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Dec 09, 2006



I was so stunned while watching this movie in the theaters. What kind of film making goes behind this. Aranofsky is truly amazing. This movie is exceptional. So deep in themes and ideas is difficult to fathom. I can not wait to see it again. I live for these kinds of movies, for the 2001 space odysseys, the animatrix;s, the fountains...


I liked the movie, and agree with your analysis. But the main problem I have with the plot is that she writes about the tree (so the spanish part is probably fictional) AND that he really finds such a tree in the current time. She wrote about the tree before he ever told her about the tree that cured the monkey, and he read the story AFTER discovering the tree. I would consider it an insult of the viewers intelligence when we are expected to just accept that as a coincidence. The only thing I can come up with is that he just can't accept his wife dying and that he, inspired by his wife's story, fantasizes about finding such a tree and curing the monkey in current time and fantasizes the whole flying to the nebula part in the future as well. That would still not explain why he found the tree before he read the story. This would be the final chapter of her story she asked him to write which we are seeing as really happening although it is just what he would like to be true and has written down. This would render the whole plot as someone not accepting death and without any of the paranormal things actually being true. The other explanation of the last part to me would be that he used the tree to live forever and long enough for it to be possible to build the ball to fly to the nebula, with the rest of the world dead and destroyed he flies as the sole surviver of the human race and as some kind of God with the tree into a new big bang.


The first part of your anayisis may be true that she wrote the first thread but the last thread was written by Tomas. The only real (well at least movie real) is the present.

Alex B

I agree with the latest post that the only real part is the present. The past and the future were a way of realizing that eternal life can be found in death. This is the basis of Christianity.


It's the basis of ALL Judeo-Christian values, not just Christianity. In fact, this film leans far more toward the Old Testament and ancient Jewish/Kabbalistic beliefs.


i think the point here is that we are all already immortal. it may not be in the way we wish but our life spirit is decomposed into the ground and then becomes the grass and the trees, which animals eat and we then become the animals (i.e. lion king's circle of life). while that may appear blatantly obvious, the above comments disregard this angle.


While all of the above comments make valid points, I just want to point out that the director himself said the movie was open to interpretation, whether the first and third threads are real in the movie or not is up to the viewer, and whichever one you choose to believe, the end result is still the same. The central theme of the film is to portray death as a journey. Rather than "the end," as most of society views it today, it is a new beginning; another phase of life. I'm sure I speak for many when I say the film and its message is awesome!

Yukon Mike

I just watched the movie last night, and like many of you, I was blown away by the beauty, emotion and symbolism of the movie.

I was confused by the different threads, but having read your interpretations, it is starting to fit together.

I would like to add the following thoughts.

The present day thread ends when he plants the seed in his wife's grave.

The flight through the Nebula is Chapter 12 of the book. It is his way of healing and working through his wife's death, just as the first 11 chapters are her way of coming to terms with her own death.

I think one of the more poignant messages in the movie are about accepting death with dignity. He doesn't accept her death with any dignity at the time, but when the nebula explodes he finally accepts the death.

It seems that he may have rewritten parts of her book as well. The Captain initially gets killed by the Mayan Priest, but in a later part, that ending changes, and he sacrifices the Mayan and finds the tree.

Then there was the irony of him drinking the sap of the tree, to achieve immmortality, but it turns out that he can only do that as a tree.

So much to think about.

Fady Bahig

I have watched The Fountain and I felt that it is so deep. I wrote this analysis and hope that you'd find in it something interesting.


Thank you all for helping me understand the film and its themes better. I'm leaning towards only the middle section being real also. Justin's observation has blown my tiny mind.

To answer the perceived flaw noted above that Izzy writes about the tree before Tommy has found it, I don't believe that to be true because IIRC we don't see him finding the tree.

He asks a colleague if he remembers the tree they found years ago then uses it to make a medical breakthrough. Izzy has researched Mayan culture and beliefs. (She talks of a "Mayan Guide". Whether they went there together or at different times is unclear.) Her knowledge of the Tree Of Life informs her novel and may also be the reason a desperate Tommy turns to the tree for a solution when nothing else works.

So I don't believe there's a chronological error or unbelievable coincidence for the audience to deal with.

