Sunday, July 1, 2012

931. Pi (1998)

Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Written By: Darren Aronofsky, Sean Gullette, Eric Watson
Main Cast: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Samia Shoaib, Pamela Hart
Click here to view the trailer


The last time I watched "Pi", I shut it off at about the halfway mark and made the decision early that it wasn't a film for me. Of course, that option was revoked this time around, as I move one step closer to reaching my short term goal of the halfway mark. Fortunately, that wasn't an option I would've even turned to this time around. 

Max Cohen (Gullette) is a mathematician, who has built a super computer (nicknamed Euclid) in his small apartment. Max spends his days studying numbers and has a string of hypotheses. Max believes that everything in nature can be understood through numbers. Max believes that since the stock market is man made, that there must be a pattern to the numbers and that, somehow, he can crack the pattern and predict the fluctuations of the market. Max also suffers from severe migraine headaches, so severe that they cause him to blackout and have nose bleeds. In a diner, Max meets Lenny Meyer, a practicing Jew, who explains to Max that the entire Hebrew language can also be understood through numbers, each letter being represented by a different digit. Max also has a friend named Robeson, an aging, ex-mathematics professor. Max visits Robeson daily and in fact, Robeson is really the only person Max associates with, living inside his apartment, behind a door with a several deadbolt and chain locks. Max is also being hounded by a Wall Street firm, who wish to employ Max and use his mind to their advantage. One day, Euclid makes some preposterous predictions, quoting a stock at one-tenth it's normal price. Following the odd prediction, Euclid spits out a long sequence of numbers and then crashes. Later, Max learns that the stock quote was actually right on and that the long sequence of numbers could be a 216-digit number that holds great importance. Max suffers through his headaches, conferences with Robeson and deals with the Wall Street firm and the Jewish organization that are after his brain.


Before I state my opinions of the film, allow me to state my theories on just what's happening in this movie. I always like to preface my film theories by stating that I'm not sure whether or not the theory is widely believed. I did do a little tinkering around the IMDB message boards, following my viewing of "Pi", but really couldn't find any out and out theories as to what is actually happening in the movie. Obviously the plot leaves some questions and confusion with it's viewers by the time the credits roll and it's my mission to try and work these questions out, right here on the blog. SO....with the being said, here goes:

First of all, allow me to restate a few facts: 1) Max is a genius mathematician/number theorist, who believes that basically everything can be understood through numbers. 2) Max believes that since the stock market is a man made invention, that it too can be understood through numbers and that, without question, there must be a method to it's madness, so to speak. Those two points are facts, without a doubt, however #2 isn't necessarily true, it's just a fact that Max believes to be true. In my estimation we can logically assume two things about Max that are important to understanding this film: 1) Max is ultra paranoid. This is obvious by the amount of locks on his apartment door. There are also telling signs of this in the subway, where, on a couple different occasions, Max thinks he's being followed by an middle-aged passenger. 2) Max suffers from hallucinations. I think we can logically assume this, also because of things that he encounters in the subway. The man that Max encounters, who is bleeding from his hand. Was it just me or was there a split second shot of that man turning to Max, only to reveal himself AS Max? Max also encounters a brain in the subway and I think we it's logical to assume that this was also a hallucination. Now then, if we can logically assume that Max is ultra paranoid AND that he suffers from hallucinations, then my theory suggests that many of the characters are simply figments of Max's imagination, such as Marcy, Lenny and maybe even Robeson.

