The Fountain Blu-ray Review
PictureWell, the 1080p 1.85:1 image may be highly detailed and lovingly sharp, but in my opinion, it is just too dark. The Mayan sequences, specifically, are the ones that suffer the most, with some scenes just way too obscured by deep swathes of black to really see what is going on.
Colours are excellent. From the war-paint on the Mayan warriors to the fine embroidery on Queen Isobella's costumes, the transfer handles an intricate palette accurately and with vibrancy. The monkey-surgery reveals some livid scar tissue and those accused by the Spanish Inquisition are draped in suitably garish rivers of blood. When Tommy tattoos his wedding ring around his finger, stabbing with the fountain pen, a bright bubble of blood appears, and the puncture wound he receives is also horribly vivid. Another nice element is the yellow of the flaming torches or candles seen during the Mayan/Spanish sequences that are alive with crisp colour. The fantastical garden atop the temple is beautifully heralded in lush greens and bright flowers and the pure white sap of the Tree of Life is finely presented. Flesh tones are marvellous, from Tomas' swarthy Conquistador through Tommy's flushed and anxious doctor to Tom's pallid, sun-starved star-traveller. Weisz is often held in an ethereal glow, but during the present-day section, her dying Izzi exhibits the slow, inexorable paling of the skin that the cancer is doing to her.
Contrast, away from those scenes that are way too dark, is actually spot-on for most of the film. The funeral in the snow is a perfect example of pockets of black nestled amongst vast tracts of white. Transitions from light to dark - during the space travel segments, for example - are handled with precision. The future segment, and some of those revolving around the Queen, ramp up the contrast but this is purposely done to enhance the emotional significance of the scenes.
Detail is terrific. It is a shame that the jungle scenes seem to detract from the costumes and set-design because they are so dark, but otherwise, the Blu-ray disc allows for many finite and distant objects to be scrutinised closely. The chemical cosmos is wonderfully stretched across the 1.85:1 image, and the clarity on the space bubble is never less than splendid. The jungle canopy is beautifully etched with nice shading, light shining through and clear delineation. The finite bristles on the bark of the Tree that stand proud whenever Tom comes near are sharply rendered, too.
With no obvious digital errors to be seen, and only a smattering of grain seen fuzzing about against the snowy background (perhaps fittingly) during the snow walk and the funeral, The Fountain has a fine transfer, all things considered, and some of the final images of golden rebirth among the stars are breath-snatchingly gorgeous to see in Blu-ray high-resolution.
SoundIn all honesty, I wasn't blown away by the DD 5.1 track that is on offer with this BD release. For a film such as this, you would have thought that a full uncompressed track would have been infinitely more appropriate. As it stands, the mix is immersive and utilises all the speakers, though I didn't really notice anything all that special taking place in the surrounds. The sub is active from time to time but, again, doesn't deliver anything too exciting.
Dialogue and music - although I still can't recall any of the tracks that played throughout the film - dominate. Speech is always crystal clear, unless it is the slight whispers that Tom soothes the dying Tree with during the space bubble section, which are deliberately hushed and indistinct. Steerage is decent around the frontal array and the soundfield is definitely quite wide and open and natural sounding. There is a nice moment when the sound is completely removed as a shocked and dazed Tommy wanders through the city streets, and then suddenly rushes back in when he almost gets knocked down by a car. But this is not an audio mix that bombards you with anything too strenuous or spectacular. Rather it is a thoroughly consistent, warm and enveloping design that aids the visuals without trying to top them.
ExtrasWhilst there is no commentary from Aronofsky, or the stars, there are still a fair number of extras to help explore the world behind The Fountain.
The first you will encounter is entitled The Interview. This is a 13-minute talk between Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz ... well, Weisz is more the one asking the questions and Jackman is amazingly deep and philosophical as he articulately discusses his reasons for doing the film and his take on the unique subject matter. Curiously, the piece is set entirely in the makeup room and during a period when Jackman, freshly scalped and with exposed dome gleaming under the lights, is having his future Tom tattoos applied up and down his arms. A nice little expose of the actor's feelings and thoughts, this is probably better not watched before seeing the film, though.
Then we get VFX-Step by Step. This is a look at six of the major effects sequences as we see them beautifully broken down into the various elements that compose them. Set to the film's score, this is a smart featurette showcasing storyboards, pre-viz, green-screen footage, miniature-work and copious CG tweakings. And lots of Jackman's baldy head!
Inside The Director's Mind: Scene to Storyboard Comparison. Again set to Mansell's score, this montage features copious black and white drawings segueing into black and white footage from the finished film. There is no narration but there are occasional sound fx and dialogue from the film incorporated, as well as few pre-viz shots and CG composites. After a couple of moments and chronological scene-changes, I actually thought that this was going to play almost the entire movie in this fashion, so closely was it following the finished film but, in the end, it runs for 15.25 mins.
Then we move deeper Inside The Fountain with Death and Rebirth - a gallery of six featurettes exploring the film's various time periods and settings. With a Play All Option (stretching the docs out to over an hour), this lengthy and comprehensive making of takes the form of a location by location diary of the film's production and is appropriately fly-on-the-wall. We get to see many of the scenes being filmed, some footage of Aronofsky's research trip to Guatemala to look at pyramids and there are lots of talking head interviews with cast and crew caught between takes. The magnificent lighting and camerawork from Matthew Libatique gets good coverage and Aronofsky's filming style gets plenty of airtime as do the many effects sequences. A very comprehensive background look at the production and well worth your time to view, folks.
And then, as well as the film's theatrical trailer, we get Peter Parks Bonus - Macro Photography Loop. This is a glorious screensaver-type of thing that, sans any verbal explanation from the effect-creator of Parks, himself - we get that in the bigger making of - presents us with 4.43 mins of entrancing, mesmerising chemical reactions set to a lulling piano piece. Nice.
A very good, stylish and informative selection of extras that add a to the overall package and the film, itself.
VerdictSo, there you go. Aronofsky's third film is bound to bamboozle and delight in equal measure. I adore the message contained within it and the two magnificent performances from the leads, but I can't help feeling that the narrative structure, however clever and imaginative it is, is still an Achilles Heel that foxes and infuriates. For me, personally, the mood was marvellously melancholy and the sombre set-pieces memorable and haunting, but there will inevitably be people out there who find the tone and feel of the movie unaccommodating, aloof and isolating.
The BD release is a good one. The transfer is fine and the extras are well-worth a look. Overall, The Fountain is a majestic experience that is leaps and bounds ahead of most of the average fantastical fare out there at the moment. Only nominally sci-fi - in fact, only in the visual look of what, essentially, is perhaps nothing more than a metaphorical dream and/or emotion within the mind of one character - the movie is, nevertheless, still a mind-blowing voyage of obsession and acceptance. It is sad that the film polarizes audiences so much, because the story is acutely relevant to us all and achingly poignant. It doesn't set out to confuse or confound, merely to confront.
Very highly recommended.
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