Fountain, The (2006): Aronofsky Fable, Starring Rachel Weisz

Darren Aronofsky is a talented director whose career I have followed with great interest ever since I saw his debut, the ultra-modest but smart black-and-white puzzle Pi, a sci-fi about a mathematical genius, at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, where he won the Best Director Award.

Aronofsky then made “Requiem for a Dream,” an impressive tapestry that interweaves three stories about the nature of drug addiction.  That picture won a Best Actress nomination for Ellen Burstyn, who is also in his new movie, “The Fountain.”

“The Fountain,” his third film, might be his biggest and most ambitious project to date. It could be described as a temporal sci-fi thriller. The new film’s scope is certainly impressive. The story is set in three time zones: past (sixteenth century Spain), present (US), and future.

In interviews, Aronofsky has described himself more as a “tapestry maker” than a moviemaker, weaving all the things that interest him when he works on a particular project. “The Fountain” is based on three intriguing ideas: The “Matrix” movies, Spanish conquisadors, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” and neuro-science,” a pretty eclectic mix. Jointly, they have inspired him to make a personal, meditative film about love and death.

Rachel Weisz, the British actress who can be seen this season to an advantage in “The Constant Wife” (as Ralph Fiennes’ political activist wife), and who is Aronofsky’s fiance plays three vastly different roles: A modern day woman dying of cancer named Izzi, a sixteenth century Spanish Queen Isabella, and a space traveler also named Izzi. In the movie, Weisz is married to Hugh Jackman, who is trying to find the fountain of youth so that he can save her.

Most people still associate Weisz with her role as the sexy librarian in the cheesy “The Mummy.” Navigating smoothly between stage and screen, the British-born Weisz has done independent movies as well as big studio Hollywood projects (“Runaway Jury,” and most recently the disappointing “Constantine”).

This season, Weisz benefited from the controversy over the size of her role in “Constant Gardener”–whether it is a lead or a supporting turn. Focus Features promoted her in the secondary category and the very pregnant actress went on to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

Originally, the male lead was going to be played by Brad Pitt, who dropped out, thus killing what was to be a big-budget ($70 million) epic. Popular Aussie actor Hugh Jackman (“X-Men” movies), who will be seen this summer in Woody Allen’s comedy “Scoop,” is now playing the role, in a more modestly-scaled ($35 million) picture.

Cannes Film Festival was interested in showing “The Fountain,” but the movie was not ready. It will premiere at the Venice Film Fest in September.

Update

Aronofsky and fiance Weisz’s son Henry was born May 31; the couple later married.

“The Fountain” is slated for November 22 release.