How many times have you watched it? :)


I think I have an alternate explanation for the series of events in this movie. My interpretation is based on the Mayan Bible or Popul Vuh. A common theme in Izzi's discussions with Tomas was Life emerging through death and sacrifice. If you read the Popul Vuh, the first father is sacrificed, and from his decapitated head, a tree emerges bringing forth new life.

I think that all of the events depicted in the movie were supposed to be real (according to this underlying theme). In the first thread, there was literally a guy charged by the queen to track down the tree of life. When he found the tree, he consumed the sap, only to be consumed by new growth (in the form of flowers). Assuming that this actually did happen, we could also assume that the Inquisitor would have fulfilled his mission and sacrificed the queen, since her conquistidor presumably would have failed to come back with the "fountain". But don't forget Izzi's recurring statements about life emerging from death...

Flash forward to the second thread - Izzi and Tomas are now reincarnations of the queen and her conquistidor. As fate would have it, the two were once again brought together. The reason that Izzi is able to write about the tree in her book (before Tomas discovered the healing properties of the tree in South America), is because she is recalling her previous life in the 1500's. Also, when Tomas spontaneously discovers the cure to aging and reversing the tumor, he first looked up at the ceiling and seemed to be seeing the dying nebula in his mind. This boils back to our theme - life emerges from death (new stars emerge from the dying nebula). In that scene, Tomas was experiencing a deja vu moment of his previous life that allowed him to make a scientifically impossible leap of logic in tying the chemical compounds together to create a cure. When Izzi is dying, she realizes that there will be life after her death, although Tomas cannot come to terms with this. He tracks down the tree of life, plants a seed at Izzi's grave, and from her remains a new tree of life emerges. He seeks to cheat death by eating of the bark of this tree to maintain his mortality. He also seeks to have Izzi reborn by reaching the dying nebula together with her tree remains.

Flash forward to thread 3, and Tomas is all alone drifting through space and time, sustaining himself from the bark of the "Izzi Tree". My guess is that he is able to maintain his human body by consuming the bark rather the sap. The sap as we have already seen, is too potent and would have undesired effects. When he finally does reach the nebula, he and the "Izzi Tree" are consumed and perish, yet the symbolic blossoming of the tree indicates that through their death, life has emerged yet again...


I have a different interpretation of this movie. What if throughout the entire move, the lead character is actually dying himself? During the process of death he begins to have recollections of his past (long ago when his wife was living), fantasies from the book written by his long dead wife, and hallucinations about the afterlife, which appear the audience as taking place a thousand years into the future? What if the entire movie is about him trying to forgive himself, or rather learning to accept life, mortality, and death? There is a weird scene in the movie where Jackman's character encounters an old man in the hospital. The old man looks at Jackman's character and asks for forgiveness...could the old man be really the protagonist finally seeing himself dying in the hospital? I think maybe this scene was added to clue us into what is really going on finally in the movie--a brief key insight. It also occurs at a point in the movie right before Jackman's character accepts death--perhaps his own death and breaks out of his despair and finally dies at the very end, kills the tribesman, and enters the Xibalba nebula at the end. Then we see him with his wife at the very end-which could indicate his passing into the afterlife and being with his wife finally after he was able to accept his passing. That could also explain his wife being in the movie constantly asking him to join her. That could be interpreted as her dead spirit attempting to help him pass.

This movie has many levels and interpretations. You can look at it from the point of view of many different religions and even a secular interpretation and find a satisfactory meaning. Very impressive work!


something to confuse or maybe explain things better : the last day of the mayan calander, also known to some as the day of the end of the world...december 12th, 2012 in the gregorian calender...

perhaps the present in the movie is actually 5 years in the future here...with december 12th being the day izzy dies. this would coincide with her referring to the first snowfall of the year as she asks tom to go on a walk a few days or weeks before her own death...

I loved this movie, so trippy and beautiful!
In mayan belief, the sacred tree is a metaphor for the milky way galaxy...it fits well with tom's journey through space to xibalba


Aronofsky is Jewish. He is not very observant, but his Jewish background shows through in all his movies... it's much more obvious in Pi and Requiem for a Dream. People write about what they know.

