Tag Archives: religon

67. The Fountain – Darren Aronofsky (2006)

First Viewing.

There probably isn’t a director around right now who’s hotter than Darren Aronofksy, his last two films, The Wrestler, and Black Swan, have been lauded with praise and showered with awards. The Fountain is the movie that he made immediately before he really hit the big time with those two aforementioned films. I seem to be in the minority when it comes to appreciating Requiem for a dream, his second film, which tagged him as an exciting young director. I’ve never quite understood all the praise that’s been bestowed on Requiem, it’s an occasionally interesting film, but it reeks of bluster and grandstanding. I found it to be another case of the Emperor’s new clothes.

Of Aronofsky’s five films The Fountain is, so I’ve found, the least talked about. It doesn’t have any of the shock qualities his other films have, but it does have a story that, for ambition alone, should be discussed as much, if not more, than any of his other works. The narrative isn’t easy to explain in a blog review, I feel like I’d need an entire essay’s worth of words to do it justice, but here goes; Tom, a scientist – played by Hugh Jackman – is trying to find a cure for his dying wife, Izzi, (Rachel Weisz) and we follow Tom’s efforts to heal her. This part of the story takes place in the present day. There’s also a story set hundreds of years in the past involving Mayans and a Conquistador, Hugh Jackman, again. He is trying to find The Tree of Life for his queen, Rachel Weisz. The third story woven into The Fountain is set way into the future, Jackman plays a traveller, and last man alive, who is imaging a lost love, again the lost love is Weisz. This story takes place on a small, self contained bubble, somewhere up amongst the stars. That all makes sense? Right? Right? I thought not.

With a narrative like that it’s easy to understand why the film wasn’t the hit that Aronofsky and the studio hoped for, perhaps having a budget of $35m when the director wanted $70m explains the lack of success, but I’d like to think that’s not the case. The opening 15 minutes are especially confusing and I did start to wonder what the hell this film was going to be like, but, if you stick with it, it starts to make sense. Motifs starts to appear over and over again. And each of the intercut stories start to mirror each other and pull in the same direction. The cycle of life becomes the key to each segment, and, in it’s most basic form, the movie, for me, was about the acceptance of death. And, how, no matter what we do, are all faced with it. I also took away from the film that the idea of science vs religion is something of a fallacy. They are one and the same. One is there to help the other. It’s an interesting concept. It would be remiss of me not to mention that The Fountain is also, at it’s heart, a love story. All of the film’s ideas feed off of Tom and Izzi’s love for each other. It was a wholly unique experience watching this film.

There’s a lot to take from this film, but, at times, it’s hard to exactly understand what’s going on. Some of the ideas get a little lost, which is understandable in such a complex film, and the effects let down the director’s vision. They don’t quite cut it for me. Perhaps six years ago, when the film was made, they were much more impressive, but the results don’t match the ambition. That all being said, it’s by no means a huge distraction that lets the film down, but it just doesn’t completely work. The score, however, is beautiful, and works perfectly with each of the three main stories.

This is an interesting film, that’s wonderfully conceived, but, unfortunately, doesn’t quite manage to pull everything together to create the masterpiece it could have been.

Marks out of ten – Seven

 

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64. Richard II – Rupert Goold (2012)

First Viewing.

“For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings”

This the first of four Shakespeare adaptations made by the BBC for part of their Hollow Crown season. The other three plays in the teratology are Henry IV part one, Henry IV part two, and, Henry V. The plays are a collection of historical works by Shakespeare and follow King Richard II and his successors. Anyone familiar with the BBC’s 1970s adaptations of Shakespeare’s complete works will recall the oft parodied wobbly sets, rigid actors, and, a general brown-to-brown grey colour palate. This 21st century adaptation, thankfully, is nothing at all like that. It’s positively vibrant with colour, shot on some stunning locations, and beautifully performed.

The one single thing that stands head and shoulders above everything in this adaptation is Ben Whishaw’s performance as Richard II. It is like nothing I have witnessed in any performance of Shakespeare before. Whishaw has been a favourite actor of mine since his performance in Brideshead Revisited (as Sebastian Flyte) and also his turn in the criminally unappreciated TV show, Nathan Barley, so I might be a little partisan, but it is a remarkable performance. This may sound quite bizarre, but Whishaw seems to be channelling the spirit of Michael Jackson, there’s a feeble soft spoken charm to every word he utters. I really can’t describe it in any more of an accurate way. He even has a pet monkey! It’s really quite captivating to see such risks taken with the title role. The language of Richard II is markedly more wordy and metaphorical than other historical Shakespearian plays, yet Whishaw’s performance is so strong that one never feels lost in the protracted verses.  After Whishaw role as Michael II Richard II there continues a whole list of great performances including Patrick Stewart as a reserved and dignified John of Gaunt, and a thunderous David Morrissey as the Earl of Northumberland.

Goold, interestingly, plays with the idea of Richard II as an icon, he visually likens him to Jesus on frequent occasions. There is a similarity in the fate of the characters, but one never quite gets the idea of Whishaw’s Richard II as a religious figure. He talks of the power of God, and of England, and what it means to be king, yet I never saw Richard II as a martyr. He is too self-serving and angst ridden to be one.

This is a fantastic adaptation, Goold, without using worn out tricks like changing time periods, has updated Richard II to a contemporary and relevant piece. I don’t know exactly what the budget was, despite extensive googling on my part, but I’m positive it was huge. And it was well spent.

Marks out of ten – Nine

 

 

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