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*SUPER SPOILER ALERT* The Fountain interpretation
I watched "The Fountain" last night, and now I'm trying to come to terms with what it actually means. Has anybody else seen this movie? What do you guys think about it?
Check out the trailer:
I strongly urge anyone who hasn't seen the movie NOT to read this and instead watch the movie.
The entire movie is what Tommy wrote in the book after his wife’s death which, as Izzie states at one point, starts in Spain and ends in Xibalba. “Future” Tom is a character that the real Tommy introduces into the fictional story. There is only ever ONE “reality”, and that’s the reality in which Tommy struggles to find a cure for his wife’s disease, fails, and is then left to struggle with his grief, searching for meaning in life without his wife, writing the final chapter of “The Fountain” in the process. CAUTION: The part of the story where “doctor” Tommy finds a secret mayan tree that cures disease and rejuvenates the body is FICTIONAL. The Real Tommy may or may not have been a doctor (I think he probably was), but he WAS caught in a furious struggle to find a cure for his wife before she died. This is important because the idea that consuming bark from the tree of life rejuvenates, which is a key element of this story-line, runs counter to the film's own idea that death is unavoidable and must be embraced.
We first see a glimpse of reality in the scene where Tommy plants the tree on Izzie’s grave. The tree he plants ISN'T the same as the one we see in “the future” (which is actually fictional), this one is a normal seed that Tommy plants in memory to his wife. The key here is the scene in which Izzie gives Tommy the seed of the tree of life. This seed is metaphorical and represents the understanding of both the inevitability of death, and its place in the cycle of life, i.e. we all die, but in doing so we allow new life to grow. Life goes on beyond us. Tommy writes that Izzie “gives” him this knowledge, expressing gratitude to his wife after finally having found some sense in her premature death. After writing this scene, Tommy takes a seed (possibly a mayan tree seed, not magical or anything) and plants it on Izzie's grave, a symbolic gesture of both acceptance of her death and of hope that some part of her will live on through the new tree... This act finds its place in fictional Tom's story. He too plants a seed on his wife's grave, but THIS tree IS the mythical tree of life and his planting it there, instead of symbolizing acceptance, symbolizes denial of death as natural. It also serves as the nexus between Dr. Tommy to Future Tom, explaining how Tom came to live so long, and establishing the connection between Izzie and the tree (since it grows out of her grave and essentially IS her).
As for the other instances of Tommy: Tomás is Izzie’s original character in The Fountain, a romantic interpretation of her own husband, her “Conquistador” always off trying to conquer death.
Future Tom is the character that Tommy introduces into the book “The Fountain”, and is actually the same as the fictional Dr. Tommy. In THIS section of the book, Future Tom “awakens” from the scene in which Tomás is about to die (the last part that Izzie wrote), and whispers to himself “almost”. Both the apparet cyclical endlessness of his situation and the words he utters are symbolic of his own frustrated insistence to find an adequate conclusion to Izzie’s story, find a cure for Izzie’s disease, and a cure for Death. In Tommy’s story, Future Tom has kept himself alive for ages (a clear reference to the real Tommy’s own prolonged grief after Izzie’s death), in the hopes of finding a way to eradicate Death and bring Izzie back. He manages to stay alive by eating the bark from the tree of life, which he originally discovered as a doctor (remember, this is all fictional) and which he had hoped would cure Izzie. The tree is both a "false" symbol" of eternal rejuvenation (because it's based on a flawed understanding of what "eternal life" actually means) and a reference to the memory of Izzie herself. The situation (Tom staying alive by eating its bark) is allegorical of Tommy’s own situation as he sees it: He subsists on the memory of his deceased wife. His quest to eradicate Death is, of course, symbolic of Tommy’s own refusal to accept death as a natural part of life. So… there’s a level of recursion here: Real Tommy’s real wife left him an unfinished book, and in this unfinished book Tommy writes about Tom, who’s wife also left him an unfinished book, and who is locked in an eternal struggle to both finish the book , and find a cure for Death. Tom is confronted with his wife's unavoidable death just as he discovers a means for eternal youth, and then comes face to face with his own fear of dying, symbolically represented when he sees his older self lying on his death bed in the hospital. Tom eventually comes to terms with the fact that death is inevitable when he fully consumes the tree of life, while still falling short of reaching his destination: Xibalba and the end of time, where the cycle would