Exploring the intersections of ecology, technology, and ideology: Marx, machines, Gibson, and Shanghai.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Fountain (Pen)

A Grand Inquisitor, conquistadors, brain-surgery experiments in primate labs, the Tree of Life, loinclothed Mayans, floating golden space pods for Buddhanauts: The Fountain is something of a meta-Keanu Reeves film, but without Keanu (substitute Hugh Jackman). What I find most engaging about this film is the subtle way it represents the potency of literature as an almost invisible presence behind the more dramatically rendered Science vs. Spirituality discourse that plays out through Jackman’s character, who is a leading neuroscientist on the path toward a Buddhistic enlightenment. The spectator becomes absorbed in his intense lab scenes and the multiple scenes of near-mortal interior conflict in which he must decide whether to spend more time in the lab seeking the cure for his wife’s terminal brain tumor or with his wife while she’s still alive. And yet, Rachel Weisz, the female lead, achieves her own peace with her impending death at such a young age by writing a novel. Furthermore, she purposefully leaves the ultimate chapter unwritten and makes a deathbed request that her husband “finish it.” Through reading her literary production, he perceives the repetition of this necessity of death and the constant desire for more life—in this he sees both points of view. And by finishing the novel, he has begun to work through the trauma. So, in a provocative way, the film suggests that it is not the contemplative highs of golden Buddhahood nor the prospects of advanced scientific capacities in-themselves that enable new modes of being and being human: rather, it is the synthesis of human activities in the form of a narrative, perhaps overlapping narratives, that helps us make meaning and work through the traumas of history.

1 comment:

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