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'Fountain' Script Reviewed! Films Still Happening?

July 9, 2002: We've heard things from a few places that indicate that The Fountain may still be moving forwards, despite Variety's report last week....

Moriarty over at Aint It Cool News indicated the same, and Moriarty also posted a review for The Fountain script as promised. Moriarty really really liked the script and his review will get ya' real excited, so I have included it all here. Don't forget to check out Aint It Cool News because they have done a killer job covering this film. Here' his review: (skip it if you don't want spoilers)

THE FOUNTAIN is about love and death and the nature of this frail and precious matter we are made of. It is an epic that is concerned only with the personal impact of its incredible events. It is not about saving the world, but it is about how we will all eventually be saved.

Act one of the script is what would conventionally pass for act three in anyone elseís script. Itís grandly scaled, mind-blowing, and ambitious. We see the resolution of two separate journeys, a thousand years apart, both of them focused on the same goal: salvation from the slavery that all flesh suffers to death. In 1535, Spanish conquistadors and a priest all travel under the guidance of CAPTAIN TOMAS VERDE (Brad Pitt), in search of something mysterious deep in the heart of a Mayan jungle. In the year 2500, another Tom (also Brad Pitt) makes an even more dangerous and mystical journey. He travels with a precious cargo of enormous power, haunted by dreams of the Mayan jungle and by the ghost of a lost love. We see each of these journeys build to and then reach a crucial and seemingly final place, each of them intercut so as to illustrate fine points about the other. Thereís a really beautiful sequence on the outside of Tomís spacecraft and a terrifying moment on the steps of the temple, and on a moment of epiphany, we are transported to the year 2003.

Starting just under 30 pages into the script, act two is far more rooted in an emotional reality that we recognize. Itís set right now. TOMMY VERDE (again... Brad Pitt) works as a surgical researcher, part of a team working on advanced cancer theory. His supervisor LILLIAN (Ellen Burstyn) knows heís brilliant and make leaps of logic that somehow turn out to be right, but she is concerned that he is obsessed.

You see, Tommyís wife IZZI (Cate Blanchett) is dying. And in one of those cosmic jokes that makes you want to laugh until you scream, sheís dying of cancer. And thereís not a goddamn thing Tommy can do about it.

There is a dull ache that begins almost immediately in this section of the script, a hum of low dread underneath everything. Tommy and Izzy both are just waiting. They pretend theyíre living. They pretend that they have hope and that they can make plans and that thereís a future to believe in, but itís a cover. Theyíre waiting for Izzi to die, and they both know it. Tommy is dying in his own way as he watches her fade. He canít help Izzi physically, and it leaves him unable to help her spiritually. Izziís on a journey to peace that Tommy canít join her on, and it causes terrible silence between them. Iíve seen some speculation in our Talk Backs, impassioned and well-argued, that this film has to be about The Fountain of Youth. Itís not. I donít want to give away the key mythological symbol that Aronofsky has built his film around, but I can say that itís not the Fountain of Youth. Itís something even older, even more basic. Itís also a giant McGuffin. If you focus on what the thing is that lies in the heart of that Mayan temple... the thing in the cargo bay of the spaceship en route to a distant nebula... then you miss the import of it. This is science-fiction used to dissect the natures of our own hearts. We have a basic fear of our own flesh that we wrestle with over the course of our lives. You donít have it as a child. You are fearless. You are immortal and you know it.

Then someone corrects you. Either a relative dies or a pet or, worst of all, a parent. And you learn that not only does death exist, but that it is the end of all of us. There is no one who is allowed to slip through unscathed. Life is a process of accumulating scars, both large and small, until one of them finally kills you. Knowing that... believing that... is part of the process of maturation. We each of us make our own agreement with Death and that understanding that allows us to go on living. Some people embrace the life they have and wrench whatever sweetness from it that they can. Some people wither away in fear. And some people fight, spending their whole lives trying to find some loophole, some way to cheat the system.

In THE FOUNTAIN, we are given characters, each a mirror of another, each a product of the time and place they live, all of them dealing with Death in their own way. For example, what if you were Tommy? What if you developed a drug using a rare botanical extract and discovered that you might well have unlocked the key to turning time back and holding off Death indefinitely, if not forever? If you knew the time your wife had on Earth was limited, would you proceed with caution and go through every prescribed level of FDA testing before making this potential breakthrough available to her?