With regards to this movie, there are, of course, dozens of ways of interpreting it ranging from entirely 'real', to entirely 'not real', from very religious, to atheist. The interpretations serve greatly to determine the beliefs of the person interpreting it.

Personally, I could read this entirely into traditional Jewish beliefs and all three time periods being real and reincarnations... in Judaism, there is a concept of being reincarnated a maximum of three times. The flashbacks are what happened or what he should have done... but under this interpretation, it's told in the future scene with the rest being flashbacks to what happened or what should have happened and as the mind goes, different things interrupt and the protagonist flows from one thought to the next. He only gets it right at the end... perhaps the future time is an afterlife sort of place... perhaps it is in his mind or not connected to any physical reality, i.e. just his soul working things out... a process of seeing his prior two lives and what he did, and what he should have done... feeling regret at what he did wrong, seeing how it should have gone, and seeing that even though he did something wrong, he is thankful for feeling close to the source of creation, and this keeps repeating in a never ending and accelerating cycle.

However, in another sense... none of the worlds are 'real'. They are all just places where his soul was placed to be tested. He failed the first time, he failed the second time... or did he?

Or further... who says time is real? All these things ARE 'happening concurrently'. The 'future' scenes are what's going on in his soul (or sub-conscious if you prefer). The 'past' and 'present' are when his soul was placed into the confines of time and how it did in each place and how he acted 'concurrently', only arriving at the solution for his soul based on what he learned in each itterance.

....or perhaps it's just in the present and the past is just another way of looking at the same concepts to help us understand why people are acting the way they are... it's hard to understand his feelings in the present sometimes, but when you compare it to the guy in the past in a variation on the same feelings, it's boiled down to be more simple so we can more easily understand. However, I still hold the future is not 'in this world'.

At first glance, I can see how a person would think the movie is stupid. It's not well developed, but what is developed is developed in triple in all of 1.5 hrs... there needs to be time connecting the times and a conclusion, so you're left with what? Maybe 22 minutes for the plot to develop? Thus, it has to be fairly simple ... but when you realize it's about human emotions which transcend through time and putting that in a physical medium... not bad at all. He's dealing with very abstract concepts. If you choose to only see the physical, that says something about you and not the director.

As with Requiem for a Dream and Pi, he's very innovative, but you have to have a mind trained to understand what he's showing you. He'll never be main stream because, respectfully, the masses will never get it and those who do aren't usually the type of people to watch movies.


This is a great conversation. I'm entirely in agreement with the comments posted by thisismarkus and justin. With the understanding that "death is a journey", I believe the movie is, essentially, three incarnations of the same souls: Izzi and Tomas. For me, the three incarnations show the growth of Tomas to an actualized individual. I interpreted the movie to demonstrate Tomas' cycle of learning and advancing from one incarnation to the next. In the first incarnation as the conquistador, he seeks immortality for reasons of pride, ego, and love of nation. In the second incarnation as Tomas the surgeon, he demonstrates a higher level of being and seeks immortality for love of Izzi -- albeit a somewhat ego-centric love that centers on his own need for Izzi. In the third incarnation, he has reached the ultimate level of being, ready to understand death as a path to pure selfless love.


Thisismarcus's interpretation is pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of how I interpreted the film. I felt that the stories are more connected than some give it credit for. Although the director said the movie can be seen many different ways and all can be correct.

One could interpret it quite literally and connected -- it could be seen as such: conquistador Hugh Jackman brings back tree sap to wife, they live forver. But, the brain tumor eventually starts to supercede the imortality. His wife then becomes the tree (he lives on), and eventually they become a part of all time in a sense -- time becomes mingled -- hence why the 1500s Jackman becomes future Jackman at one point.

The parts where "present" day Izzi talks about high school etc. could be explained by hallucinations from the brain tumor.


Correction, I menant to say JDawg's comments hit the nail on the head for me.

I was looking at the wrong name. Awesome interpretation sir.


