Accurately billed on its back cover as “The Ultimate Director’s Cut,” Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain is essentially a high-quality, full-production storyboard of the 2006 movie of the same name. The lead roles in the film are Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, but the real star is Aronofsky’s spiritual and romantic science fiction tale involving three parallel and interwoven story lines from across time and space.
Spanish conquistadors, futuristic space-travelers , and scientists of our current era, all searching for a cure to the inevitable death that awaits every human life. Will they find what they are looking for? The Fountain, illustrated by acclaimed artist Kent Williams, takes us on that journey. And what a trippy trip it is!
So is it a movie that’s also a graphic novel or is it a graphic novel that was so good that they turned it into a movie? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. The basic rundown of what happened goes like this: In the early 2000s, The Fountain went into pre-production on a $70M budget, and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. But after cost overruns and the lead actor dropping out, Warner Bros. shut down pre-production of The Fountain in 2002. At this point, Aronofsky reserved rights to publish a graphic novel based on the script that was not produced. He took it to Vertigo and got together with visual artist Kent Williams to put create the graphic novel that we have today. Since then, The Fountain was eventually turned into a major motion picture.
This unorthodox sequence of events in the book’s production means that The Fountain graphic novel probably contains the purest form of the story. What Aronofsky really intended to say prior to budget cuts, censors, etc. Indeed, “The Ultimate Director’s Cut.”
Kent Williams’ distinct art style is deliciously rare. Rare, both in the sense that this work is one of a kind, but also because the paintings themselves are raw and sometimes fairly brutal. The reader will find himself pausing to stare at little lines on the page to think “Are those pencil markings?!”
Besides being pretty to look at, these elements contribute to the over all feeling of urgency within a frame. For example, in a moment of hand-to-hand combat. Conversely, softer, more romantic sequences will be rendered with a more delicate brush and include more blended colors.
You really see the bones of this creature, newly slain at the hands of the artist, fleshed out for the audience to absorb directly into his or her visual cortex. Dialogue in The Fountain is minimal when compared to most popular graphic novels, so full splash pages or dramatic changes in color convey emotion and suck you in or out of setting changes. Recurring visuals and moments in time serve as the thread sewing the three parallel stories and their characters together as one. Truth be told, this book is essentially page after page of modern contemporary art as well as an excellent example of the great possibilities of the sequential art media.
The Book as An Experience
The book itself, basically a large — premium — trade paperback, has an exquisite use of spot lamination on both the front and back covers. Tilting it back and forth in the light, or running your fingers over its surface gives an unusual sense of luxury that you simply do not get from other trade paperbacks. It is clear that Vertigo (the subsidiary of DC Comics that publishes this title) also thought that this book was special when they were going through the process of publishing it. Vertigo trade paperbacks are usually made of cheaper, coarse and non-laminated paper. This is not the case for The Fountain, whose production quality is quite similar to the that of a premium hardcover without, well… the actual hard cover. This is probably why it only costs Php 840. Quite the steal. Especially since once you’re done reading it, you’ll be perfectly happy to display it on your coffee table as a conversation piece.
Now if only you could get it signed or inscribed? Well, you can! Kent Williams will be coming to visit Manila next week. Click here for the details.