A tribute, and a map, to Darren Aronofsky's film The Fountain, as best as I could figure it. The large coil is "historical" time, where (I think) the conquistador, Tomas, is resurrected as the doctor or research scientist Tom. Through his research, Tom cures the "disease" of death and continues to live as a immortal "monk"-like character. The arrows mark escapes or possible escapes from the cycle of suffering. The black lines chart the path the film takes, jumping from one life to another.
Select a portion of the film summary to highlight it's position on the map, or vice versa. Click the thumbnails for a larger ziew.
Long summaries Filmmaking notes Show thumbnails
zoom [Movie starts] Tomas, a conquistador, is praying in the forest before going into battle at a Mayan temple. He recalls the queen of Spain giving him a ring and sending him on this mission. As he approaches the temple, his remaining soldiers desert him and he goes up against a pack of Mayan warriors alone. They knock him down, disarm him, remove his armor, and then send him up the temple steps to fight the cheif warrior at the top. Tomas is attacked with a deadly blow. Tomas, a conquistador prays before attacking a Mayan temple, where he is apparently killed.
zoom A meditating cellestial being ("monk") awakens from a vision of a previous life, that of Tomas the conquistador. The monk wakes up.
zoom The monk travels toward a nebulla with the Tree of Life. The monk is floating through dark space along with the ancient, gnarled Tree of Life inside of a large bubble. They are rising upward toward a distant nebula. The Monk assures the tree that they'll make it. He sees a brief vision of Izzi, the wife of Tom the doctor, who whispers, "Finish it". The monk ignores her and eats a small peice of the tree’s bark, which he is using to stay alive. [This scene has an amazing shot of the monk levitating and doing a slow backflip before landing. Also, an inverted shot of the bubble flying toward the nebula that is framed to match 2 other inverted traveling shots later in the film. Also, the shot with the tree’s hairs responding to the monk with static electricity.]
zoom The vision of Izzi becomes stronger, making the monk relive a moment from that previous life.[Terrific shot/reverse-shots of the monk as the doctor in his office, but still bald.]
zoom Izzi urges Tom, the doctor or research scientist, to "Take a walk with me" during the first snow, but he refuses due to work.
zoom Tom refusing to walk with Izzi becomes the monk refusing and supressing the vision of Izzi.
zoom The monk continues through space, adds a tattoo to his arm. While waiting for the time when they reach the nebula, the monk performs Tai Chi, then tattoos a ring onto his arm. He has been accumulating these rings down his arm for a long time, marking the years the way tree rings do. He uses the pen given to him by Izzi.
zoom The monk reconsiders and follows Izzi. The monk sees another vision of Izzi, first in a hospital bed, then urging him to "Finish It". The monk reconsiders and follows Izzi into the vision.
zoom Tom chooses his reserach over a walk with Izzi. He tries a compound from the Tree of Life on a monkey's tumor. Izzi urges Tom to "Walk with me", but he refuses because he's about to perform surgery. She leaves angrily and Tom must decide to follow her out or go into surgery. He goes into surgery, an experimental procedure to supress cancer in a monkey named Donovan. The procedure doesn't work. He get an idea [One of Aronofsky's signature inspiration moments. The frustrated doctor, looks up and sees melting snow in a skylight, which gives him an idea...] to use a compound they found in a tree in Quatemala. The revised plan goes well, but he gets criticized by his boss for recklessness and loses his wedding ring as well. Later at home [Opening shot of a Mayan temple. It's not clear at first that it's a picture hung on the wall, since a bird flies across the screen, but that's actually their pet parrot.] , stargazing with Izzi at the nebula named Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. Izzi can't feel cold.
(Fade to monk.)
zoom The monk continues to approach the nebula.
zoom (Crossfade to doctor.) [Match cut, tree's bark to Izzi's skin in the bath.]
zoom Izzi looses sensitivity to hot and cold. The monkey is getting younger, but still has a tumor. Tom gives Izzi a warm bath, but she can't feel the heat, meaning her cancer has gotten worse. Izzi wants Tom to read her unfinished novel, but he has to go in to work. [Inverted travelling shot of Tom driving to work, which matched a shot of the monk rising and the conquistador riding into battle later.] Donovan's aging is reversed, but there's no change in the tumor, which is Tom's only interest. He goes home to Izzi, sleeping.
zoom Tom begins reading Izzi's novel.
zoom Tomas is sent to "New Spain" to find the Tree of Life. "Chapter One: Spain is on fire" during the Inquisition. The grand inquisitor [Dir. commentary on the flogging scene: "Those are real open wounds. [Stephen McHattie is] that kind of actor."] persecutes supporters of the queen. Tomas almost attempts an assasination, but the queen calls him to meet with the Father Avila and sends both on a mission to find the Tree of Life in "New Spain" (Guatemala). The inquisitor's true motive is to prevent Spain from finding the Tree of Life. The queen gives Tomas a ring and promises to "be your Eve" when he returns.
zoom Tommy has dozed off while reading Izzi's novel, but dropping the novel awakens him.
zoom Tommy meets Izzi at a museum. Izzi faints. Tommy meets Izzi at a Mayan exhibition at the museum where he learns of the Mayan's First Man, the Tree of Life, Xibalba and "death as an act of creation." Izzi faints.