I'm really glad to see there are other people who view the third segment in a literal way. I think there's too much detail and significance in it for it to just be either metaphorical, or the final part of Izzy's book. The way I see it, he finds the tree of life in the present, and uses it to sustain himself to reach xibalba. I would imagine that even travelling as fast as he is, he is abiding by relativity and thus cannot travel faster than the speed of light. Even at 99% this speed (I don't know how many light years away the nebula is), it would take him a long long time to reach it and so even the tree itself begins to die. The reason we see the ending to the first segment at the end of the film is because that is when, finally coming face to face with the inevitability of death, he knows how to 'finish it', which is the only thing that Izzy asked of him. She knew the ending already (we see her talking about it in the museum) and she was writing the story for him because she also knew him too well and knew he would never be able to accept her death.

Being presented literally with the end of life enables him to write the ending, even though he had to travel millions of miles and presumably hundreds (if not thousands) of years to realise this.

Thus no matter how complex the plot really is or isn't, the message is the same - enjoy the time you have with your loved ones in the moment.

What a tremendously beautiful film!


I would have to agree with those who say both the 2nd and the 3rd threads are actually real. There is no way the 3rd thread is the last chapter of the book, it just doesn't fit. It has nothing to do with the first 11 chapters of the book. Also, while making his flight to the nebula he accepts death and only then writes the last chapter. So how could the flight be the last chapter of the book if he only decides to write that chapter half-way through the flight.
I also want to put an end to the argument what kinds of religious beliefs were used in the movie...NONE. In fact Mr. Aronofsky himself explained the movie had atheist meaning: "It's about this endless cycle of energy and matter, tracing back to the Big Bang. We're all just borrowing this matter and energy for a little bit, until it goes back into everything else, and that connects us all."


I don't know if it is just me but did anyone see that the flashbacks where jackman is asked to watch the snowfall scene is actually changed in the last bit? Instead of seeing the monkey, he sets out to chase after Izzi instead, giving meaning that he never actually did surgery on the monkey.

This gives me the interpretation that halfway through the movie, it was just a what could have happened scenes.


Hmmm, ok, so if the future timeline is part of the book, then...

... there are scene in the future where Hugh's character sees the princess and others where he sees Izzy...

... I see 2 explanations to the latter: either as he's writing about the future Hugh/Tomas seeing the queen, he is himself thinking about Izzy and that, as we see the portion of the story he's writing through his eyes, we see his mind "wandering" from the book's story to his reality...

... of, the other explanation I like [even though it's a bit of a stretch and I don't necessarily think it was intended but whatever, for the purpose of discussion...] is that there's 3 timelines in the book on top of Tomas's reality... bare with me:

Real Izzy writes the book up to chapter this book includes some, maybe even all of the Spain timeline as well as a portion of the future timeline [maybe even all -- I have to see this movie again] because doesn't she say at some point that the story is partially based "up there" referring to the nebula?!... anyway, moving on...

In the future timeline, the scenes where future Tomas remembers present Izzy are also in the book as-is... then the only way to explain them would be to include the present timeline in the book as well.

So... real Tomas writes the story of present Tomas and present Izzy, but with a few variations, like the fact that present Tomas in the book actually goes for a walk with Izzy in the first snow instead of heading to the operation room for the surgery [because real Tomas can't forgive himself for spending all this time at the lab instead of with real Izzy in hindsight of the fact that he wasn't able to save her].

Maybe I'm just reading too much into the scene where Tomas chooses to go for a walk instead of going to the surgery... but the fact that he would have re-written that, to me makes more sense than it just being some random thought inserted in there...

... but I wouldn't be surprised if this "3 timelines in book + reality" theory could fall down pretty easily... I need to see it again and think about it while watching the movie...


Did anyone think about Buddhism? It is heavily present in the future timeline.

Wendy Kujo

For a class I had to choose a film to find the deeper meaning in it, I thought, what better a movie than The Fountain? I have watched this film 3 times in two days, and am still confused on certain things.

I myself, believe that the conquistador and that thread is Izzi's book. I also believe that the second thread is present time, or as someone said before, the near future of dec. 12 2012, and is a recollection of the future Tommy. It would make sense with the snow and Tommy's "world" ending. I am however, having difficulty deciding on if the third thread is still Tommy, or just his imagination. I feel it could still be Tommy because of the ring tattoo, and the fact that all of his memories are coinciding with everything thats happening to him in space (his cold breath, and the lights going out). But there's something that i feel is just off about it being Tommy. For example, how could he have found his lost ring in space? and then back in present time have had it on when he plants the seed over Izzi's grave? or in the present time, Tommy looks up and see the nebula explode... I also don't understand how Izzi picked the seed and gave it to him. I also feel like when Tommy is at her grave and says goodbye, that that is the point in time in which he accepts her death and therefore wouldnt have had to survive for years trying to be back with her.

