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The Fountain

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Faye
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I'm surprised no one on the forum has recommended The Fountain (2006, Darren Aronofsky). The themes about life and death were really well done and beautiful. I thought Hugh Jackman and Rachel Wiesz were quite touching as a couple as well. This was definitely nothing like Requiem for a Dream, in case anyone was scared off because of that. It has some mysticism in it, but I don't think it was there as an endorsement. I believe this was mainly used to illustrate the themes about accepting mortality. Either way, I really loved it and thought it was a powerful film. Has anyone else seen it and care to comment on it?

-Faye

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I could have sworn I wrote something about The Fountain somewhere on this forum. I can't find it now. I know it was mentioned in the "Movies with Irrational Premises" thread. Here are my thoughts on the film, much abbreviated.

First, the story cannot be taken literally. It is my opinion that the Future and Past timeframes are the mental creations of the present-day character, and are not meant to be taken literally. I believe they are supposed to be representative the grieving process and of the character's process of coping with his (perceived) guilt over not spending time with his wife.

Second, I think the movie succeeds best when viewed as taking place entirely in the character's head in that moment before he decides whether to go with his wife. The advantage to this interpretation is that it makes all the intervening events into abstractions of the character's thought processes. The disadvantage (which I think this film shares with Aronofsky's other films) is that those abstractions tend to become disconnected, floating abstractions with only very ephemeral links to the real world. In this situation, the film can easily lose the viewer.

Fortunately, the visuals and originality of the story are enough to keep the viewer's attention, and overall I found the film to be a successful one, even if not really my cup of tea. I often find Aronofsky films a bit too brooding and abstruse, and they mostly have totally lacked any lightheartedness. I think this is probably the best of his work I have seen to date, however, and it is nice to see the few lighthearted moments in The Fountain.

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The movie was very well made, and if it had ended differently, I would have highly recommended it. It was very good visualy, that I cannot deny. The death worship however, is not something I can forgive. It is an anti-life movie and directly opposes objectivist philosophy. It degrades the very core of objectivism, that reason is man's tool of survival, and tells the viewer that we should embrace death, and that if we don't, death will embrace us anyway. The premise the movie is built on is the complete opposite of objectivism.

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********************* There are possible spoilers throughout this post *********************

I don't think that this movie was worshiped death. I think it explored why we fear death and why we shouldn't fight death simply for the sake of preserving life. And when I use the word "preserving", I mean keeping our lives static, and keeping everything as it is in one moment. Preserving might not be the best word, but it's the closest thing I can think of to what I mean. It seemed to me that the point of this movie was to enjoy your life while you have it, and to accept the fact that it will change and that it may end at some point, though not to worship it.

If you look at the character of Izzi, she certainly doesn't worship death; what she does is explore it. She's scared of it at first, and doesn't want to die.

However, because she is brave enough to think about what mortality means and how it should affect her life, she is able to give more meaning to the little time she has left.

This is in stark contrast to her husband Tommy, who is obsessed with curing the disease of death. I think it's important to notice that his character must change, not because he wants to cure mortality, but because he lets his obsession interfere with how he lives his life.

His wife clearly has a short period of time left, and instead of cherishing it, he misses many of her last precious moments.

He begins to act irrationally, because he values his wife more than this cure, but has chosen to spend time on creating the cure and not on spending time with his wife.

I suppose you could point to the fact that the quote "death is the road to awe" is repeated many times as a sort of death worship. However, they also make the point that "death is an act of creation" quite a bit as well. Looking at the way both of these are used, though, I believe it makes the point that life will continue even after a particular individual dies.

Even though Izzi is dying, she still thinks of all the beautiful things that will continue when she's gone, and this comforts her.

When you do see death worship, it is embodied in the evil character of the Grand Inquisitor. He is not shown as a good example of how to live. I think "death is the road to awe" is less to demonstrate that death is the ultimate goal, and more to show that death is what gives our lives so much meaning. Because we are mortal, we have to choose to live. The ideal in this movie is the character of Izzi.

She doesn't choose death. Death is thrust upon her. She chooses to accept death, but value immensely what she has left.

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He begins to act irrationally, because he values his wife more than this cure, but has chosen to spend time on creating the cure and not on spending time with his wife.

No, he does not. The only reason he works on his cure is to save his wife so he can spend time with her. He is obsessed not with the cure, by itself, but with his wife.

In fact, according to the movie, if Izzy had waited just a little bit, his work would have saved her. The author is clearly saying "He could have saved her, but what's the point? Just accept death. Death is your master, bitch."

