It’s not every day that a movie comes along that brings together time travel and yoga. The Fountain, a Warner Brothers picture tells the story of Tom/Tomas Creo (Hugh Jackman), a man traveling through time and space to save his wife Isabel (Rachel Weisz).
The film begins in 16th century Spain, where Tomas is a conquistador on a quest to find the Tree of Life, a mythical plant that promises eternal life to all who drink its powerful sap. Modern-day Tom is a scientist, working to find the elusive medicine that will cure his wife’s cancer. Fast-forward to the future and Tom is orbiting through deep space, a 26th century astronaut examining his past and the mysteries of existence. Throughout his thousand-year journey, Jackman’s character uses yoga and meditation to find balance and strength.
Warner Brothers originally brought Canadian-based yoga instructor Sebastien Arcand-Tourigny on set to work as a body-double for Jackman’s more complex yoga scenes. After completing the preliminary work, director Darren Aronofsky asked Arcand-Tourigny if he would consider teaching Jackman to perform the stunts himself; he accepted the challenge. “Hugh is a wonderfully open person,” says Arcand-Tourigny. “He has that burning desire to learn, to experiment. He really saw what the potential of yoga was, both for acting and in life. Every morning, sometimes as early as five, Hugh was waiting for his class with a big smile and a hug.”
Arcand-Tourigny has been practicing yoga and meditation for 13 years; he is both a yoga teacher and a professional musician and holds a deep interest in mathematics. He calls his personal practice “The Way of the Saxophone” which consists of “an integrated whole where [he] use[s] Zazen, Qigong, asana, pranayama, and music seamlessly.” When teaching, he starts with the foundations of”¯Iyengar and Ashtanga and then combines his unique areas of knowledge to create an individualized session, helping his students to find their equilibriums.
The Fountain was Arcand-Tourigny’s first experience instructing on a movie set. “I find working with actors very interesting from a yogic point of view. They need the grounding and integrity that it gives them, as well as the specific, contextual energy it can provide; all in a measure and intensity that most people cannot imagine.”
Aronofsky asked Arcand-Tourigny to help Jackman focus on the internal as well as the external forms of yoga; their sessions together weren’t centered around choreographed moves, but rather spiritual introspection. Jackman was required to sit in”¯the Lotus position for a particular scene, but Arcand-Tourigny says they didn’t practice the posture until the actual week the scene was filmed. “All that time, we worked around creating an integral yogic condition until the Lotus was ripe to arise.” The Fountain is for audiences interested in the metaphysical, yoga and the human condition. Not your typical Hollywood feature, here is a film with real soul. “The film entranced all the team working on it, from its beginning through its completion,” says Arcand-Tourigny. “A true labor of love, a true yoga.”
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