Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky/ Kent Williams)
It all started when Nick called for help in choosing his next purchase among the graphic novels before him. I asked him what his options were. At the mention of Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, I totally tuned out the rest. In the end, Nick bought me a copy of my own, and it was the first birthday present I received this year.
Thing is, I've been meaning to watch the film when I first heard the story. How Mr. Aronofsky first cast Brad Pitt to star in this surreal, multi-dimensional quest to save a life, and how he had to subsequently pack up when the star walked away from the project. I missed the screening when it was released in Manila, and up until now, I still haven't gotten around to seeing it.
Thank goodness for the graphic novel, though. I found Kent Williams' art a fitting complement to Mr. Aronofsky's tale(s?). Isabella, Queen of Spain, sends her captain Tomas to the mystic land of Chetumal for the Tree of Life, in defiance of the Church. Their story, fact or fiction, is the subject of present-day Izzi Creo's novel. Izzi is dying of cancer while her research scientist husband Tommy slices open monkeys to find a cure. Does she die? Ask Tommy who, in the far future, is floating through space with the Tree of Life. In a bubble. Towards a star about to go supernova. All throughout this interweaving of lives, Mr. Williams' art does an admirable job of keeping up. It turns striking and bloody as the conquistadores duke it out with the Church and the Mayans, sparse and monochromatic during Izzi's battle with cancer, soft and lush when Tommy turns Zen in space.
But The Fountain survives more on the mood it envokes rather than the clarity of its narrative, which is hardly the point anyway. Visually and emotionally, it is multi-layered and ambitious, yet it communicates on a very personal level. Tommy's struggle with Izzi's sickness, in particular, impresses upon the reader a moment of pure heartbreak: a missing ring. At the heart of The Fountain is the survival of love: the strength to face death and embrace life in spite of it. 'Welcome the pain,' it exhorts, but without any cynicism or bitterness or emo-artiste-pathos.
Personally, there is much to celebrate today, and the graphic novel only serves to drive the point further home. So laugh. Cry. Live. Die. Rejoice. It leaves behind a message of hope which is perhaps, in the end, the nicest present of all. Have a nice life, you.