Saturday, 17 December 2011

Movie review: π (Pi) [1998] by Darren Aronofsky

the term is over and the review for 'film studies elective' handed in. just wanted it to be here, cause Pi is my very favourite film of all time!

Pi is a psychological thriller with elements of science fiction, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Pi is his first full-length movie that earned him the Directing Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. It was ‘inspired by Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo – The Iron Man (1988) and the comic books of Frank Miller (“Sin City” in particular)’ (The Wallflower Critical Guide to Contemporary North American Directors, 2000, p. 21). Film tells a story of a genius mathematician, Maximillian Cohen, who leads a secluded life and obsessed with finding the underlying numerical pattern behind the global stock market.
Pi is a very atmospheric film. It follows protagonist through the part of his life and actually tries to make the viewer feel like Max does. He suffers from head-splitting migraine attacks and hallucinations. The fast cutting editing, super close-ups, constant camera moving, “Snorri-Cam” are just some of the techniques used in film to put a viewer in main character’s shoes. Darren Aronofsky gives his way of working with jump cuts and sound effects a name of hip-hop montage (Interview with Darren Aronofsky by Jeffrey M. Anderson) making an interesting point on existence of “hip-hop art – graffiti, 
<...> hip hop dance – breakdancing, <...> hip-hop music – rap”, but not hip-hop film. It’s interesting to note, that one of the best known scenes with the use of fast cutting is the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho (1960). I think that the opening scene of Pi actually recalls the ending shot of the shower scene.

The movie is shot in grainy black-and-white 16 mm film. The picture is rather black or white, without gray tones. The film is dark but lights are slightly overexposed. It not only sets the mood but quite literally describes protagonist’s relationship with the light. At the very beginning we hear the story from his childhood, where he temporary loses his vision after looking at the sun. I think Max believes it to be some sort of enlightenment. It is worth mentioning that a lot of things in film are actually black and white – the monitor of his computer-Euclid, the Go game that he plays with his mentor, Sol Robeson, newspapers with stock results and the mathematical schemes Max draws.
Max doesn’t have a lot of acquaintances. The most close who he has to a friend is his mentor, who suffered a stroke and gave up on his research afterwards. Max can’t understand this because of his own obsession.
It is interesting how the main characters vary from what we used to see in films. The representation of care and love in film is Devi, Indian neighbour of Max. A cruel and materialistic Marcy Dawson, Wall Street businesswoman, and religious fanatic Lenny Meyer, Jewish numerologist, are trying to take advantage of Cohen.
In spite of Pi being a low-budget film, Aronofsky spends money on expensive mikes as he considers sound one of the most important components in films. It also was his first collaboration with Clint Mansell (English musician, composer, and former lead singer and guitarist of the band Pop Will Eat Itself) who in my opinion has done an amazing job. They’re working together a lot since then.
Director leaves us with quite a mysterious ending that makes us wonder if Max gave up on science like his mentor did. A lot of people take the 'drilling hole in the head' scene at the end quite literally. I prefer to think of it as a metaphor.
No matter what, you should remember, ‘Mathematics is the language of nature. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers. If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge. Therefore, there are patterns everywhere in nature.’

The Wallflower Critical Guide to Contemporary North American Directors, 2000
Interview with Darren Aronofsky by Jeffrey M. Anderson

review by Kira Slepchenkova


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