Or would you throw caution to the wind? Would you break the rules to save her life, even if you knew there was a chance you might be wrong?

One of the reasons this middle section of the script works so well is because Aronofsky has painted a convincing portrait of a couple in love. In those rare moments when Tommy forgets to be depressed, he and Izzy are quite beautiful together, sweet and funny and perfectly matched. He takes her to an exibit of Mayan relics at one point, and thereís a great sense of play between them. These two people know each other the way lovers do, and that means they have the potential to hurt each other casually and well. They know all the soft spots worth poking. Izzi fights dirty, using Tommy enormous love for her to bully him in conversations. Because sheís resigned to her fate and he isnít, sheís stronger. She doesnít reopen the wound with each fresh reminder.

Izzi is a writer, and her biggest gift to Tommy is a book that sheís almost finished. The last chapter is the only thing missing, and she leaves it in his care to do so. Tommy protests that heís not a writer, but heís missing the point. Izzi mentions something at the exhibit about the Mayan idea that death is an act of creation, and there is a transcendence to that notion that I find quite surprising in a mainstream studio picture. As we watch the national media debate the importance of ďUnder GodĒ to our Pledge of Allegiance and once again argue about the role of religious language in our daily lives, it doesnít seem like the easiest box-office road to go, crafting a film that dares to not only be serious about spiritual issues, but also inclusive. Aronofsky isnít writing about whether or not religion is right or true. Heís writing about the greater questions, the ones that religions exist to try and answer. This isnít an event film, full of explosions and special effects for the sake of it. This is a personal story, featuring characters that are designed to challenge both actors and audiences. Long stretches of this depend on the ability of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett to keep us engrossed without the aid of anything else. This isnít like REQUIEM FOR A DREAM or PI, built on overdrive. Pages go by, made up of quiet conversations, tearful late night exchanges in sterile rooms. And when the script shifts gears again, around page 70, the full demented range of Aronofksyís ambitious vision finally becomes clear, and THE FOUNTAIN becomes something that youíll either love or hate, the kind of SF film that fans always claim no studio would ever make.

Izziís book and the film itself fold into one another, and Tommy is either dragged into a vision of the past, or a memory of it, and we see what led to the conclusions of act one. Another love story is laid out, this one more heated and dangerous than the one between Tommy and Izzi, but also played by Pitt and Blanchett. Theyíve got their work cut out for them here. There are remarkable tonal shifts between the various times, and itís like three movies, all of them addressing the same ideas, all whipped into this fractured but somehow coherent whole.

Aronofsky saves a few sucker punches for the home stretch, and thereís one sequence in particular that made me both furious and heartsick at the same time. There is a cruelty to it that is totally appropriate to the story being told. Itís about perception. What one person sees as tragic timing, a horrible matter of missed minutes, another person might view as a desired step, an evolutionary jump. And its only when someone shifts their own perceptions that they are suddenly given the gift of real knowledge... set free and made powerful and given up in sacrifice all at once. Bringing the last 20 pages of this script to life will push Aronofsky further than he has ever been pushed as a filmmaker so far, and I am dying to see him try. This is one of those cases where a filmmaker has set up something terrifying for themselves, a high-wire act that will require them to work at the top of their game in order to bring to life what was written. There are echoes of Frank Millerís magnificent and underrated RONIN here, and I hope Aronofsky is able to create a visual palette that will fully realize the remarkable visions heís described. I know this film is going to cost some major coin, but itís not excessive. There are very few FX sequences, and what there is on the page is all part of the thematic fabric of the story. This is not spectacle for the sake of it. Far from it. This is a filmmaker who is daring to use the paint and the brushes in a way we havenít seen so far. Warner Bros. canít make a decision about either this or a new BATMAN/SUPERMAN film... this isnít that kind of picture, and it never will be. This is like JFK. This is like UNFORGIVEN. This is the type of film you make because it is good for your corporate soul. Read the script again before you decide whether or not you can afford the film. Thereís a message here about giving back in order to get, a message you might take to heart.

Once you do, youíll realize thereís no way you CANíT afford this film. Let us all experience the road to awe.
Come on, Warner Bros... have no fear.
(Thanks to 'Andy' and 'Moriarty')

Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are reporting that the Batman/Superman film we told you about last week is moving forwards, although Harry from Aint It Cool News reports that Batman: Year One may still happen.

Overall, a day of good Aronofsky news!
(Thanks again to 'Andy')