DVD Review: The Fountain

Warner
Movie ••• Picture •• Sound ••• Extras ••
A work of genius or pretentious junk? This provocative movie about the search for eternal life and the acceptance of death as part of life has tended to polarize viewers and critics alike. When I saw it in the theater, I just let The Fountain wash over me, so I could enjoy its visual beauty. Sadly, this is rarely possible with the disappointing DVD.

The film is made up of three intertwining stories. One concerns a 16th-century conquistador hunting for the tree of life in order to please Queen Isabella. The second is about a present-day scientist trying to find a cure that will save the life of Izzi, his dying wife. And in the third story, a sort of spiritual astronaut journeys to a dying nebula, accompanied by the ghost of Izzi. Each time, the man is played by Hugh Jackman, the woman by Rachel Weisz. This ought to provide continuity, but it actually causes more confusion.

Unfortunately, the film's beauty is only hinted at in this DVD transfer, which is far too dark and murky, with brighter scenes sometimes looking grainy and coarse. Overall, images are flat when they really need to have a three-dimensional sense of space.

The sound is decent. Music is well recorded, with a lot of separation between instruments - and though many key lines in the film are whispered, the soundtrack still conveys them with clarity. Dynamic range is good, with solid, focused bass here and there.

A director's commentary with Darren Aronofsky explaining how he felt about various scenes and the film in general would have certainly added to the disc. All we get is a collection of six featurettes (exploring the periods and settings of the film), which look like they were shot as home movies. [R] English and French, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.

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