Case Study 2 – The Fountain

The Fountain is a 2006 sci-fi movie directed by Darren Aronofsky starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.  The film follows three parallel existences of Tommy Creo (Jackman): in the future in a bubble in space, the modern day and as a Spanish conquistador  in the Mayan times.  He is seeking for a medical breakthrough that will save his wife, and each timeline affects the other directly.

The first effective use of sound in this film is in the very first scene, it see’s Tomas walking through the Mayan jungle with two other Spaniards to find the hidden pyramid.  There is a constant pulse of a low rumbling drum, and as they move closer to the pyramid and closer to danger, the sound becomes more and more manipulated to reflect a large primitive animal.  The sound becomes EQd in a way which sounds more guttural and the reverberation becomes more prominent to sound more like the animal it is trying to be.

The next impressive piece of sound work is the change from the first conquistador scene to the first future scene.  The former is filled with lots of interesting sonic qualities such as fire, music, tribal chanting and weather and environmental sounds.  This is very contrasting to the next scene, as there is a very hard cut to Tomas in space where there is absolute silence.  This is not only because he is in space which is a void of silence but because he is also meditating and all he can hear in his head is his own thoughts.

This idea is highlighted again later in the film, about halfway through.  After Tom’s wife has a seizure, and he is walking to work through the city.  The scene is Tom walking quickly through the busy bustling crowd and traffic of the city centre of Montreal.  The whole scene is completely silent even though we see a lot of hustle and bustle and traffic going around, as well as bad weather.  It is completely silent this way until Tom is nearly hit by a car, then the whole sound of the city is reintroduced.  Darren Aronofsky says that this is a technique he saw in the film Ikuru (1952), and it was used to highlight the extreme shock created in the scene beforehand.  In this case the scene in question is when Tom’s wife, Izzie, has a seizure in the museum.

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