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Kaleidoscope of confusion

The Fountain offers small answers to big questions

The wisdom of the world is on full display in the latest effort of writer/director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Pi), The Fountain (rated R for violence and sexuality). Telling the tale of one love through three lifetimes, it jumps from 16th-century Europe where Tomas and Isabel battle the Inquisition to modern America where Tommy and Izzy battle cancer to 26th-century space where Tom the astronaut floats in a bubble and battles himself.

While that may sound like the makings of an intriguing romance, it isn't. Instead, The Fountain is a collection of psychedelic images that will leave all but the most throwback of hippies lost and irritated.

In a film filled with more symbols than the Chinese alphabet, one of the most contrived is the couple's surname, "Creo"-Spanish for "I believe." Thomas (Hugh Jackman), a medical researcher, believes that, given enough time, he can save his tumor-ridden wife. The dying Izzy (Rachel Weisz), a writer, believes in an amalgamation of religious teachings that include Mayan myths about the underworld, the Old Testament account of the Garden of Eden, and Eastern nature worship.

To show her husband that her impending death is merely a passageway to new life, Izzy writes a fable about a Spanish conquistador who travels to the New World in search of a tree that will save both queen and country. On its face, her moral isn't necessarily a problem for Christians, but the film's notion that all religions lead to a blissful afterlife-as evidenced by the future hairless Thomas floating in lotus position-is.

The film comes in at 95 minutes, yet it makes scant use of even that time, filling scene after scene with confusing (though often beautiful) kaleidoscopic visuals and not nearly enough plot. What Aronofsky obviously means to be profound comes off as so much self-reverential art-house hooey. After looking for answers in all places, his meditation on life's biggest questions says little about love and even less about death.