Updated: Dec 8, 2019
As with all movies on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete synopsis of the movie, but rather to document how the movie relates to the meaning of life. With that said, be forewarned, there are still spoilers below.
The Fountain (2006) is a psychedelic science fiction film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky; starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. The film is about the dichotomy of life, or perhaps the dualism of life if you will; the quest of immortality through knowledge; the tree of life, the tree of knowledge, and the garden of Eden — the birth and death of civilization. In the movie, Tommy (Jackman) desperately searches for a cure to his wife's, Izzi's cancer (Weisz). Their relationship spans not only through one lifetime, but through three. Aronofsky noted in his commentary that the film took over six years to complete.
Izzi is dying and on the road to awe. As her days are running out, she implores Tommy to spend time with her. Yet, instead of spending time with her, he is instead consumed searching for a cure. Strangely, it is the ultimate realization of the finality of ego — of mortalism, which leads to the awakening of the spiritual self just in time to comes to terms with death. Death frees every soul. Izzi contemplates the meaning of life, while they both come closer to Xibalba, a nebula and also mythical Mayan underworld.
As Tommy would say later after Izzi's demise, Death is a disease, it's like any other. And there's a cure. A cure - and I will find it. The memories of what could have been, what should have been, haunt Tommy like ghosts of a future lost.
Meanwhile, there are two other stories unfolding in the background, at different times, or perhaps simultaneously depending on how you like your topology of time. One consists of a conquistador named Tomas searching for the tree of life. Another story stars Tom, who is the last man alive flying through space with the tree of life. Albeit, all stories are really one in the same.
Izzi is writing a book about the conquistador but she is unable to finish it. So, she asks Tommy to complete it. Rebuking the thought, he tells Izzi that he doesn't know how it will end. Izzi tells him a story from Moses Morales (a Mayan guide whose father died):
He said that if they dug his father's body up, it would be gone. They planted a seed over his grave. The seed became a tree. Moses said his father became a part of that 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's road to awe. That's what he called it. The road to awe. Now, I've been trying to write the last chapter and I haven't been able to get that out of my head! Izzi dies shortly after. Only for Tommy to hear the news that he may have found the cure. A heart-breaking... no, a soul-crushing discovery which only fuels his passion to find the cure to death. Only to realize realize that immortality in some sense is a myth, in another, the only reality.
So, what is the film telling us about the meaning of life? Darren Aronofsky doesn't give us much insight in his commentary on the movie. But, what can be said is that during the space odyssey, Izzi is with Thomas and says: Together we will live forever. The quest for immortality may be futile when it comes to our egos, but life itself in some form; a tree, a child, a bird, a star, or the universe will continue to exist and be reborn in some fashion. In simpler terms, as the film states multiple times, death is the road to awe.
Izzi: This is an actual Mayan book. It explains the Creation myth. You see that's first father. He's the very first human.
Thomas: Is he dead?
Izzi: He sacrificed himself to make the world... That's the tree of life bursting out of his stomach.
Thomas: Hey come...
Izzi: Listen. His body became the trees' roots. They spread and formed the earth. His soul became the branches rising up forming the sky. All that remained is first father's head. His children hung in the heavens creating Xibalba.
Thomas: Xibalba. The star, ah, nebula.
Izzi: So what do you think?
Izzi: That idea. Death as an act of creation.
Does one find immortality through the tree of knowledge, or the tree of life? Does one find immortality through darkness or through light? Through science or spirituality? The movie shows us that immortality is impossible, and yet is the only true reality. Death is not the end, but rather only a metamorphosis. The film ends with the death of a tree, of a man, and of star as a final act of creation. The meaning of life is found between the lines.
We rate the movie as follows:
Overall - 6
Meaning of Life Relevance - 5
Uniqueness – 6
If we could give this movie a deepness score, we'd give it a 10. Very well thought out and a lot of hidden meanings. For example, here is a great article that deals with color representations in the movie which we didn't get into here.
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