#11 – Pi (1997)
Film review #11
dir. Darren Aronofsky
A psychological thriller about mathematics. What’s so psychological about mathematics you may ask?
Max Cohen is a mathematician who works with number theory. Ever since he started into the sun when he was six, he has had powerful headaches and pains, but he also gained a remarkable ability for calculating arithmetic sums. One day, when he is trying to find a formula for the stock markets, his computer spits out a 216-digit number and crashes. Thinking of it as an error, he carries on until he realises that the number he disregarded was correct, and that he had predicted the stock market crash.
This wraps Max up in a conspiracy between a number of vested interests such as a Wall Street company and a Jewish group. They believe the number can help them control the stock market, or bring about the messianic age, as the number would actually translate into the true name of God which was lost 2000 years ago.
The notion of everything in nature being able to be expressed in numbers is something we can accept to a point. Perhaps predicting the rise and fall of the stock market may be a little too far, but the film as a whole shows the power of numbers and what they can mean. Various bits of number theory and history are weaved throughout the film, so even if you’re not all that clued up on the history of mathematics, you can learn just about enough to get through the movie.
Pi isn’t your standard Hollywood film. The whole movie is shot in grainy black and white, and follows a very loose narrative. Parts of the film are left rather ambiguous as to whether they happen, or just an hallucination of the protagonist. It could be said that the whole movie is just one deranged concoction of a paranoid schizophrenic who believes he is being followed and everyone is out to get him (At certain points in the movie, this does seem to be the case). The mathematics however, cannot be made up or envisioned: It is perhaps the only solid thing in the film, and this real thing is bringing people to blows with each other, unleashing the most psychologically disturbing aspects of humanity in order to attain a number. If nothing else, this film really empowers mathematics and numbers, and shows just what they are capable of.
Finally, possibly the best quote from the movie:
“If you disregard the scientific rigour, you are no longer a mathematician…You are a numerologist!”