3.14159265... to countless digits beyond: it’s pi, a mathematical constant taken from Greek alphabet π that implies the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter. Many years spent by mathematicians all around the world, even until now, to reveal and find a pattern of this limitless number. This film, “Pi”, emerges as a different outlook of this mathematical irrationality using a surrealist portrayal displayed in grainy black-and-white tint. Like many other films that set out mathematics as a main topic, “Pi” tried (so hard) to be different from other by enthusiastically relating this often-ignored and almost-forgotten number to a dramatically bigger mystery of universe, using a geekiness and psychological disturbance of a man as a medium. This is a feature film directorial debut of Darren Aronofsky, the director of 2010’s award-winning “Black Swan”, and here he also became a screenwriter.
Maybe it’s better to inform you that there’s no correlation between this “Pi” to Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” premiering in Indonesia next Friday. Haha. In “Pi”, we’ll be presented with Max Cohen (played by Sean Gullette), a mathematician—or more specifically, a number theorist—who believed that everything in nature was arranged by number. He had been so curious to find a mathematical pattern of the nature in order to understand the universe, that he built a supercomputer he named Euclid in his room to develop his experiment: predicting the stock market as a course of his work.
"Mathematics is the language of nature" - Max Cohen
Math, self-depression, and nerds. This old formula was again executed to show us a form of insanity in which (Aronofsky thought that) the complexity of math seems fit. Max Cohen was described suffering from a fatal headache and hallucination, as along the duration he repeatedly consumed drugs—in an increasing dosage—or injected himself with a sort of injection tool and some chemical substances, and felt like being followed with a mysterious person everytime. He was antisocial (his only friend was Sol Robeson—played by Mark Margolis—a retired mathematician and professor), he did weird things like locking his door with four different locks, and so on. With the addition of characters like Marcy Dawson (played by Pamela Hart), a spokeswoman of an unknown firm that seduce him with a computer chip in exchange for the results of his work, and Lenny Meyer (played by Ben Shenkman), a loyal Jew from a cabalistic sect who did a similar mathematics experiment to unlock the secret of Torah, I really confused with where the plot of “Pi” will end up to.
But all this leaking old recipe brought another thumbs-up side. A great cinematography was maximally presented, especially regarding to display the main character’s paranoia. Its grainy black-and-white tint was awesomely wrapping up all the mysterious topic. Some figures are metaforic, like when in his hallucination he found a leftover throbbing brain in which bring impulsive effect to his own brain—which I’d like to assume as a form of mind depression of his dead-ended experiment, and some face-front steady camera positions were realistically showing the interchanging curiosity and depression of Max Cohen. The scoring added a more dynamic pulse, a supportive techno upbeat that enliven the nuance from the very beginning to the very end. The cast was somehow good, developed well, and strongly characterized, especially Sean Gullette who I think successfully brought a deep portrayal of Max Cohen. He was total.
“Pi” is surrealistic, more to be a visual experience rather than a story-based entertainment. Fortunately it didn’t end up too shifted from a math-centered story to a sci-fi-esque thriller-mystery. The plot laid itself back to the unsolved enigma of numbers and universe, as it concluded a multi-interpretation end that left the viewers either inspired or confused. Finally I didn’t get a fully “mathematics” story which I really expected in the first place, since the number and math topic was rather unsupportively comprehended. I appreciate it more for its bravery, unusual topic, and—especially—stand-out cinematography for such a low-budget, made-without-permission indie film. An eyegasm in black-and-white coloring.
▲ Great visual experience in a black-and-white
▼ Old formula, a left-behind math topic as the main focus
PI | COUNTRY USA YEAR 1998 RATING Rated R for language and some disturbing images GENRE Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller RUNTIME 84 min CAST Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart, Stephen Pearlman WRITER Darren Aronofsky DIRECTOR Darren Aronofsky IMDB RATING 7.5/10 METACRITIC 72/100 (Generally Favorable) ROTTEN TOMATOES 86% (Certified Fresh) MORE INFO