Tag Archives: A Beautiful Mind

My Thoughts on: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

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* This review was requested by Patreon subscriber @AlienPizzareia 🙂

A Beautiful Mind is a biographical film based on the life of American mathematician John Nash (1928-2015). It was directed by Ron Howard and stars Russell Crowe as Nash and Jennifer Connelly as his wife Alicia.

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The film starts as many biopics do: the young Nash arrives at Princeton to study mathematics and eventually publishes an original idea that earns him a position at MIT. While at school, he becomes friends with his roommate Charles Herman (Paul Bettany). Everything seems to be going great: not only is Nash’s career taking him places, he also falls in love with and marries Alicia with the support of his former roommate. So far it’s typical of what you find in films of this sort. But then something happens that turns everything you thought you knew on its head.

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Midway through the film, Nash is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and it turns out that his roommate, his roommate’s niece and several other characters we’ve already met, were not real. This bombshell changes everything about the beginning of the film when you take into account that in every scene where Nash is talking to his roommate…there isn’t anyone actually there!! The result of this revelation (for me at least), is that for the rest of the film you can’t help but wonder how many of the people Nash talks to are real or hallucinations (Ron Howard does a good job of blurring the lines between reality and hallucination throughout the film).

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I admit I have a hard time with the latter half of the film: there’s a disturbing sequence where Nash is given electroshock therapy to try and cure his schizophrenia (a disorder that was not well understood at the time), not to mention an equally disturbing scene where his infant son nearly drowns in a bathtub. Despite these scenes, I can deeply appreciate how the film follows Nash as he struggles to rebuild his life to something resembling ‘normal.’

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The late James Horner turned in a fantastic score for this film. It shifts and turns, very much as Nash’s mind does when considering a mathematical problem. And before the revelation of schizophrenia, the music goes down a suspenseful path, especially once Nash starts doing ‘secret government work’ and believes he’s being followed.

A Beautiful Mind is one of those films that everyone should see at least once, because it is a masterpiece and it most definitely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Picture. A big thank you to @AlienPizzareia for requesting this review, it’s been a long time since I watched this one. Let me know what you think of A Beautiful Mind in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film 101: Unreliable Narrator

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Yesterday in talking about the Rashomon effect I mentioned the term ‘unreliable narrator’ and I thought I would go into more detail about it today. This concept is one that has grown incredibly popular in recent years and is responsible for one of the biggest television hits of the 21st century.

The concept is simple enough at first glance: an unreliable narrator is any character who relays information about the story (either to the audience or another character (often serving as the audience surrogate)) that is untrue or a series of half-truths mixed together. In short, you cannot trust what this character says to be the truth. And as this character often serves as THE narrator (more or less) of the film/series/book, it makes the story that much more interesting because (assuming you are aware they are unreliable) the entire time you are wondering if you can believe anything being told to you.

 

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To really understand this concept though, you have to keep in mind that the unreliable narrator is, in my opinion, a relatively recent development. For most of film history, the narrator (if there is one) is a figure above reproach, one that will consistently let us (the audience) know what is really going on and who is doing what. It seems that the studios discovered that having an unreliable narrator made for a good story. Of course they weren’t the first: the big television hit I referred to at the beginning was none other than HBO’s Game of Thrones, which of course is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (that may or may not ever see completion, I finished reading A Dance with Dragons almost FIVE years ago). The books are notorious for having no overarching narrator that you might find in other book series. Instead, each chapter is told from one character’s point of view, meaning everything we see is biased by the perceptions of that character. Since none of the characters know the full picture (except for maybe Varys and I’m not sure even he knows about what’s going on north of the Wall), you can’t fully trust (and in the case of some like Littlefinger, not at all) what these characters see/know/think they know. And this mostly carries over to the TV show.

Other good examples of an unreliable narrator in film include:

  • Fight Club (1999): It turns out that only one of the two main protagonists actually exists, the other is in the main character’s head.
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001): The main character is eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and it turns out several characters we’ve come to know are not real.
  • Atomic Blonde (2017): It could be said this film has several examples as the “true” story does not come out towards the end. Lorraine, being the main character, is probably the chief example as her search for “Satchel” is revealed to be based on a lie

And that’s pretty much what an unreliable narrator is 🙂 What are some examples of an unreliable narrator that you can think of? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

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James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

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Unbelievably, it’s been 15 years since A Beautiful Mind took the cinematic world by storm. Based on the real-life story of mathematician John Nash (1928-2015), the film follows Nash from his days at Princeton, through his diagnosis with paranoid schizophrenia and the struggles that came with dealing with an illness that was not well understood yet. It’s not even clear for a good portion of the film that Nash is seeing things that aren’t there. A good case in point comes with Nash’s roommate at Princeton Charles. He’s introduced the way any other character would be, he talks with Nash and even walks in public with him and later introduces his young niece. I remember being totally shocked when it was revealed that only Nash could see Charles (it put certain episodes at Princeton in a completely different light).

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A Beautiful Mind took home four Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. It also received four additional nominations for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Best Original Score.

I don’t remember exactly when I saw this movie for the first time, but I do remember it had something to do with school (we might have been learning about mental illness). I should also mention that I knew nothing about Nash before watching this film, so the revelation that so many of Nash’s “friends” were delusions came as a huge surprise to me, and it made me question every interaction Nash had for the rest of the film.

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

For this film, director Ron Howard called upon composer James Horner to assemble the musical score and oh did he ever! Horner gives an eloquent description of how he assembled the musical themes for this film and not only that, he also described his thought process for creating a film score in general (he compares it to painting, which is just beautiful!) Considering it’s been just under a year since he passed away, I felt a few tears come to my eyes, knowing that a talent like this was gone from the world.

Please enjoy listening to how the music for A Beautiful Mind was put together!

If you’re interested in learning more about James Horner’s film scores, see here

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*the film poster is the property of Universal Pictures