The Fountain Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn Director: Darren Aronofsky The film: In the making-of featurette that comes with the DVD, Darren Aronofsky describes The Fountain as the film he's wanted to make ever since he began making films. Such overarching ambition usually spawns ugly consequences, and The Fountain provides a sorry exemplar. Visually ravishing it might be, but the American director-screenwriter-producer's follow-up to the remarkable Requiem For a Dream (2000) is weighed down by an unhealthy diet of pomp and self-importance, a mix that couldn't even be salvaged by Clint Mansell's stunning soundtrack (performed by the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai) and a stellar cast. The film's subject - the pursuit of immortality - carries elements of excess that doesn't bode well. Unfolding in three time-frames, the film is anchored by the 'present' in 2000, with a scientist Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman) channelling all his energy into the reversal of brain tumours - an effort that he hopes will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz). Creo's battle against death is mirrored in a book Izzi has written, in which Spanish queen Isabel (Weisz again), on the brink of persecution by the Inquisition, sends forth conquistador Tomas (Jackman) to look for a Tree of Life in America. And then there's the future: Tom, a hairless, monk-like figure who practises an off-beam version of tai chi, travels in a bubble-like spaceship to a far-flung nebula with a dying tree (the same Tree of Life in the 16th-century episode of the film), while constantly plagued by what seems to be flashbacks of his 20th-century life with Izzi. Of course, nothing is made explicit here, and one can only speculate this is more or less the case as the film flits between the three episodes incessantly - with a wealth of cod philosophy and spirituality thrown in for good measure, too. It's unfortunate that Aronofsky's success with his two previous films (Pi and then Requiem, which are more solid explorations of the human condition) has allowed him to go completely overboard with symbolism in The Fountain. Because somewhere beneath the film's hubris lies a potentially epic love story - a couple trying to come to terms with, and to defy, death and separation. But Aronofsky's overwrought science-fiction pretensions strip the romance of all its power, rendering the film a vacuous husk that even an array of brilliant actors couldn't really salvage. The extras: A series of featurettes about how the film came into being - interesting viewing after witnessing the film's big-time hoopla, just to see where Aronofsky came from to deliver this project. The verdict: Visually spectacular and musically stirring, these strengths serve to show how style sometimes can't make up for the flaws.