The Fountain – A Different Kind of Ghost Story

The Fountain(As first scene on Beyond Fiction)

I am a very spiritual person by nature. I believe in the power of the human mind. Our every thought, our every feeling, from ‘what do I want for supper tonight?’ to ‘ouch, I just stubbed my toe’ is a series of electrical charges running up and down our nervous system like lightning in a bottle. There are people in life where just being in the same room with them winds you up or brings you down. We normally label it charisma. You can walk into a place and feel at peace or scared. It’s all about the energy. If you have energy that’s strong enough, it can leave an impression, like the negative of a photograph. We can wave it away with science now if you want, but it’s that afterimage that we call “ghosts”.

As a child, I was always seeing ghosts, or having prophetic dreams, or other such things that freaked out my superstitious Grandmother, among my other family members. That said, I don’t believe that spirituality really has anything to do with our human fascination with ghost stories. Ghost stories fascinate so many of us for so many different reasons, but most ghosts stories in media share a common theme, and I believe it’s that theme that inspires our interest. Spirits become for us not only the answer to the question “What comes after this life?,” but more importantly the question of “Will I be remembered?”.

The plotline of almost any ghost story has an aspect of it. Ghost is about a man dying, but staying to protect his lover and avenge his murder. Flatliners is about a group try to study the afterlife and bringing back their personal demons. Sixth Sense is about a boy learning why the ghosts come to him, ultimately to solve their problems so they can rest. The Ring, The Grudge, and so many other films like them, are about getting justice and revenge. The common thread, the common theme, is justice, redemption, setting things right. They aren’t about the dead as much as they are about wish-fulfillment. In that way, that wish fulfillment, highlights the fact that people can be haunted by memories the way their character avatars get haunted by spirits. No movie, I think, plays that as poignantly as The Fountain, with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.

The Fountain is a movie with three plots set in three different time periods. The oldest plot is about Tomas, a Conquistador searching for the Tree of Life for his Queen Isabel, who is under siege. The “present day” plot is about Dr. Tommy, an oncologist researching desperately searching for a cure to the same type of cancer his wife, Izzy, has. The third shows a biosphere space ship travelling to a nebula with Tom and a tree, whom he talks to, with the ‘ghost’ of Izzy haunting him. Haunting or hunting, one way or another, each version of Tom, is ever searching for the secret of life over death, while Izzy or Isabel seeks simply life.

It’s the search for redemption, to make the wrong things right, be they in war, or against disease, or personal failure, that drives the main male character in each of the plots. The female protagonist in each of the plots doesn’t seek to run from but toward the inevitability of the end. A few arc words in the movie, spoken over and over, “Death is the road to awe,”. It becomes the ultimate message. Death as creation. However, it’s also that the past can haunt us so much that no matter how long we live or how far we go to avoid it, it will make itself known until we put everything right within ourselves.

In the strictest sense, the The Fountain isn’t a traditional ghost story. However, since it shares with traditional ghost stories that theme of the near-eternal search for redemption until all the wrong things are made right, it makes you forget that it’s not. It may not, in essence, but about a haunting, but the effect is that it haunts you far beyond. You may need to watch it twice or three times to catch all the subtly of it, but each time you are brought closer to closure and, perhaps, closer to awe.

1 Comment

  1. Minion says:

    I love this movie and you have an interesting point of view. I never thought of it as a ghost story but it makes sense. I agree with possibly needing to watch it more than once. I watch it every chance I think about it. o/

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *