A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 379 – Pi

Pi – March 14th, 2011

Of course we’re watching Pi today. It’s Pi Day, after all (3/14 – get it?) so it seemed like the best plan. We’ve had it marked down as today’s movie since last year when we missed it because the project was new to us and we hadn’t given much thought to planning for holidays and special dates. And I’ve been dreading it ever since. It combines two banes of my existence: math and headaches. And it combines them incredibly well. Now, since I’m notoriously horrible with numbers, I can’t really speak to the actual math in the movie. But I can speak to the headaches. And I can speak to how much of a headache math gives me when I try to focus on it.

I remember watching this in college. We had it at the store Andy and I worked at and it looked fascinating. While I have no facility with math whatsoever, what I do have is a very odd relationship with it. I love the idea of it. I love knowing it’s out there. I love watching people who are good with math do math. It’s beautiful. It’s like art to me. I have a vast appreciation for it while being utterly unable to do it myself. But then too, I wish I could do it. I don’t have any pressing desire to be able to paint or draw, but I do with I could do math. It is immensely frustrating to stare at those metaphorical paints and brushes and not be able to figure out how to make even the simplest art with them. So I went into this movie expecting to be frustrated, but also fascinated. What I wasn’t expecting were the headaches.

The plot of this movie revolves around a single character, Max, and his search for a special 216 digit number that he believes will unlock the secrets and patterns of the world and explain everything. Nature, finance, human life. Everything. He’s also paranoid and plagued with frequent and debilitating headaches. Migraines. They come on suddenly and everything else disappears while Max writhes and screams and suffers. He’s had the headaches since he was a child and stared into the sun after his mother told him not to. He’s also been a math genius for about as long. The movie implies not so much that the two are related as that Max believes they’re related. That’s an important distinction in this movie, I believe, that the things we see and hear from Max are the things he sees and believes, and he’s not precisely lucid all of the time.

Max sees the world through a haze of numbers and headaches and paranoia and sometimes it’s difficult to focus. The number he’s looking for seems like it’s always just out of reach, almost there, on the tip of his tongue or buried in his mind somewhere. He meets two wildly different groups who want the number for their own means: A financial investment firm wants to use it to predict the stock market and a group of Jewish men who are studying the Torah and believe that the number has meaning in Kabbalah and will reveal the name of God. Neither group seems all that concerned with what the obsession with the number is doing to Max, who is slowly but surely breaking down completely. And Max is too paranoid and determined to isolate himself to seek help from the people around him who actually care, like one of his neighbors who leaves him food and tries to help.

The movie is a bit of a blunt instrument. It’s in black and white, utilizes some very overwrought stereotypes and acting from the two antagonistic groups and I’m sure that people who know math better than me can poke holes in it all over the place. And then there are the headaches, which are represented on camera with dizzying spins and shakes and accompanied by a cacophony of buzzing and trilling and high pitched whines. I get headaches like that and if you don’t suffer from them and are curious as to just how bad a headache could be, pop this one in. But despite the heavy-handedness and all, I still enjoy it. It’s an interesting little movie and cool to see as Darren Aronofsky’s early work. It’s just not something I could ever watch on a regular basis.

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March 14, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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