Aronofsky, Chinlund combine real and fake to create an illusion

When writer-director Darren Aronofsky and production designer James Chinlund began designing the look of the ambitious sci-fi epic “The Fountain,” they were well aware that they’d taken on “a huge challenge,” Aronofsky admits, “especially as it’s set in three different time periods — the Mayan culture and 16th-century Spain, the present and deep space in the 26th century. And it deals with themes of loss and death, and eternal life as symbolized by the Tree of Life.”

Creating the Tree “was the greatest challenge, as the eye can detect the slightest variation in the natural structure,” Chinlund notes. To get it just right, “we used bits of driftwood and real trees from Canada, so the ends of the branches and roots are real,” Aronofsky says. “Then we sculpted molds from those bits, built a steel frame and built up the tree around it, and finally added real and fake bark to complete the illusion.”

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