Marcy and Lenny represent importance in Max's life. Without them, Max is merely a lonely man, sitting in his apartment, pressing the "return" key every few hours, coddling his super computer. Without them, even if Max's computer numbers do have meaning, they're still pretty much meaningless, because no one really cares. With Lenny and Marcy in place, Max feels like his life has some sort of meaning, that there are people that want his brain and his work. Without them, the only thing that makes Max feel important is the little girl, with the calculator, who tests him when he leaves his apartment and that's simply not enough to make Max feel smart or powerful. He believes they're real, therefore he still feels threatened when his imagination forces these characters to become hostile. Now, Robeson, on the other hand, represents the little bit of sanity that Max has left. In my theory Max is on the brink of a complete mental breakdown and Robeson is almost like that voice in the back of Max's head saying "Take a break, kid". I believe that Robeson was real, at some point prior to the film's timeline and that he was, indeed, Max's professor. I believe that Robeson died years before the events of the film began and that Max imagined that he still existed, to keep a little piece of sanity. When Max shows up at Robeson's apartment, at the end of the film, a lady answers the door and unveils that the "old man that used to live here" has died. She doesn't say he "just died", but simply that he USED to live there and that he died.

Then there's the 216-digit number, which in my theory is a meaningless number, but in Max's reality is a very important number that many people want to get their hands on. The Jews believe it to be the real name of God, after translated into Hebrew letters and the Wall Street agents think it's the key to unlocking the answer to the stock market. This is Max's breakthrough. Without this number, Max has found nothing and has contributed nothing to the world of mathematics. In the end, Max believes that this number, which he has memorized, mustn't fall into the wrong hands, so he drills into his head to try and forget the number, even though in reality, the number was meaningless and he's drilling into his head for nothing. This is the climax of Max's total breakdown and really, once he drills into his head, it is my opinion that he basically cures himself, because he believes he's erased all the meaningful information from his memory, so now he can just be, without feeling threatened by agents and renegade Jews. In the end, Max realizes that being amusement for a little girl and her calculator isn't so bad and can smile about everything, because he's finally free of the dreaded 216-digit number and the threat is gone.

So that's my theory, take it or leave it. It's not perfect and a re-watch, with these ideas in mind would be prudent in solidifying them. I also wanted to mention the fact that reality does try and seep into Max's brain. At certain times throughout the film, Max hears the sounds of neighbors having sex through the walls, which represent Max and his desire to be normal, maintain normal social customs and a relationship, possibly with his neighbor, who obviously has the hots for him. He doesn't want to be that guy sitting in his apartment, crunching numbers, by himself, but his mind thinks the work is too important to give up. Everything doesn't fit perfectly. I'm not sure where pi factors into everything and for some reason, I think the story about him staring into the sun when he was six-years-old has something to do with something, probably because it's mentioned three or four times throughout the picture. I believe my theory holds water, because when you think about it, if everyone is real, then the film is pretty ridiculous, isn't it? I mean, if there really are Wall Street agents and Jews who want this magic number, accidentally spit out by Max's computer, then that's not really a very stimulating picture, is it? My theory makes the film much more exciting and peculiar (in a good way) to me. By the way, this is how you write a movie where you allow your viewer to interpret it his/her own way. "Pi" is really fun to try and decipher and doesn't feel unfinished, in the least. Usually when writers try the old "I'm gonna make my movie confusing for the sake of being confusing" trick, I see right through it and end up hating it.

When I write THAT much, then you know a film has really seeped into my head and gotten under my skin. You can tell that I've spent a lot of my day, flipping this film around in my head and trying hard to understand it. I like movies that present a puzzle to me and ones that are ingenious, even without the puzzle aspect. The script is obviously amazing, but the picture itself is unsettling, providing creepy music, paranoid/suspenseful moments and just a whole lot of chaos. I would recommend this film, but if you rent it from a video store (do those even exist anymore?) make sure you spring for the extra dough to keep it a few extra days, because one viewing may not cut it. It's not perfect and part of you may want to dismiss it altogether, rather than put in the extra time to try and piece together what's actually happening. But, if you're one who is committed to discovering the mystery behind unusual, confusing films, then I have no doubt that you'll love it.

RATING: 7.5/10  I'm still trying to make heads or tails of everything and get everything in order, but it certainly has potential to nab, at least, a "Ten Worth Mentioning" spot on the TOP 20. By the way, if you're new to the blog and have no idea what I'm talking about when I say "TOP 20", just click the link at the top of the page and it's fully explained. Next up: "Requiem for a Dream"


July 1, 2012  1:36am

1 comment:

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