It may have been six years in the making, commanding a budget of £18m and even featuring his fiancée Rachel Weisz in the starring role, but the director Darren Aronofsky's long-awaited new film The Fountain was nevertheless roundly booed when it previewed at the Venice Film Festival.
The reception will prove particularly hard to take for Weisz, who, since she won an Oscar for her role in The Constant Gardener, has become one of Hollywood's hottest properties. However, she was putting a brave face on it when she told reporters: "I think it's wonderful that this film is so different. I would love to work with Darren again."
Weisz, 35, was making her first major public appearance since the birth of the couple's son, Henry Chance, in May. She waved for photographers as she arrived on the Lido by motorboat with Aronofsky.
But those in the audience were left perplexed by her latest film's sweeping ambition, racing across history and 600 years in to the future as one man, played by Hugh Jackman, goes in search of a cure for the cancer that threatens to kill his wife - Weisz's role.
His mercy dash takes him from the conquistadores of South America, via three parallel storylines, into the realms of science fiction as a 26th-century astronaut.
The film was originally due to star Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, but was rescued with the new cast by Warner Brothers after being repeatedly rejected by other studios.
Aronofsky is regarded as one of the most intriguing new talents after his 2000 film Requiem For A Dream won 19 international awards, including an Oscar nomination for its star Ellen Burstyn.
His six-year battle to bring The Fountain to the screen has been described as a labour of love, and its reception at Venice will do little to steady the director's nerves ahead of its general release in November.
In one scene, Aronofsky directs his wife-to-be in a bathroom sex scene with Jackman. "I'm a pervert so I had no issue with it," he said. "I enjoy shooting sex scenes very much. She's an actress, he's an actor. It's mostly make-believe, and when you shout 'cut' it's over." The scene was edited out of the final film.
Weisz described how she researched her role by speaking to young cancer victims and visiting hospices. "Before I did the movie I was very, very frightened of death, should I ever think about it," she said. "Doing the movie, because of the place I had to get to mentally and the research I did talking to young people who were dying and people in the hospice movement helping people to die rather than trying to make them live - which is what doctors do - I got to a place where I was all right about dying .Now the movie's finished I'm scared again."Reuse content