I do agree with what someone said that when Tommy told Izzi he finished it, that that was the afterlife and they were together.

i love this film , and find it to have such deep meaning that it can be confusing. if you have any thoughts or comments on mine, let me know.


well honestly speaking i like all of your interpretations,,and the fact that the meaning doesnt change much no matter if you imagine the third thread to be set in 2500 AD with tommy having sustained himself after eating from the tree that grew from her grave or as the spiritual journey that tommy undergoes inorder to see that in reality you have to let go of life i,e to die to be able attain eternal life n love(as in the case)and i cant see how the third thread is depicting simply the future and the spacesphere he is in as somekind of travelmachine cos at the end after failing to be able to attain eternal life for her n himself(symbolically depicted as not being able to keep the tree alive )he says that he;ll finish it he climbs up the tree and leaps to leave the sphere a small one is formed around him i think this is the moment where he in the real world in the present he accepts her death n his own(just my interpretation ok),
i thought even though i just watched it once that the movie depicts how true love is beyond the physical realms n yes truly timeless n eternal


I LOVE this film. It is loaded with spiritual truth.

To me it represents the highest truth, that there is no death, and that we are one with all that is.

Tomas's suffering arises from his belief that he can exist apart from, GOD, or the "all that is-" this is the evolutionary path of all self identified
"ego-identities", or beings with a self aware "soul."

The point of evolution is to mature beyond the illusion of separation and realize that there is no death.

"Death is the path to awe" as the mayan leader says. This means to me the surrender of our egoic self identity, which FEELS like a death, to merge with the infinite oneness of all that is, which is our true identity, is the point of this film.

I see it as metaphor AND a reincarnation story. Izzy gets it-as she's dying, she realizes there is no death and in her surrender she has found peace. She most wants for Tommy to get that for himself, to release himself from the suffering that he must create PHYSICAL eternal life to stave off death, not realizing there actually IS no death, because we are immortal.

In the end, clearly, he surrenders, merges with his higher self/oneness, and is released, and can allow himself to be released from the sense of responsibility to Izzy with cancer, and previously, Izzy as queen, and ultimately, and in the deepest level, himself.

Notice how when he encounters the tree of life as the conquistador, having passed the test with the Mayan chief, and he tries to put the ring on, to symbolize that he "accomplished" the mission-the MATERIALISTIC mission of obtaining-POSSSESSING-eternal life via the tree-and he is consumed by the forces of life-they consume him completely until his "egoic self identity" is merged completely with the flow of life. In this case his "egoic attachment" to wanting to POSSESS the key of life, to MATERIALIZE it, renders him overtaken by those forces-apparently, not very pleasantly.

Contrast that to his willing surrender, in the meditation/bubble sequence, where he comes to understand that he was never actually separate from Izzy, nor is death real, and he becomes liberated, and can put the ring on, because he no longer sees it as a symbol of separation from her, to which he then feels responsible. He and she are one-and the ring is his convenant, therefore, to HIMSELF-to return to wholeness, which he does in his gesture of surrender, and he then merges into the all that is. Then we see the dead tree blossom back into life, because in his gesture of surrender, the tree is then renewed, where it devours him in the first sequence.

This film is a map to the truth within...but one must learn to meditate and become willing to surrender one's egoic self identified, fear based belief that we are separate from GOD, or the All That Is. Once this step is taken, these mysteries begin to reveal themselves to the aspirant.

I'm going to buy this film and watch it again. It is truly amazing. I've never seen a work of art that conveys such deep spiritual truth.

The movie Contact, with Jodie Foster, has a similar, but not as well developed by any means, theme. Thats definitely worth watching as well. Peace!


I would agree that JDawg's post is the closest to my personal interpretation of the film. The reference to the Popul Vuh is important due to the deliberate dialogue of the Mayan Priest and “The First Father” at the climax of the film. I would to add a few supporting ideas to this discussion.

