three parallel existences, it's important that they be parallel. Existence one was Isabela and Tomas. Existence two was Izzy and Tommy. Existence three was...Yogi Tom and an Ent? Wha? This would be kind of clever, I guess, except they can't leave it alone. They have to keep bringing Izzy, and then Isabela, to Yogi Tom, who has found enlightenment but is still haunted by his failure to save his wife, except she's kind of now a tree, but clearly not the chestnut tree that he planted on her grave because she has that chunk of immortality bark so she must be the tree from South America except that tree existed already and....
So it's very unsatisfying, the way the three parallels do not hold up.
Furthermore, the movie kind of lost my willing suspension of disbelief during the scene where Isabela tells Tomas of his quest:
Priest: See where the hole in this knife I took from a dead guy shines on a blank part of the map? That's clearly the site of the Tree of Life!
Tomas: That seems a little farfetched.
Tomas: Oh, okay.
Isabela: So, run off to "New Spain" for a couple years, because I'm sure that the Grand Inquisitor will hold off his attack for that long, and if you come back with the goods, I'll totally jump your bones.
Tomas: [blinks in confusion] You will? Cool!
I felt my heart harden toward the entire movie at that point.
Also, if it's going to be a love story throughout the ages, absenting the female half of the equation from two out of the three tales is not a great idea. In the medieval tale, Isabela is regal and passive, and relatively absent from the bulk of the story. In space, she is a guilt-laden memory.
In fact, the whole thing seems to be about how, in trying to save his love, Tom distances herself from him. Tomas leaves for another country, Tommy is wrapped up in his work, Yogi Tom is...wait. Lavishing attention on the tree. Um. So much for parallels.
And there are just too many scenes that are there without reason. Priest finds the
grail stone disk leading to the pyramid, only to be bludgeoned to death upon his return. But this does not lead to any actual delays, because he helpfully points in the general direction of "over there," and the jungle is an easy place to navigate, apparently. Did we have the bludgeoning solely because it was time for an action sequence?
The same with Ellen Burstyn's character. She should have been the parallel of the Inquisitor, endangering Izzy by her insistence that the rules of science be followed, just as the Inquisitor endangered Isabel by his demand that the rules of God be followed, but instead she just melted into hand-wringing. (And, once again, no parallel for existence 3.)
Then there is the passivity of the Izzy character. Isabela sits on her throne and waits to be rescued or killed. The tree is about as passive as you can get. And Izzy. Oh, wait. Izzy writes a novel, and is the one filled with enlightenment and understanding. Oops, missed again.
Also, a tremendous opportunity was missed with the flowering of the Conquistador. He was set up as World Father, returned. He drank of the
Elmer's Glue sap of life. When he began to blossom, I was certain that his body would become the roots of a great tree and his soul its trunk. I thought they were going for the circle of life image. Instead, he was just chumped into becoming a bed of pansies. Another opportunity, lost.
It's easiest to dismiss the back story and the future story as existing only within the novel. Too easy - I'd rather assume for the sake of argument that they are real. So this is my take on the ending:
The movie says that we achieve a kind of immortality through reincarnation, souls coming together over time. Tommy did in fact find the secret of immortality and has been searching for the reincarnated Izzy for hundreds of years. He has become so enlightened that he can astral travel with his tree of life space suit. He's searching for her soul, out beyond Xibulba. What he finally realizes is what the Inquisitor knew all along: death is required for life to continue. He must finally let himself die in order for their souls to return together. He lets himself go.
Which does nothing to explain the rest of the movie, but since it doesn't hold together anyway, what the heck.