Fade from Tommy to monk.
zoom Breif shot of monk rising.
zoom [Matched crossfaded overhead shots.] Monk to doctor, Tommy, pacing in hospital.
zoom Tom continues his cancer research. Izzi accepts death and asks Tom to finish her novel. Izzi is in the hospital, but she isn't affraid of death. [Tommy walks to work in a scene with heavy use of subjective sound, a nod to Kirosawa's Ikiru (Dir. commentary).] Tommy is pressured to research Donovan's reversed aging, but he remains focused on cancer, in hopes of curing Izzi. Izzi gives Tommy a pen and ink set and asks him to finish her novel ("Finish it"). Izzi isn't affraid of death, citing the Mayan idea that "Death is the road to awe." Tommy can't hear it.
zoom Fade from Tommy and Izzi to monk and tree. [Sort of a match cut from overhead shot of Tommy and Izzi hugging to the monk's bubble. Following that, a scene in the monk's bubble, with Izzi and the hospital bed.]
zoom The monk has almost made it to Xibalba. The monk, almost in the nebula, eats more bark from the tree to stay alive and assures the tree "We're almost there." He believes that reaching Xibalba will grant them eternal life.
zoom Cut back to Tommy in the hospital, as if he woke up from dream.
zoom Tommy waits with Izzi in the hospital and decides to read more of her novel.
zoom Tommy continues reading Izzi's novel.
zoom Tomas has almost reached the temple. He quells a mutiny then prays before battle. In the Mayan forest, Father Avila knows where the temple is, but Tomas's disenchancted compatriot, Ariel, kills Avila in hopes of ending the quest. Tomas kills him and several other mutinous soldiers, leaving two who agree to push forward with him. Tomas prays to a lock of the queen's hair before battle.
The monk awakens from Tomas's story.
zoom Breif shot of the monk awakening.
zoom A heart rate monitor alarm pulls Tommy away from his reading. Izzi's in trouble.
zoom Izzi dies. Tommy finds out Donovan's tumor is shrinking, but it's too late.
zoom Cut from doctor to monk. [Tommy's breath turns cold, leading to a match cut with the monk.]
zoom The monk realizes the tree is dying.
zoom Seeds from the tree fall to gound, becoming snow from the funeral scene.
zoom Izzi's funeral. Tommy storms off, then realizes that "death is a disease."
zoom White snow to Mayan's torch flame. White crossfade from snow to Mayan warrior's torch flame. (Presumably, Tommy returns home and continues reading the novel.)
zoom Tomas is attacked with a deadly blow.
zoom Tommy reaches to end of Izzi's unfinished novel. Tommy reaches the end of chapter 11, and the end of Izzi's writing. "All he could see was death." The final chapter isn't written yet.
zoom Tommy weeps and tattoos a wedding ring onto his finger. Tommy reaches the end of Izzi's novel so far. She asked him to write the final chapter. He weeps, and uses the pen and ink set Izzi gave him to tattoo a black band where his lost wedding ring should be.
zoom Match cut from Tommy's tattoo to the monk's ring tattoos.
zoom The monk has ring tattoos running up both arms. The monk has the same ring tattoo as Tommy, as well as many ring tattoos running up both arms, apparently accumulated over many years.
zoom Cut to Tommy storming into the research lab.
zoom Tommy continues his research on the compound that seems to stop death. He refuses to take time to mourn Izzi's death.
zoom Tommy looks up at skylight, match cut to nebula.
zoom The tree dies. The monk mourns. Izzi and the queen help him accept death. The monk has almost reached the nebula, but the tree is dead. He weeps and has visions of both Izzi and the queen of Spain. They both urge him to "Finish it" (the story) he doesn't know how, but they both assure him, "You do. You will." [The editing here jumps around a lot very quickly, more than the chart shows. There are many cuts to memories of Izzi.] The monk comes to accept that "I'm gonna die." Visions of Izzi and the queen assure him that "together we will live forever."
zoom Izzi takes the monk back to Tommy's original decision. The monk follows a vision of Izzi back, once again, to the original decision of whether to work, or to "Take a walk" with Izzi.
zoom Tommy chooses to walk with Izzi instead of work. Tommy has a second chance to either work or spend time with Izzi. This time he goes with Izzi.
zoom Match cut from Tommy running toward Izzi to the monk running toward the tree.
zoom The monk begins falling into Xibalba. The monk runs up the tree and levitates up through the membrane of his bubble-ship, forming a separate bubble falling into the nebula.
zoom Fade to conquistador. [Three-way match cut with 1: the monk's "third eye", 2: the nebula, and 3: the Mayan warrior's headdress silhouetted against the sun.]
zoom Tomas is attacked with a deadly blow.
Cut to the monk.
zoom The monk is at peace approaching the nebula. He hears the words, "Finish it." [In this shot, Jackman's body was shot underwater, but his head was shot above water. (Dir. commentary)]
Cut back to the conquistador, after the deadly blow from the Mayan warrior.
zoom The monk appears before the Mayan warrior, who lets him pass. Tomas drinks from the tree, which kills him. The Mayan warrior does not kill the conquistador, because at the last moment, the conquistador appears as the monk, levitating in lotus position. The warrior recognizes him as the Mayan's "First Father" and drops his weapon. The warrior offers his life as a sacrifice. The conquistador is confused, but he proceeds to kill the warrior and pass him into the temple with the Tree of Life. He greedily drinks the sap of the tree. Instead of renewing his life, he is consumed by new life, as plants grow from his body and kill him.
zoom The monk recovers the conqistador's ring.
zoom The monk falls into the nebula. The monk is reunited with the ring. Xibalba collapses into a supernova, sucking the monk and the tree in. The monk disintegrates into the tree, which is briefly reborn.
zoom Match fade from supernova to sweetgum ball.
zoom Izzi gives Tommy a sweetgum ball, which he later plants at her grave. Izzi picks a green sweetgum seed, hands it to Tommy. Cut to Tommy holding the sweetgum ball, dried and brown, standing at Izzi's grave. He buries the seed at her grave, accepting his loss. We hear him say "I finished it."