I would also like to support the idea of time being non-linear, and combined with the idea of reincarnation (The Buddhist/Hindu element, represented by future Tom assuming the lotus position) one is able to access one's "lives", under unusual circumstances, such as connecting with someone you have shared a past/future life with.

The movie title "The Fountain" is also poignant, and references in the year 1500 the Spanish search for the “fountain of youth” popularized by Ponce de Leon’s exploits in the New World. This is juxtaposed by the Spanish Inquisition, which is the reaction to the Catholic Church attempting to maintain absolute power and asserting that their religion was the only method to attain immortality.

In the year 2000, the search for immortality continues, but the new “religion” is science and the new antagonist (instead of the Spanish Inquisition) is cancer.

Lastly, in the year 2500, pseudo-immortality has been attained by Tom via the “tree of life” (Mayan: First Father, Norse: Yggdrasil, Jewish: Etz haChayim) I would submit that all references to the "nebula" are actually best identified as what it really is, "The Galactic Center." Mayan and other religious texts note its importance as the source of energy, knowledge, etc.

@Theresa: I would agree that Contact has a good theme, the book is quite effective, even if the film did not really deliver on more than a superficial-Hollywood level. Additionally, the book "Chilhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke has stayed with me from early childhood. Among other themes, it explores the idea of mankind experiencing a mass-evolution, which parallels a main theory surrounding The Mayan Calendar/2012/The Galactic Center.

I would like to conclude by saying it is encouraging to see so many give thoughtful input of a film by one such as Aronofsky. There are not enough artists out there like him, with as much success as he has had, and it is very important that such creativity and vision be supported.

matthew curtis

I find it worrying that so many people got o such lengths to try and understand the film and to give each part a clear a structure and narrative stage in the film. In my opinion all three stories are seperate. I like your idea that he plants the seed of the tree of life over her grave and then takes it to the nebula. However I strongly disagree. I would say that the present day story ends when she is buried and that the story in space is merely a metaphorical and Beautifully visualised representation of the story. The stroy starting spain is the story of her book and the last chapter is the conquistador finding the treeit and taking for himself, forgetting the promise he made to the queen. He is then sacrificed for drinking from the tree of life and metaphoriclly lives forever. This ties in with the earlier story in the film about becoming nature through death.

I think the main problem with many analytical interpretations of this film is that people try to hard to find a clear ending or a clear narrative structure. In my opinion this film is very metaphorical and all three parts do not need to tie in with each other.


What I found fascinating doesn't seem to have been mentioned here. His wife's name is Izzy. The queen's name is Isabel. There really was a queen Isabel (In English we call her Isabella and her husband Ferdinand. Their actual names were Isabel and Fernando. These were the rulers when Columbus, or Colón en Spanish, sailed to the New World.)

The real Isabel died on Nov 26, 1504. Interestingly, this fits with the actual movie, which was released in 2006. The movie says it spans 1000 years. So we can link the historical Isabel's death in 1504 to Izzy's death in 2004, putting the end of the movie in 2504. The historical parallel is fascinating to me and it fits with Izzy's story. She modeled herself after queen Isabel. The movie actually set her date of death sometime in November, because it's cold and snowy outside.

There was a huge error in the movie, though. Isabel promoted the Spanish Inquisition, and the monarchy had no fear of inquisitors because they controlled them and didn't have to listen to them. The Spanish Inquisition was the revival of the Medieval Inquisition by the monarchy in the 1470s. It continued until the early 19th century (1812, 1832. There are different dates.). So this part of the story is, historically speaking, incorrect.


Going through an unique spiritual process allows me to see the movie from a different aspect. May very well be connected to his suffering regarding his love, and the pain he endures, which begins a process of spiritual awakening. In various religions there are different names for the same thing. Dionysus holds the pinecone-staff, representing spiritual transformation. In Christianity the 'Holy Spirit' is the gateway to higher consciousness, and is the source of life-creation. In Hinduism they call it Kundalini, 'the serpent power', because the energy goes in an upwards spiraling motion. In Kabbalah they have the 'tree of life', which is another representative of the source.. that being 'god'.

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