Mathematics is the language of nature—correct? According to Max Cohen, it is. In fact, he’d likely accuse you of stealing his hypothesis.
A highly intelligent man, the path he leads you down, would have you hard pressed to doubt him. He lives in the world of numbers and goes from a mathematician, to a numerologist, to a man completely out of touch with reality in this near modern masterpiece.
Max (brilliantly portrayed by Sean Gullette) is a genius mathematician who seeks patterns in numbers with the help of his super computer (which he built himself) and his number oriented mind. As the film progresses, it becomes evident that Max is paranoid and possibly mentally ill, and is constantly popping pills; whether they help him or hurt him is open interpretation.
Max has poor social skills, but many take interest in him. Perhaps for the work he is making himself known for. Characters worth noting though are the young girl who he runs into here and there, and he answers her difficult mathematical questions, which she confirms are always correct via calculator. He also has a neighbor at his apartment complex who is always kind to him, and he never treats her nicely in return. The only social contact he values is his former math mentor. Lastly, there are the religious and political figures who take interest in his work, and who conspire to force crucial numerical information from him. One party wants to manipulate the stock market, and the other wants a number that represents God.
He’s a genius, but a bit of a mess at the same time. He’ll have moments of extreme paranoia, see things that don’t exist and experience pure hallucinations, but will also seek answers, at ivy-league like intelligence. When unable to arrive at the exact conclusion he desires, his mental health worsens.
With mathematics, Max sees connection in everything in life. He seeks patterns that connect certain aspects of life to others, such as the stock market. He is brilliant but madness consumes him. A gash in his head drives him to shave his head, and he eventually goes crazy and destroys everything. In the end, he takes away his own greatest gift.
This film is Darren Aronofsky’s first film, and is one of his best. He also wrote the script, and given how the characters speak, it is clearly well written and researched. The film is black and white but is colorful through gritty imagery. The score sounds like something Trent Reznor would have composed, but Clint Mansell is behind it and did a phenomenal job.
“Pi” reveals a world where dealing with numbers creates mastery in life. It suggests that even the wise are vulnerable to darkness. It is without a doubt, a future cult classic and is well worth viewing. Man is not safe in his own mind.