Death is the Road to Awe: of and about The Fountain


“What if you could live forever?”

This is one of the taglines for The Fountain. It is also a question which has haunted humanity since its beginning. The quest for eternal life has no other parallel in the history of mankind. Be it science or mythology, we have always been fascinated with the possibility of finding elixir, the Fountain of Youth, the Tree of Life, aabe hayaat or amrut!

The Fountain is the story of the quest of a man (Hugh Jackman) for immortality for his love (Rachel Weiz). It spans across three ‘life’ times and in many ways represents the struggle of Man himself against mortality.

In 1500 AD he is Tomas, a warrior, the Conquistador who has to find the Tree of Life to save his Queen Isabella, the Queen of Spain from the Inquisition for heresy. As he sets off for the Mayan jungles, his queen gives him her ring and promises that when he comes back successful, they will together forever.

In 2000 AD he is Tommy/ Tom, a scientist who is searching for a cure for cancer afflicting his wife Izzi. She is on the verge of dying. He is on the verge of a breakthrough. He watches in anguish as she slowly slips away from him. He decides that death is a disease like any other. There is a cure for it and he would find it.

In 2500 AD he is (still?) Tom who is traveling through space in a floating bubble with the almost dried Tree of Life. His destination is Xibalba, a dying star which is the Mayan Underworld where the dead souls go to be reborn. He plans to revive the Tree of Life and perhaps revive Izzi. All these years he has survived not so much on the bark of the Tree but the memories of Izzi. As he tells a vision of her, “all these years, all these memories, there was you. You pulled me through time.”

What happens eventually when Tomas drinks the sap from the Tree of Life and when Tom reaches Xibalba as it explodes around him is the answer to the questions haunting Tommy and the rest of us- Is there a cure for death? Can we ever achieve immortality? The answer is No and Yes. No, there is no cure for death but yes it is possible to achieve immortality. Death is the path to immortality; death is the road to awe.

The sap from the Tree of Life does not revive the dead, it gives rise to new life. And what happens to Tomas who drinks it and is horrified to see saplings spurting out of his body? Does he die? No, he becomes immortal. He becomes the trees. When Xibalba explodes, it gives birth to new stars. Which is why a dying star is the Mayan Underworld. Which is why the guard of the Tree of Life kills himself because his blood will feed the Earth and make him immortal. Which is why Tommy plants a seed over Izzi’s grave. Of course Izzi knew this before him which is why she was not afraid of dying.

So, perhaps it is not possible to become immortal without dying. Perhaps it’s not possible to move on without letting go of the past. This means that it becomes all the more important to live in the moment. One of the pivotal scenes in the movie is where Izzi asks Tommy to take a walk with her as it’s the first snow of the season. But Tommy is working furiously to develop a cure for her cancer, so he refuses rather harshly. This scene is flashed many times in the movie as Tommy goes through guilt and regret for not spending time with her. In attempts to get more (life) time for her, he gave away the time that he could’ve had with her.

One last bit of advice: watch The Fountain. Watch it for the heart wrenching eyes of Hugh Jackman as he traverses through hope, helplessness, anguish, desperation and regret. Watch it for the quivering lips of Racel Weiz as she says, she’s not afraid anymore (of dying). Watch it for her glorious face which makes a man waiting 500 years for her seem perfectly logical. Watch The Fountain for the visual ecstasy that it is; one that you would have never tasted before. Watch it for its majestic soundtrack. Watch it because it took Darrren Aronofsky (the guy who had earlier made Requiem for a Dream) six years of blood, sweat and toil to bring The Fountain out overcoming disbelievers and doubts-from within and without. Watch it so that you would never use words like magnum opus for movies like Troy or Jodha Akbar. Watch The Fountain because its been condemned like any other attempt which dares to challenge the way we think.
Watch it because there is hardly any other love story which is so pure, moving and grand that it truly deserves to be called an epic.