The Fountain (15) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The stalled career of Darren Aronofsky is a cause for grievous dismay. Six years ago his second film, Requiem for a Dream, came out over here, restating all the promise of his enigmatic debut. Since then, there's been nothing but stories about the troubled development of his third film, The Fountain, a time-travel cum meaning-of-life epic whose problems, as the director himself admits in a press foreword, "shattered our will and shook our souls". I really hope he believes that it was worth the struggle, because what has ended up on screen is likely to provoke only a mass "huh?".

Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz play a kind of duet in three movements; once as a research scientist and his dying wife, secondly as a bearded conquistador and Queen Isabel of Spain, finally as a space traveller and his muse located sometime in the, er, 26th century.

What links these episodes is a search for the secret to eternal life, variously involving a tree, a Mayan pyramid and a monkey with a brain tumour. Ambitious? You bet, but also a towering, tumultuous folly. It's the movie equivalent of a prog-rock double album, short on humour, long on pomposity, and as for what it all means - you might well ask.