However, they also make the point that "death is an act of creation" quite a bit as well

Which is complete and utter nonsense. Nothing is created by death, it is the exact opposite of creation. Life is an act of creation, death is the absense of life.

I believe it makes the point that life will continue even after a particular individual dies

Yes, that is true. In a very real sense, the first living being on earth is still alive today in billions of different mutations. But we don't value life because of cellular mechanics, we value life because of identity. While in purely biological terms, you could say death doesn't even really exist (we just change bodies), the fact is that our identities are destroyed. To worship this "greater form of life" is a form of collectivism.

you do see death worship, it is embodied in the evil character of the Grand Inquisitor

He is punishing the queen because she seeks eternal life on earth. The movie's creator then

punishes the Conquistador for seeking such life by turning him into a plant.

I think you could say the Gran Inquisitor is actualy the point of the movie, not the villain. At best, he simply belongs to a different strand of death worship.

more to show that death is what gives our lives so much meaning.

Life gives death meaning, not the other way around. Writing this, I remembered the immortal robot analogy. It's important to remember though that the analogy is a demonstration that values are the things that protect us from death, that help us towards life. They are not given value by death, but by life.

Because we are mortal, we have to choose to live. The ideal in this movie is the character of Izzi. She doesn't choose death. Death is thrust upon her. She chooses to accept death, but value immensely what she has left.

Yet the charachters who choose to live, are all given death by the movie's creator. Doesn't that tell you something? Up until

the Conquistador was turned into a plant

I thought the bad elements might just had been part of an elaborate attempt to make the point that life is good and we should seek it. The way the movie starts with the Conquistador charging forward (and surviving) while his fellow soldiers run in fear (and are killed) was probably the best part of the whole movie.

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*******************************************

I've given up on blocking out the spoilers, since they will show up anyways in the quotes. Read at your own risk.

*******************************************

I also had the robot example in mind when I wrote my post, but I would disagree that life is what gives death meaning. Values may help you choose life, but they don't "protect" you from death. Looking at what I said ("death is what gives our lives so much meaning") it does not make my point. Perhaps I should be more clear and say, because we can die, that is what gives us the ability to have values and your values are what gives your life meaning and purpose. So, I wasn't trying to say you should value death (and you are correct in saying this is in opposition to Objectivism), but that it's a part of life. It's not necessarily something that should be feared or obsessed over. I think this is what the movie was trying to convey as well.

This film is also a response to how our society deals with death. We often do not discuss it, or if we do, people have irrational beliefs about it. Many times, people are faced with a decision of living their lives out in a hospital bed, or living a shorter period of time, but having an actual life. There is nothing wrong with trying to prolong your life, say, through exercise or finding new drugs that will help your body stay young or cure diseases. However, I think there really are some people where death is a finality that cannot be changed, and at this point, you have to cherish what you have left. This is what I thought Tommy's problem was, and why he was being irrational. Izzi has been given a very short time to live, and he has to choose between spending time with her or spending time researching. As one of the other characters tells him "new drugs aren't created overnight". He is trying to control death, which is simply something we cannot do (not completely). He is not irrational because he wants to find a way for his wife to live, but because he refuses to realize that he might not be able to achieve this in the short time she has left. Many of the characters die, not as a form of punishment from Aronofsky, but to show that you can't always control mortality. I think the film is trying to say that by letting go of fear or obsession with death, you can lead a much richer life.

I agree with what Qwertz said about the abstractions in the movie. Aronofsky is not always completely clear in regards to what values he is trying to present with his abstractions, and I couldn't defend it if someone said the movie's ideas about life and death are vague. Aronofsky has said that the film is "very much like a Rubik's cube, where you can solve it in several different ways, but ultimately there's only one solution at the end". This vagueness is something that bothers me, however, I'm still not convinced that the film is saying "Death is your master" or that death is something you should worship.

