The Fountain

Rated 3.0

Writer-director Darren Aronofsky strains for the mode of coolly cerebral sci-fi that would rather not be called sci-fi, preferring instead to hover above genre crudities and beyond comprehension. He hasn’t achieved the unsettling resonance of a 2001 or a Solaris, but has managed to leave critics speechless and shaking their heads and staring at each other desperately. So it can’t be all bad. The Fountain is basically a melodrama wrapped in an enigma and wrenched into an unwieldy narrative. It involves an immortal yet chronically vulnerable romance, with overtones of what one character calls “death as an act of creation.” Overseas DVD bootlegs might consider the still literal but more helpful title Three Hugh Jackmans, the Tree of Life and the Dying Wife. Jackman’s commitment is more interesting than his thrice-incarnated character, a 16th-century conquistador, present-day medical researcher and 26th-century space traveler. His queen, wife and muse are played unevenly by Rachel Weisz, who is married to Aronofsky. You can judge for yourself whether a money shot of semenesque tree-sap is a proper payoff, but the movie is at least texturally rich, tonally consistent (brooding, always) and much fussed over by its maker.