renew and he would be able to continue living, thus becoming immortal. In accepting death, he is finally capable of finishing the original story: In the fictional present Dr. Tom lays aside his frantic search for a cure and instead accompanies his wife to watch the first snow of winter. In Izzie's story, The Mayan Priest stops short of bludgeoning Tomás, and by the light of the fire catches a glimpse of the First Man within Tomás, who is also the Last Man (Tom). I'm not entirely clear on the meaning of this, but it's compatible with the circular symbolism. Anyway, The priest sacrifices himself, allowing Tomás to reach the tree of life. Ecstatic he gorges himself on the sap of the tree, mistakenly believing that it restores health. However, the tree doesn’t restore health, it creates new life. In so doing it ensures “eternal life,” not through the continued existence of a single individual, but through the ongoing process of life; of which the individual is an indivisible part. This is meant as a moment of insight, and a culmination to Izzie's story. There is no “living forever” for anyone, there is only Life itself, which doesn’t stop when one person dies, but rather multiplies itself. Having finished the story, Tom is ready to accept his own fate. He looks into the light of the dying Xibalba, and is obliterated by the star's explosion. In Xibalba’s death the Tree of Life is rejuvenated, allowing for the cycle of life to continue beyond death (another reference to the cyclical and eternal nature of life), while in death (or possibly rebirth) Tom is reunited with his wife....
The themes in the movie are very interesting, very human and more profound than what you find in movies these days. The movie is ambiguous (I don't think this is intentional) in its narrative, but very clear in its imagery... You might say it speaks to you not in narration, but in the use of color and visual symbolism. One clear example of this is the movie's transition from dark to light: It starts off in a dark jungle, and ends in a shower of golden cosmic light. Another is the recurrence of the tree of life as a symbol of eternal life, immortality (which the movie will show is not the same) and rejuvenation. ANOTHER is the static, "inescapable" situations in which the characters find themselves (in their constant and frantic attempt to avoid the unavoidable), and how this contrasts to the dynamic resolution once these characters accept their fates. Yet another is the circular symbolism associated with life out of death and death as a part of life.
As a narrative... the movie is jumbled, unclear and not very dynamic. While the main (and really only) character experiences a measure of growth, this growth is very obscure, and largely relegated to symbolic imagery at the end of the movie, the rest of it being an exploration of his own grief and denial.... It could have been told better.
The reason I include a secondary "real" Tommy who is writing the story in my interpretation, which might seem superfluous, is that the story has a number of scenes that only make sense if seen from the point of view of a larger narration: Tommy confronting his older self as a symbol for fear of death, Izzie symbolically giving Tommy the seed of the tree of life, Tom suddenly finding his ring at the base of the tree, despite the fact that he lost it in the operating room. The idea that the entire movie is itself the narration that Tommy writes gives sense to these scenes. Also, the "shape" of the story conforms with the idea since, as Izzie states, the story begins in Spain and ends in Xibalba. What I get from this is that Tommy is trying to finish his wife's story while respecting to her wish of how the story should end.
One thing that can be jarring, but which is ultimately a catalyst for contemplation is how utterly absurd the "Future" part of the story seems, and its apparent disconnection from the rest of the narrative. I literally laughed out loud and whispered a small "WTF" under my breath upon witnessing the final sequence. But ultimately I have to admit that if it weren't for this incongruity, the movie wouldn't have so powerfully motivated me to try and understand it. And anyway, the connection is RIGHT THERE... you just have to look hard enough to see it... I can't help but judge this requirement the movie makes of its viewer, its insistence that he THINK about the situation before he can experience the pay-off of understanding the narrative, as a good thing (whether it's intentional or simply bad storytelling)... I do this begrudgingly, since at first I felt cheated that the movie wouldn't give me a fluent narrative that explained everything succinctly and directly. I guess I've been watching too many hollywood movies.
FINAL NOTE: I accept that my interpretation is only one of many plausible interpretations, and by no means wish to imply that my constructed view of the movie is somehow the same as the author's.... Although I hope it comes close xD.
Last edited by VMLM on Tue Jan 07, 2014 3:43 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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