Monday, November 23, 2009

The Fountain Revisited- Part 1: Paradise Lost

The Fountain is by far my favorite film of all time (and it's the only movie I allow myself to cry in front of my wife). I even wrote a paper on the religious and spiritual themes of the film for my Religion in Popular Media class. When it was released in 2006 it got a few bad reviews mainly because of the vague and confusing ending which is why I recommend watching it twice. I thought it was a beautiful film the first time through but the second round just blew my mind. The film is vague in it's meaning and ending leaving the audience to come up with their own conclusions. This series will take a second look into my revised thoughts on the film's spiritual and religious themes.

[Promotional poster for The Fountain, Copyright Warner Bros. 2006.]

Warning: Spoilers there be!

This film can get quite complicated and highly confusing to a first-time viewer, especially the ending. Yet, it is in this confusion that each viewer can carve out his or her own interpretation and meaning from the film. The film revolves around the core theme of life from death. Each of the characters wrestle with the fear of death in hopes of escaping the inevitable yet it is only when they accept death as an intricate part of the human experience are they freed from their mortal cages and earn true immortality. Most Westerners envision immortality as a prolonged existence in this life wherein we decide our moment of death. We struggle all our lives in avoiding that specific experience as we overlook the joys of the present.

You can read my synopsis here but to quickly summarize our main characters, Tommy and Izzi Creo, battle with death in all three ages: the 16th, 21st, and 26th centuries. The film is set in the 21st century where Tommy, a research oncologist, races against time to cure his wife's brain tumor. Meanwhile, Izzi is writing a book set in 16th century Spain where the two main characters, Tomas and Queen Elizabeth, race to find the Tree of Life in the new world. The film flashes back and forth between these two centuries and one set in the distant future. In the 26th century Tom, the space traveling monk, is headed towards a distant dying nebula traveling with an aging tree in an ecospheric spaceship. He is traveling with a Tree of Life, which is carrying Izzi's essence (or soul), to Xibalba, the dying nebula representing the Mayan underworld. Although the main plot of the film is set in the 21st century, the story is told through the eyes of the space traveling Tom recalling the events which set him on this journey.

Unfortunately, although 21st century Tom discovers a cure it is too late and the viewer learns that it is Izzi's tragic death which causes Tom to travel to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld where souls go to be reborn.

Hours before her death Izzi shares a story with Tom about Moses Morales, Izzi's Mayan guide on a trip she took to research her book, and the death of his father. Moses said that if they dug his body up he would be gone. They had planted a seed over his grave and that his father became part of the tree. "He grew into the wood, into the bloom. And when a sparrow ate the tree's fruit, his father flew with the birds. He said, death was his father road to awe." At the end of the film you see Tommy planting a seed over Izzi's grave then look up into the sky at Xibalba. The tree in the ship is the same which Tommy planted 500 years prior. This was my original interpretation and understanding of the film: Tommy loses Izzi and then travels through space to be reborn together in Xibalba. I had interpreted the film with a "literal lens" and lost the meaning the film was desperately trying to present.

I knew that Tomas and Elizabeth were fictional characters in a book, yet I interpreted the trip through space as literal when it is a symbolic representation of Tom's inner journey from pain and suffering towards peace and acceptance. And it is through this acceptance that we begin to see, hear, and experience life more fully. The fear of death governs our lives, and as it inches closer we wrestle, claw, and fight tooth and nail with the mortal and immortal powers which have kept us alive thus far. We demand for more time calling God unjust for creating us mortal. Why can't we just live forever? Maybe we can although not in the literal sense. All we can do is try to enjoy the eternal moments we have NOW instead of worrying about the lost moments we won't have later. If we truly enjoyed the NOW then the it won't matter if we lived 20 years or 70, what is important is that we lived, loved, and connected with one another.

1 comment:

Don said...

I've made peace with man's fear of death and can honestly say I don't fear death. I know it is not the end, only a new beginning. Death is merely the vehicle which commences the next journey. I have to see this film. Sounds very interesting.

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