Soundtracks On Vinyl: The Fountain

Love it or hate it, writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s six years in the making labor of love The Fountain has officially reached its 10th Anniversary since its theatrical release in 2006.  Opening to divisive reviews and dying a tragically quiet death at the box office, the film gradually attained cult status over the years and is now regarded as the director’s most personal work to date.  Whether you’re behind Aronofsky’s undeniably impeccably crafted piece of cinema, what stands out most of all alongside the fine performances by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz and the breathtaking cinematography by longtime collaborator Matthew Libatique is the haunting and ethereal original score by former Pop Will Eat Itself frontman turned distinguished film composer Clint Mansell.  Prior to what would be the biggest and riskiest endeavor taken on by the Aronofsky team yet, Mansell’s evocative, unforgettable and somber score for Requiem for a Dream became a game changer for the possibilities of film music and found it’s central theme being reused in more trailers and commercials than any other piece of music in recent memory. 

That Aronofsky’s team would mutually top their already monumental achievements on Requiem with The Fountain seemed unthinkable, yet here we are with what is easily composer Clint Mansell’s finest hour.  Reuniting with the Kronos Quartet who provided the evocative strings on Requiem with Scottish rock band Mogwai adding their own unique guitar strumming over Mansell’s mixture of electronic music, ambience, minimalism akin to Philip Glass with heartfelt strings akin to Bernard Herrmann, the score is an overwhelming listening experience that ranges from tranquil to terrifying, mournful, grief stricken and finally exultant.  Like Requiem, the sadly underrated and little seen The Fountain soon found the score’s greatest track, Death is the Road to Awe, cropping up on trailers for films including I Am Legend and The Mist.  Equally prolific are the sheer numbers of video compilations made online by fans for films like The Lord of the Rings set to Mansell’s music.    Like the film or not, the score is magnificent and truly breathtaking to hear, yet nearly a decade went by without the soundtrack ever receiving a proper release on vinyl, until now.

With Mondocon 2016 underway in Austin, Texas which includes panels, screenings, interactive events featuring the creative artists behind some of our favorite movies, a rare special event was held commemorating ten years of The Fountain with Mansell in attendance.  After a 35mm theatrical screening of the beloved cult classic back on the big screen once more and a Q&A with Mansell, a limited 500 units release of a180 gram vinyl pressing of Clint Mansell’s score for The Fountain was unveiled before instantly selling out.  Remastered for the high end analog audio format by John Webber at AIR Studios London with special packaging sleeve design by Nicole Gustafsson and a collectible booklet including comprehensive behind-the-scenes notes about the making of the score, this rare special edition release is cited by as ‘a bit of a holy grail’ for the company.    Not only because of the ornate package design with a tie dye golden pressing looking very like the dying star Xiabalba at the epicenter of the film, but because unlike the compact disc released by Nonesuch Records in 2006, this edition was produced under the full participation and supervision of its creator, Clint Mansell. 

In the revealing liner notes, I learned not only was David Bowie attached to the soundtrack at one point with an original song written for the end credits but that Mansell himself suffered a personal tragedy when his girlfriend at the time came down with an undisclosed illness that ultimately claimed her life.  Stuck in a clinical depression for over a year while working on the score for Black Mirror, Mansell performed the score for The Fountain in concert whereas he found out for himself just how powerful a piece of music Death is the Road to Awe really was.  Coming out of his depression, Mansell said it was the first time a piece of his own music actually helped him get through the difficult period and as such is regarded by many as a healthy emotional expression of coping, grief and finally closure.  Hearing the soundtrack with this new bit of knowledge in mind can’t help but place the whole album in a new light for me.  

Though sadly this pressing sold out very quickly, seemingly within the week of its debut in fact, I’m proud to have this staggering, profoundly moving piece of film music in my collection with arguably my personal favorite soundtrack to any film of all time.  No The Fountain still isn’t for everyone, with many still evenly split on both sides of the fence, but with this exquisite vinyl package in hand, it’s undeniably something everyone should listen to at some point in their lifetime.


- Andrew Kotwicki