Rohan and I finally understood the movie The Fountain last night. I say finally - Rohan has only ever seen the first and last 15 minutes (oh, how apt!) It's fair to say it blew our minds.
SPOILERS. Big time.
- A spring or source of water; the source or head of a stream.
- The source or origin of anything. The beginning. Genesis.
She finally taught him that they get reborn. That's why she wasn't afraid of dying any more. That's why the two of them meet over and over through history. That's why he is so tearfully happy to realise he is about to die. Because death is their road to immortality. To be reborn. To live forever.
This is how the tree of life grants immortality - by allowing them to realise this. Nothing has changed, other than their own knowledge.
The conclusion of his journey, to reach the nebula with the tree, is just in time for the end of the universe, which then immediately leaps back into being again, a new Creation, in the fires of which, the First Father is sacrificed on the tree of life, which blossoms anew. The circle is completed. The ring, which was lost, is now found.
She tries to tell him, to help him fulfil his destiny, but he has to figure it out for himself, at the proper time. He has to die in the heart of the nebula, that his ashes might seed the tree of life into blossoming anew in the fires of a new creation.
| "What do you think about that?" She asks him. | "About what?" | "About death as a creative act."
Izzy and Tom will be reborn in this new universe, too, many times down the centuries of history. They will live an infinite number of lives together. Forever. So long as he finds his way to the end of all things, to renew the cycle.
| "Finish it." She told him. | "I'm trying. I don't know how." He replies. | "You do. You will."
He is Adam, who sustained his unnaturally extended life to the year 2500 by subsisting on of the tree of life. She is his Eve, who partook of the tree of knowledge at the beginning. The trees are literally the self same plant.
This is why the same scenes happen over and over. Until, in one of the interminable infinity of cascading universes, something different happens. Tommy changes his mind. It's a bona fide miracle. He exercises his free will, does something differently this time around - He bails out of work, to go walk with Izzy in the first snow. He has learned that he can't save her. That he cannot, must not try to save her. For only in death do they find rebirth, and the immortality she has promised him.
The rational, male left-brained mind can only comprehend so much. It is limited to knowledge within the domain of individual lives' observable horizons. Each of these lives is punctuated by death, which is to lose all knowledge, all memories. Delineated by such singularities, the rational mind can never encompass the whole picture. To understand more, one needs to go beyond what can be known. One must believe in the things beyond the singularity, things that can never be known. You must have faith.
I am religious, and there is no God.
Update 30/04/2007: I suppose that the climactic event at the nebula doesn't have to represent the end / creation of whole universes. It could merely (!) represent the star at the core of the nebula collapsing beyond the Chandrasekhar limit, and undergoing spontaneous nova as a result. The corresponding storyline interpretation being that, rather than spawning new iterations of whole universes, Adam is instead seeding life in the formation of new solar systems, and so spreading life across the galaxy. My Conquistador, she calls him.
Update 05/05/2007: added the dictionary definition at the head of the page, judiciously snipped from dictionary.com and from the corresponding entry on thesaurus.com, and couldn't resist various wording improvements.
Update 2018: The director has stated unambiguously that the above is all wrong.