Pi

Director: Darren Aronofsky

1998

“Strikingly shot in high-contrast black and white with various novel and visceral camera techniques, Pi evokes the paranoia of Poe and Kafka within the fuzzy framework of science fiction.” (874, Joshua Klein, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Pi Darren AronofskyFuzzy framework of science fiction is right – it’s not a film that screams sci-fi to me. There’s a few elements that don’t really it in real world films which I guess pushes it towards the sci-fi category. Pi is a weird film but one that is exquisitely shot just as Klein says it is. Somehow the use of black and white creates a period feel despite the fact that the film remains situated in the 1990s.

Aronofsky’s debut film has most definitely set the tone for his body of work. He’s developed into a director who combines surprisingly dark narratives, a strong visual style and unusual framing – all elements that are very mush present in his debut film.  “Aronofsky lets most of the questions hang until the film’s conclusion, and keeping the audience in the dark is just another way to heighten the chaotic, exhilarating, frequently imposing mood of the picture.” (874)

The maths kind of passed me by – well completely flew over my head in all honesty – but then I have never been mathematically minded. Both factions vying for the knowledge contained in Max Cohen‘s troubled mind, Wall Street and a group of Kabbalah Jews, are both quite disturbing. Aronofsky has made both money and religion objects of mistrust here.

Sean Gullette is captivating as the savant Max Cohen, someone plagued by debilitating headaches. The headaches, or rather the immense discomfort caused by their occurrence, translates across to the viewer through the use of sound and imagery. Like Max I come to dread his headaches as the incessant high-pitched white noise made for uncomfortable viewing.

The chaotic nature of the film suits Max’s character. This is somewhat of a juxtaposition as Max’s mind works in quite a linear and obviously numerical way. Because you see the narrative from Max’s perspective your mistrust of the world increases as his does. In some ways I mistrust the overly friendly Lenny more than the professionals from Wall Street yet I can’t put my finger on why.

“His ability to capture the rush and confusion of racing down a time line toward infinity, only to suddenly slam into a dead-end, makes for impressive and occasionally disturbing stuff.” (874) Max’s solution to the ever-increasing burden of his headaches is extreme to say the least and I did think it was the end of the film. And I suppose in a way it was because by destroying the information contained within is brain he removed his appeal to those competing factions. I found the actual ending sentimental but ultimately fitting. Max gains some sense of peace although it costs him his maths – seems a worthy trade-off in my opinion.

 

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