I believe the central theme of this movie is that we will all die, that death is a part of life, and the best way to deal with this is to live a full life until you die. I think one other theme is that we should cherish life while we have it. Maybe you disagree with the fact that "we will all die" is something you should accept? Perhaps my opinion is also colored by the fact that I've listened to interviews with the creators of the film and read literature about it (not that I'm an expert), and death worship is never mentioned. They don't mention the Grand Inquisitor being the main point of the film; if anything, Izzi's acceptance of death is. I also don't take "death as and act of creation" or "death is the road to awe" literally. Nor do I agree that there is some "greater form of life". There are definitely some collectivist or mystic interpretations of the film, but I choose to watch it for the themes about valuing and cherishing life. These are some of the interviews I listened to (the second and third videos talk the most about the themes I mentioned):

http://youtube.com/watch?v=c5Mry8RhBJM

http://youtube.com/watch?v=rRm0TKTRwHQ

http://youtube.com/watch?v=g1pESZpTxg0

-Faye

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--------------------------

Spoilers

---------------------------

Let's assume for a second that the movie is not about death worship. I have three quick questions then:

- How do you integrate the death of the Conquistador?

- How do you integrate the suicide of the mayan priest, so that his blood can "feed the plants"? Isn't the whole mayan myth that is peddled throughout the movie a (particularly disgusting) form of altruism?

- What is the purpose of finding a cure for Izzy's ilness right after she dies?

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As I said earlier, I think the movie has problems. But I think it is possible to answer Andre's questions. The first two fall away if we assume that the answer to the third question is simply that Izzy doesn't die in the movie. The movie is bookended with this one moment in the lab when Izzy comes to ask Tommy to go for a walk with her. If we read this as one continuous moment, then everything that intervenes - Izzy's downward spiral, the book she writes, her death, Tommy's grief, etc. - is merely representative of Tommy's thought processes and reasons for choosing to go with Izzy instead of staying at the lab to work. Which is probably the better choice. This interpretation does not solve all the movie's problems, and it does create its own, but it does make the movie watchable.

-Q

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If we assume such a thing, the question remains. Why did he imagine the Conquistador turning into a plant? Considering that in the final scenes he goes out, but is actualy alone and burries (plants?) a plant in the place she was supposedly burried, makes this interpretation impossible to fit into the actual movie. I'm all for finding the silver lining in things such as bad art, and I actualy recommended the movie to others purely due to it's style and subject (immortality/mortality), but I don't think this movie deserves any credit for it's philosophical theme. At best it's a rationalization of death.

Edited by andre_sanchez
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--------------------------

Spoilers

---------------------------

Let's assume for a second that the movie is not about death worship. I have three quick questions then:

- How do you integrate the death of the Conquistador?

- How do you integrate the suicide of the mayan priest, so that his blood can "feed the plants"? Isn't the whole mayan myth that is peddled throughout the movie a (particularly disgusting) form of altruism?

- What is the purpose of finding a cure for Izzy's ilness right after she dies?

So that I don't get stuck in the socratic method, I'll go ahead and give my interpretation that answers all these questions. The movie is centered by the idea of "death as an act of creation". That means, you die in order to feed the life of others, as part of the "cycle of life". You are a sacrificial animal, pure and simple. The reason Izzy had to die and a cure had to be found, is because her death was her act of creation (it pushed her husband to find the medicine), her way to "feed" the life of others. The Conquistador has to die in order to feed the plants (it's the idealization of the concept), just like the father in the mayan myth and, as concretized by the planting of a tree at Izzy's burial place, just like Izzy. All this seems abundantly clear to me from watching the movie, and as such, I cannot regard it as anything other than completely at odds with objectivist values.

Edited by andre_sanchez
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I feel the same about this movie as Andre.

*** SPOILERS ****

At first I was excited to see it, thinking from the previews it was about a man who finds some fountain of your hundreds of years ago, and lives through the centuries loving life, and curing diseases, etc. As I watched the movie it was clear that was not the case, but seeing Hugh Jackman's charachter so valiently fighting to save the life of the woman he loves was very moving. At her funeral he said "no this is not right, death is a disease, just like any other" this is a great sentiment that is not at all popular in the mainstream culture, so I was very pleased to see that. However, he cures aging, then lives thousands of years moping about his wife, and ultimately kills himself to 'be with her' getting excited about the fact that he was going to die. It was absolutely a pro-death film in it's ultimate message. Imagine if he had cured her disease right before she died, and he lived hundreds or thousands of years *with her* The movie had a great deal of potential but just ended up regurgitating the same pyschological non-sense that people have made up through the ages to deal with the fact that they will die. It's time to dispense with these silly notions which find value in death, and actually try to do something about it.

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I agree with everyone who said the movie has potential. The main plot could have been great, had it ended differently, was different stylistically, and had a completely different message.

