Personal Films: The Seventh Seal and The Fountain


by dante.

The below article is pulled from a 2006 Opinions article I wrote for my school University newspaper, "The Chimes". Being a private, Christian school, the piece is geared towards a Christian audience. The sentiment, however, remains true. 

The response to Darren Aronofsky's new film, "The Fountain", has so far, been tepid at best.  Currently it holds a Rottentomatoes score of 48%, which is indeed considered rotten.  Undoubtedly, it will end up costing more than it will ever earn.  Soon enough its name will quietly fade into the ever-expanding list of dramas at Blockbuster Video.  This is a pity.

What we have in "The Fountain" is a visual account of the great fears and ponderances of a man in his thirties artfully articulating his own anxiety of death.  What is death?  Where will it take us, and how does it work?  The film is a breathtaking work that was made in much the same vain as Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal", which forced the viewer to acknowledge the inevitability of death for everyone everywhere eventually, ungracefully.  The plot of "The Fountain" roughly follows the frantic struggles of one man through various embodiments in time, desperately grasping for immortality.  Through different avenues in time, our protagonist seeks everlasting life by exploiting the 'tree of life' as documented in the book of Genesis' Garden of Eden.  From thence on, the plot of the film is up for debate.  But what is important about the film, what is of surmounting impact, is that the filmmaker is worried about this death thing.

The question that death raises quickly bring us to the mysteries of all of life.  With death shall come some form of understanding, and so, the conquest of death would mean comprehension of our purpose on earth while we are still young.  This then becomes a rather grandiose concept.  Despite its grandeur, or perhaps, because of its grandeur, the discouraging reality is then sadly revealed that most people don't seem to care about it.  This is true of both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Perhaps an obvious answer to this harrowing reality of apathy is that Christians are assured that with death comes life eternal; nothing to sweat about.  Non-Christians, I suppose, either expect some form of happy afterlife, or are resigned to understanding death as an inevitable nothingness.  In either situation, the argument maintains that death is not a matter for much concern or consternation. 

Greg Koukl, a renown Christian apologist, wrote on his "Stand to Reason" blog that his greatest fear is that, "I could be right about God's judgment, but wrong about His mercy."  Surely passages such as John 3:16 assure us that God will indeed deliver us from our own damnation, but the thought may still be useful to us.  As Christians, the idea brings home the horrible (and I say 'horrible' in the sense of the sheer immensity of its scope) reality that awaits so many of our friends and family.  Justice will fall on mankind, and God's judgment will be vast.

For everyone, there remains in front of us a great finality in death.  Once death comes, there is no more room for grace; what's done is done.  This brings a sudden sense of immediacy to what we do here.


I applaud men like Darren Aronofsky and Ingmar Bergman, for spending time tinkering with death's consequence.  It can only be good for them, for in contemplation of our own demise, we are forced to focus on the decisions we have made, and those we are still yet to make.  These men forced themselves to see life as one movement, one artistic expression, and hopefully, if we observe their journeys closely, so will we.