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Section Header
The Fountain
Composed and Produced by:
Clint Mansell

Additional Music by:
Stuart Braithwaite
Dominic Aitchison

Orchestrated by:
Justin Skomarovsky

Performed by:
The Kronos Quartet

Nonesuch Records

Release Date:
November 21st, 2006

Also See:

Audio Clips:
2. Holy Dread! (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

3. Tree of Life (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

7. First Snow (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

9. Death is the Road to Awe (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for a Golden Globe.

The Fountain

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Buy it... only if you are a dedicated fan of impressionistic scores and/or appreciated this score's minimalistic, repetitive constructs in the film itself.

Avoid it... if you expect your journey to spiritual enlightenment to include intellectual complexity, harmonic resonance, or satisfying resolution.

The Fountain: (Clint Mansell) For people who have nightmares of being reincarnated as a snail, Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain at least reassures you that you've got a shot at being reincarnated as a human similar to yourself. In a desperate effort to be the immediate reincarnation of Stanley Kubrick, Aronofsky uses tantalizing visuals and a fragmented story across a thousand years to explore the same issues as 2001, though with considerably less success. In his effort to span three concurrent parts of the quest for immortality, Aronofsky forgets to make the audience care about anybody actually making that journey in the film. So while the concepts in The Fountain are undoubtedly intriguing examinations of religion and spirituality, the execution of the film failed to such a degree that audiences and critics alike gave the film a resounding thumbs down. Foremost in the criticism of the film is the one-dimensional representation of its characters, people never developed well enough to make you root for them. Also of some controversy is Clint Mansell's score, which tries just as hard as Aronofsky to twist reality and stimulate the minds of arthouse regulars. Ironically, Mansell had just produced his first mainstream score in 2005, and the small group of people who actually listened to Sahara were impressed by its large-scale, orchestral scope and adventurous execution. But Mansell is also the man who brought the extremely popular Requiem for a Dream to a crowd of alternative score listeners eager for extensions to the sounds of impressionist composers Michael Nyman and Philip Glass. For The Fountain, Mansell is essentially attempting to please the same crowd, though he is completely betrayed by his 80's rock band roots.

His ensemble for the film includes the famed Kronos Quartet (two violins, viola, and cello), the Scottish rock band Mogwai, and nine vocalists in a makeshift choir. On basic levels, Mansell's choices for how he constructed his score for The Fountain make perfect sense --there is no impression that he was wandering hopelessly here-- but if you don't subscribe to the one-dimensional, abstract repetitions of that approach, then the score can offer you no insight or enjoyment. The score is built on cyclical rhythms and two motifs. The rhythmic movement of the entire score, often carried by the drums and low ranges of an electric guitar (or bass), set a steady pace that never deviates. Its performances are sometimes accentuated, more forceful in volume, but never does the rhythm evolve into anything more intelligent than a dutiful tool of procession. For the concept of reincarnation, featuring a rhythm that rolls through each time and place without variation makes sense, though it will undoubtedly get on your nerves after a while. The two motifs are stark and unforgiving. The first is a four-note guitar movement to accentuate each bar of the underlying rhythm, though it does stand alone in a few places. It's hard to tell if it has any significant meaning outside of the rhythm. The other motif is essentially the "main theme," a three-note progression that also repeats endlessly throughout the score. Existing for the upper ranges of the ensemble, whether on violin or keyboard, this theme seems basically appropriate given that the film has three layers to its story. But you never hear the theme evolve or gain a greater meaning; you're always expecting a second verse, but one never comes. With these rhythms and themes usually churning in a sparse fashion, the score restrains them heavily so that its intellectually minimalistic atmosphere is preserved.

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At times, the rock band provides grinding, mindless underscore, as in "Holy Dread!" and at other times, as in "The Last Man," the quartet barely registers with its underdeveloped meanderings. Individually, the quartet offers some of the more listenable cues, such as the more harmonically contemplative "Xibalba." The choir makes no significant contribution to the score outside of the high range dramatics at the end of "Death is the Road to Awe." The male voices are often mixed so badly into the score that they lack any texture and come across as synthetic. The rock band is usually combined with the quartet, though the band's much broader bass elements dominate cues such as "Finish It" and "Death is the Road to Awe." In the end, a cue like "Tree of Life" is a twisted, drum-pounding attempt at "coolness" that you would expect to hear in the equally impressionistic world of Sin City. Here, the themes are so underdeveloped and the rhythms are so annoyingly persistent that The Fountain is not only a distracting element in the film itself, but a potentially major irritant on album. It's easy to hear why Mansell's score draws attention to itself --the kind of attention that a score needs come the time for award nominations-- but the same qualities that make The Fountain unique also threaten to make it, like Gustavo Santaolalla's Babel, unlistenable. Despite its enticing construct, the score for The Fountain is as one-dimensional as the characters in the film, leaving it as a monumentally wasted opportunity for truly intellectual musical connections. With little in the way of complexity to win your heart, The Fountain must rely on its atmosphere to gain your interest, and Mansell's grating repetitions will only accomplish that for a very few select listeners. If the speakers in the lobby of eternal reincarnation are belching out this music, then death is the road to awe and insanity. ** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.23 Stars
Smart Average: 3.11 Stars*
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   speakers in the lobby
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 46:15

• 1. The Last Man (6:09)
• 2. Holy Dread! (3:52)
• 3. Tree of Life (3:45)
• 4. Stay With Me (3:36)
• 5. Death is a Disease (2:34)
• 6. Xibalba (5:23)
• 7. First Snow (3:09)
• 8. Finish It (4:25)
• 9. Death is the Road to Awe (8:26)
• 10. Together We Will Live Forever (5:02)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Fountain are Copyright © 2006, Nonesuch Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/30/06 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2006-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.