After more than a decade of failure or renegade moonlighting (including a spell as a boxer), Rourke re-enters that well-lit hoosegow, Hollywood. The Wrestler , a Rocky -ish melodrama redeemed mainly or solely by Rourke's performance, is directed by, of all people, Darren Aronofsky. After Pi , Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain - a geek masterwork about maths, an existential drugs tragedy and a film about time and metaphysics - Aronofsky must have decided, "I'll make one for the airheads."
I have no comment on The Wrestler, as I haven't seen it, but I've seen the other three Aronofsky movies Andrews mentions (the first and third of which were also written or co-written by Aronofsky), and liked them all, particularly the third one Andrews mentions, The Fountain.
The action of The Fountain (2006) takes place in three different story lines/time lines: in one, a Spanish conquistador (played by Hugh Jackman) searches for the Fountain of Youth/Tree of Life in Central America for his queen (played by Aronofsky's wife, Rachel Weisz); in the second story line, Jackman plays a scientist in the present day searching for a cure for brain cancer in a rare compound extracted from a tree in Central America, while his wife, played by Weisz, is dying from brain cancer; in the third story line, Jackman is a sort of futuristic, yogic astronaut, traveling with the Tree of Life to a distant nebula representing the Mayan underworld. Reviews for The Fountain were mixed, but here is an excerpt from Glenn Kenny's four-star review in Premiere:
The Fountain is probably the deftest stories-within-stories narrative film I've seen since the very different 1965 Polish film The Saragossa Manuscript (itself based on an early 19th-century novel). By The Fountain's end, the multilayered meta-narrative (which Aronofsky co-conceived with Ari Handel) resolves (or does it?) into a kind of diegetic Möbius strip, to stunning effect.
This may all sound kind of dry and cerebral, and the fact that Aronofsky is currently being compared to Stanley Kubrick (and this film in particular to 2001: A Space Odyssey) no doubt adds to that impression. Aronofsky's work certainly resembles Kubrick's in terms of conceptual audacity and meticulousness of execution (Aronofsky's prior feature, 2000's Requiem for a Dream, showcased a scattershot deployment of a fecund visual facility; here he's got his formidable apparatus under control), but Aronofsky is a romantic with a capital "R," which Kubrick was certainly not. As it happens, each one of these tales is also a love story, and The Fountain is Aronofsky's profession of faith concerning love's place in the idea of eternity. It's a movie that's as deeply felt as it is imagined.
Below is the trailer for The Fountain. Watch it with the volume on your computer turned on to get a sample of Clint Mansell's score, which fits the film perfectly. Incidentally, due to budget constraints, the special effects in The Fountain included almost no CGI.