*******SPOILERS

I liked the idea that Tommy was trying to cure death, and the impending death of his wife made the story all the more interesting. I didn't know what was happening with the flashes into the past and future. I didn't know whether he was remembering, or simply imagining it. The director should have made it clearer just what was happening. It was incredibly confusing in that respect. I really didn't get why the tree had hair, and why he kept kissing it. Did he plant his wife like she wanted him to? I also didn't understand why it kept flashing back to the "Lets take a walk" scene.

The ending was confusing. I didn't know whether Tommy was indeed in the future, or whether it was some bizarre metaphor. Assuming it was in the future, it seemed like he really hadn't done much since his wife died, other than mourn and try to kill himself. He didn't end up being the rational man I had hoped. It should have ended with him curing his wife, instead of her and consequently his death. It gives an incredibly bad message that he just missed saving her.

The only good thing in the movie was the passion protrayed between Tommy and Izzy. That was really well done, the rest sucked.

Overall I give the film a D. It would have been an F if Hugh Jackman wasn't so dang good looking. :wub:

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I agree with everyone who said the movie has potential. The main plot could have been great, had it ended differently, was different stylistically, and had a completely different message.

*******SPOILERS

I liked the idea that Tommy was trying to cure death, and the impending death of his wife made the story all the more interesting. I didn't know what was happening with the flashes into the past and future. I didn't know whether he was remembering, or simply imagining it. The director should have made it clearer just what was happening. It was incredibly confusing in that respect. I really didn't get why the tree had hair, and why he kept kissing it. Did he plant his wife like she wanted him to? I also didn't understand why it kept flashing back to the "Lets take a walk" scene.

The ending was confusing. I didn't know whether Tommy was indeed in the future, or whether it was some bizarre metaphor. Assuming it was in the future, it seemed like he really hadn't done much since his wife died, other than mourn and try to kill himself. He didn't end up being the rational man I had hoped. It should have ended with him curing his wife, instead of her and consequently his death. It gives an incredibly bad message that he just missed saving her.

The only good thing in the movie was the passion protrayed between Tommy and Izzy. That was really well done, the rest sucked.

Overall I give the film a D. It would have been an F if Hugh Jackman wasn't so dang good looking. :wub:

The past is clearly her book. There is a close-up of the text and it describes the following scene "in the past". She is telling him that death is endangering her (idealized by the Inquisitor), and that he is a brave knight trying to save her, who would do anything for her, and goes far away on a quest so they can continue to live side by side. The Conquistador's quest is the idealization of her husband's quest. The Queen's non-resistance of the Inquisitor (and active steps to stop the Conquistador from killing him) is her acceptance of death. You could say the scene where he has the Gran Inquisitor in his sights and is pulled back by one of her servants is representative of the key "will you take a walk with me?" scene. The part where he has to fight the rebelling soldiers is representative of having to face the opposition of others to trying to save her. The future scenes are not quite as clearly imaginary, but it makes little to no difference if they are.

I don't think this movie has "potential" which was wasted with cliches. I think the author knew exactly what he was doing.

Edited by andre_sanchez
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Maybe you disagree with the fact that "we will all die" is something you should accept?

Yes, I do disagree with that. The cult of death starts with accepting it's inevitability. There is nothing inevitable about death. Death is nothing more than the cessation of life, and the nature of life is not to cease. When life ceases, it has failed.

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Yes, I do disagree with that. The cult of death starts with accepting it's inevitability. There is nothing inevitable about death. Death is nothing more than the cessation of life, and the nature of life is not to cease. When life ceases, it has failed.

I think this is the source of our disagreement about this movie. I believe that you can come to terms with death without being fatalistic about it. I also think that you can accept mortality, and still look for ways to extend life spans as much as possible. This, to me, isn't so much about valuing death as coming to the realization that it exists and that you should deal with it somehow. As things stand now, there really is no way to live indefinitely. What should people do in the meantime before we reach these things? Shouldn't we find some way to cope with mortality? That last question is why I personally liked the movie. It asks these questions and says that death isn't something we should be afraid of. I've accepted the fact that I will die someday, but to debate you on this topic gets away from the movie itself and would have to go into a different thread.

-Faye

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Also, I think there is a difference between having an indefinite life span, and becoming indestructible. Even if humans were to reach a point where we have this indefinite life span, I don't think it would be possible to wipe out death completely. This is what I think of when Tommy mentions "curing" death. This is one of the reasons I've chosen to accept it. But again, if you wanted to discuss that further, it should probably be outside of this particular thread.

