This one's a Must-see!

This one’s a Must-see!

Madly intelligent; hypnotizing

Madly intelligent; hypnotizing

There are scientists who present the idea that the mathematical constant π contains the Universe itself. The theory states that, since the decimals of π are infinite and continue forever, if you break out enough of its infinite digits, you will at some point start to find patterns; codes, basically. And if you continue beyond that, you should find the “code”, if you will, of this entire Universe. Surely this specific type of number sequence must exist somewhere inside a number that, again, never ends?

pi-1Pi is seemingly a movie about mathematics, which I’m hesitant to mention lest I scare off lazy college or high school students who’d miss out on a deep and intelligent film that explores madness, genius and nature itself, and is much more than just a math lesson. It’s the directional debut of Darren Aronofsky and certainly his most surreal, not to mention disturbing, work.

Sean Gullette plays Maximillian “Max” Cohen, a brilliant but paranoid man whose obsession with math has led him to believe that everything in the Universe can be understood through numbers; codes found in nature that could answer everything. A little girl next door asks him to calculate complex math problems in his head and his only friend, his aging mentor Sol (Mark Margolis) invites him over for games of Go. Sol speaks words of caution regarding Max’s obsessive quest for answers but Max feels that Sol is merely a quitter who stopped seeking when he was close. This is also probably the most you’ll ever see of Mark Margolis in an Aronofsky movie. He’s in all of them so far but it’s not easy to tell.

Max spends much of his time staring at the flickering monitors of his computer, Euclid, writing notes and hallucinating nightmarish visions. At a diner he meets a Jewish man, Lenny (Ben Shenkman). Lenny works with Gematria, the Hebrew math alphabet, and presents the old theory that the numbers found in the Torah are in fact codes sent to humanity by God. Shortly after this encounter, Max finds himself pursued by a Jewish organization and mysterious Wall Street agents, all of whom have taken a keen interest in Max’s extraordinary brain and what unspeakable secrets could be stored/solved within.

pi mid maube

With a monochrome look that feels like a charmful tribute to David Lynch‘s 1976 masterpiece Eraserhead and cinematography that reminds of Aronofsky’s future film Requiem for a Dream, the movie is beautiful yet sometimes maddening to behold. The music fits the uneasy and somewhat trippy mood also. In addition to Clint Mansell‘s psychedelic score, the soundtrack includes equally psychedelic songs from artists such as David Holmes, GusGus and the ever so peculiar Aphex Twin, whose insane but creative electronic music style is nothing less than flawless for a film like Pi.

Sean Gullette carries the film with skill and Maximillian’s horror and paranoia is often shared by the audience. Much like the aforementioned Eraserhead, the more disturbing bits of the film are shot and edited in a way that, even though they’re certainly strange and unusual, still feel eerily similar to what most would consider a nightmare. The most skillful horror to pull off, in my mind.

Some of the symbolism is also admirable. The game of Go plays an especially significant role. More complex than Checkers and Chess both, it is used to illustrate how opposed Max and Sol are becoming to one another (black & white, if you will), which is also made clear by how their respective interpretations of the game represent their respective interpretations of the Universe’s complexity. Sol has accepted chaos; Max insists that there’s more. Other parts involve Max finding his own brain bleeding out in a bathroom sink and seeing strange lights in his doorway. Once again I’m reminded of the works of Lynch.

Pi is a good-looking, thought-provoking and intellectual thriller that doesn’t get its thrills from action set pieces, car chases or whatever else feels obligatory for most thriller filmmakers. Instead it all works thanks to Gullette, who plays a sympathetic genius that wants to be alone in a world that won’t leave him. How he solves this is one of the more gruesome scenes in the film but at least he’s free. They say ignorance is bliss. Perhaps it’s true.

Here is a trailer and, of course, my rating:

5/5 whatever