Rachel Weisz can break your heart.
An Oscar-winner who played an idealistic, noble and romantically doomedwoman in "The Constant Gardener," she brings many of the same gifts tobear in "The Fountain," a romantic fantasy written and directed by herbeau, Darren Aronofsky.
She suffers, nobly. And she tries to pass on the meaning of life andlove to her man, and to the movie's audience in a film that can only bedescribed as an arty, trippy indulgence, a director's cinematic lovepoem to his lady.
It's a Fountain of Youth parable built around a sick woman (Weisz) whosesurgeon-researcher husband (Hugh Jackman) is frantically seeking a cure.He's experimenting on monkeys with drugs made from newly discoveredrainforest compounds. Ellen Burstyn plays his boss.
Then there's the parallel story of a loyal conquistador (Jackman) sentto find the Tree of Life in Central America by his queen, Isabella(Weisz). The tree is the "real" Fountain of Youth, described in theBible, Isabella reminds him.
And there's the trippiest third of the film, inhabited by a bald,meditating mystic traveler (Jackman) journeying through space and timein the company of that very tree, a man haunted by visions of the costof the quest for eternal life.
The stories are introduced out of order, which is the only thing thatmight keep us from guessing what it's about and where it's going duringthe opening credits. It's an obvious plot with an obvious moral.
"Death is the road to awe," a Mayan priest shouts at the conquistador, aline worth repeating in every time setting of the film. It is not, asthe surgeon declares, "just a disease, like any other."
Immortality is history's eternal fool's errand. Seek it obsessively, andyou just might forget to live and love to your utmost. The doctor needsto learn this. And it's telling that the surgeon's name is Dr. Creo,Spanish for "I believe."
The always cryptic Aronosfky ("Pi," "Requiem for a Dream") is never overlyconcerned with plot, when he can use images to reach the emotions hewants to trigger. "The Fountain" is his most accessible movie, romanticand almost straightforward until its finale.
But you have to wonder if Aronofsky noticed this himself, and decided tomake the last few minutes a colorful, surreal hallucination, just tothrow us off.