A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.


March 14, 2011


Happy Pi day! Last year we had just started the project when March fourteenth rolled around and due to poor planning we didn’t end up reviewing this movie back then. We swore, however, that we’d get to it this year, so here we are.

This movie is Darren Aronofski’s Eraserhead; gritty, black & white, and inscrutable. Except that where Eraserhead often feels like it’s simply being weird for the sake of being weird Pi is a movie that is weird in service of trying to say something. It’s a strange sort of mystery thriller about numbers.

I should mention that in a previous life I was for a brief time a math major. I have always enjoyed the purity of playing with numbers and the interesting ways they work together. There is a kind of magic in numbers and this movie touches on it in a way. It’s about a mathematician named Max Cohen who believes there is a pattern hidden in the numbers of the stock market. As he goes deeper and deeper into the numbers they begin to get into his head. Literally in a way.

One of the themes of this movie is how there are numbers in everything. In the curl of a seashell. In the shape of a tree. In our very DNA. Connected to all this we have the notion that numbers are also a part of God. Max encounters a numerologist and kabalist named Lenny in a diner who introduces him to the notion that the Torah can be interpreted mathematically. He says that if you convert every Hebrew character into a number then the words of the Torah act as a sort of mathematical equation. A mysterious math problem directly from God himself. Over the course of the movie Max begins to realize that he has stumbled upon the solution to that equation. It’s a kind of super-number. A key that unlocks all the mysteries of he universe. But not something that a human mind is equipped to understand.

Max is prone to debilitating, horrendous, crushing headaches. He explains in the opening narration that they are a result of staring into the sun when he was a child. He temporarily lost his sight, and when he got it back the headaches began. It’s made clear that trying to understand the number which is supposedly the name of God is like looking into the sun. Max has the mathematical background to understand the number, but it is slowly driving him insane. At the same time he has rival groups attempting to get the number for themselves. There’s a well funded Wall Street company, represented by the always cheerful but slightly sinister and overwhelmingly persistent Marcy Dawson. There are also the Kabal led by Rabbi Cohen who need the number to re-claim the arc of the covenant. Or something.

So Max is slowly losing his mind and at the same time being hunted by these two groups. As things progress he becomes more and more paranoid. His madness manifests itself not just in headaches but in strange visions. He discovers that his closest friend and mentor, Sol (I see what you did there Aronofsky,) has come close to discovering the number himself in the past, but was afraid of what it was doing to him when he did.

It’s a very clever movie, and filmed on an absolute shoe-string. Aronofsky uses the restrictions of his budget to give the movie a sense of claustrophobia. It’s got an aspect of psychological thriller to it. It’s interesting to see Max becoming unhinged as he literally pokes at his brain in an attempt to understand what’s happening to him. I was fascinated when I first saw this as much by Aronofsky’s technique as by the writing and acing. I knew then that he was going to become a force to be reckoned with, and he has proven time and time again that he is unafraid to plumb the depths of human psyche and explore just how dark and dangerous those depths can be.

I’ll leave it to Amanda to explain just how frighteningly perfect his depiction here of a man tortured by migraines is. Do NOT watch this movie if you have a headache.

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

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