Friday, December 5, 2008

The Fountain: A Quest for Immortality Part 3

This is the conclusion to my three part blog series on my paper The Fountain: A Quest for Immortality. Rabbi Rami's comments are in black and my responses/comments are in reddish brown.

[Warning: The following text contains plot spoilers.]

A viewer could have an atheistic view on the film describing it as an endless cycle of energy and matter tracing back to the Big Bang. Another could view it as reincarnation, cycling through different Incarnations until one achieves Moksha. Even Christians could view Tommy and Izzi as representing Adam and Eve trying to find their way back to Eden and that only through the sacrifice of Jesus (First Father) can we obtain eternal life. At first I also tried to give the film an interpretation but every time I watched it I found myself revising my view to the point that I don't even try at all. This film can have dozens of different interpretations but they all share a common fact: bodily death is a part of life.

Rami: If you have given up trying to make sense out (of) the film, as opposed to coming up with multiple meanings and learning to live with ambiguity of multiple "truths" has the movie failed? Is there a difference between forcing one meaning and killing all meaning?

I think I want to keep trying to make sense out of the film even though it hurts my head when I try, but at least for me the movie hasn't failed. When I was doing research on the film I spent a few days reading movie reviews and I got that people either hate it or love it. It's not that the people that hate the film don't understand it (it's confusing enough in the first place) but I guess they wanted a more concrete ending. You know, with a Michael Bay explosion or a couple kissing while the camera spins around them to the sound of a romantic orchestral piece. A good American film not some bald guy hugging on a tree floating in a bubble in space.

I believe that forcing one meaning kills all meaning. If you say " The meaning of this movie is___ ___ ___" then it destroys the beauty of the film. The director, Darre
n Aronofsky, meant for this to be an open-ended film so that not only can the audience take something personal away from the film but also that it doesn't taint or give any clear answers to Life and Death. Now in regards to "forcing one meaning kills all meaning" in a religious context I believe it stunts Humanity's ability to grow. If you say the meaning of life is found here or the answer is found there it hinders our creativity, imagination, and exploration. Some religions might not have changed their core beliefs but they had to reinterpret it over the centuries to keep up with society. If it chooses not to then it'll go the way of the Dodo bird or the 8 track player (and soon the VCR! Gasp!).

The very last scene in the film shows Tommy burying a seed, possibly from the Tree of Life, over his wife's grave. He says his final goodbye and takes one last look up at Xibalba. It is unclear as to if he then decides to journey to Xibalba or if the whole space travel experience is just the last part of Izzi's unfinished book she asked Tommy to finish. Either way it does not matter because that's not the focus of the film. The focus and beauty of this film lies in the fact that it doesn't try to pose answers to life's questions but presents the questions and teaches us that it is possible to live with them.
Rami: Ok. This is good. Does living with the questions means never positing answers or does it mean never ceasing to posit answers? Does it mean there are no answers or that all answers are temporary? Is there truth in this film?

I believe living with the questions means living with the question mark. The question mark will always be there but the questions will change form. All the answers AND questions are temporary until we find answers to some of our questions, that will in turn provide us with new questions. The world wasn't always round (at least our perception of it) but when it became round new questions about our surroundings arose. And in asking questions Humanity as a whole grows and evolves, this I believe is one of (if not) the Truth(s), that the film is trying to portray. (Maybe. Philosophy tends to give me headaches.)

That no matter what background you may come from that the answers that religion supplies are just Man's best attempt to calm ourselves of our fears of the unknown. By overcoming their fears of and accepting Death as a natural process both Izzi in the 21st century, and Tom in the 26th century embraces "Death as the road to Awe" and earn true immortality by becoming a part of the Universe.

Rami: Is this the answer: Death as the Road to Awe? What might a religion look like that took this idea as its core idea?

For Tom and Izzi, yes this is the answer (of course that's what I think). They both struggled and fought with death but their battles only became easier when they accepted the inevitable. Izzi accepted this much sooner (500 years sooner) than Tom but they both came to the same conclusion. I can't begin to imagine (or know) a religion that is so focused on death as one of their core beliefs. I don't think anyone today would willingly die for the greater good of the community (or humanity). I'm not talking about matyrdom or even dying in the service of your country but I mean knife to your throat "our blood shall feed the Earth" sacrifice like in the film. I don't know much about Mayan's or their religion (except that most people think the end of their calendar is the date for the end of the world) but I do know that the director studied their culture heavily before making this film. He incorporated a lot of Mayan mythology into the film and this might be one of their core beliefs. I don't know yet but I intend to find out.

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