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******************* Spoilers ************************

I think I'll briefly answer your last question, since the first two clearly support the mysticism in the movie, which I don't agree with (and this really isn't the part I want to discuss or defend). I did mention in the topic that I didn't think it endorses this mysticism, and I'll concede that it does support it more than I previously thought. Maybe that's what you were trying to get out of me. But again, that's not really the part I'd like to discuss :smartass:

You and many people have asked why Izzi had to die, especially right as the cure was found. This movie is primarily about mortality. I believe that mortality is a metaphysical fact. The film poses questions about how we should deal with mortality. Should we be afraid of it (I think that the Conquistador story represents a primal fear of death)? Should we try to wipe it out (as Tommy wants to do)? Or should we accept it (as Izzi does)? In my opinion, the film is about Tommy going through all three of these phases. When Izzi dies, it was to show that Tommy can't necessarily control when his wife will die. It was to push him to accept mortality. If he's able to save her, it defeats the whole purpose of this. But this seems to be were everyone else disagrees with me. Do you disagree that death is a metaphysical fact? Or maybe you're trying to say that only some people will die? I also want to reiterate from my last post that I think there's a difference between prolonging life span and death not existing.

-Faye

Edited by Faye
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Faye,

The husband/conquistador/astronaut is an objectivist hero up until the point where he gives up. If not for his heroic defiance, I wouldn't have been able to stand through the whole movie. His refusal to go take a walk with her is a beautiful act of love and demonstration of the need to have perspective. Her behaviour throughout the movie can best be described as fear-induced evasion. After having done more thought on why I felt like that, I think I understand the matter pretty clearly now. If the movie had the last few scenes replaced, it would be ranked among the best I have seen. Even Izzy's death could have been used properly, as a demonstration that human being as not omnipotent, a reminder of the tragedy of death and the importance of the husband's devotion to his work.

How would the "indestructible" robot analogy change, if instead of the robot being inevitably tied to life, the robot was inevitably tied to death? The answer is, it wouldn't change at all. Acceptance of death as a "metaphysical fact" is a denial of core objectivist principles and invalidates the whole of objectivist ethics. Objectivist ethics is grounded in the realization that in order to live, there is a way to act. If I tied your hands and feet, placed a gun to your head and said "You have 30 seconds, enjoy your life", how would you go about enjoying your life? What would your highest value be?

Edited by andre_sanchez
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Even Izzy's death could have been used properly, as a demonstration that human being as not omnipotent, a reminder of the tragedy of death and the importance of the husband's devotion to his work.

So, I thought that was what the movie was saying, personally. I definitely thought that her death was shown as a tragedy. The importance of her husband's devotion to work wasn't slighted. I saw that, in the context of the film, there were times when he should have spent more time with his wife. It doesn't seem that this was an endorsement for him not to be as dedicated to his research.

How would the "indestructible" robot analogy change, if instead of the robot being inevitably tied to life, the robot was inevitably tied to death? The answer is, it wouldn't change at all.

This doesn't make sense to me. What do you mean by inevitably tied to death? I don't see how you could make the analogy any other way.

Acceptance of death as a "metaphysical fact" is a denial of core objectivist principles and invalidates the whole of objectivist ethics. Objectivist ethics is grounded in the realization that in order to live, there is a way to act. If I tied your hands and feet, placed a gun to your head and said "You have 30 seconds, enjoy your life", how would you go about enjoying your life? What would your highest value be?

I didn't say that acceptance of death was a metaphysical fact. I said that mortality was. From your responses in the thread about mortality, I believe you're talking about human beings having an option to live or die, is that correct? I'll reiterate some of what I said there. I think that it's not only how long you live, but the quality of your life that is important in Objectivism. I could see that there would be particular situations where someone doesn't have the option to prolong their life any longer, and at this point, I don't see there being a problem with accepting death. I think that Izzi was in this situation. Did you posit the situation above as someone who still must try to act to preserve their life?

Edit:

As someone said in another thread, "The Objectivist ethics come into play, given the choice to live life". What you stated would be an emergency situation, so it's somewhat arbitrary what you decide to do.

-Faye

Edit:

Oh, in case anyone else is curious about the mortality thread I'm talking about, this is it:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=10258

Edited by Faye
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If no matter how you behave, you die, then ethics is invalidated. The primary value is not "quality of life" but -existance- of life. It's not about lenght, but the fundamental matter of yes or no, of existance or non-existance. You don't look back at your life after death to judge how good it was, compare it's lenght to it's qualitye and get a prize if you get the most points. You either live, or you die.

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