Pi (1998) — Trying to make math trendy once more

“If we’re built from spirals while living in a giant spiral, then is it possible that everything we put our hands to is infused with the spiral?”

Justin’s rating: Math geniuses always get the girl

Justin’s review: Confession time: I hated math in school. Now, I know that’s not too shocking or even different than the non-robotic majority of you, but it remains a fact. Sure, it’s nice solving an equation, but once we kids had it figured out, they introduced calculus. Which (for you high schoolers out there) you will NEVER HAVE TO USE IN YOUR LIFE, EVER. It’s a conspiracy because math teachers like their jobs.

Pi is, unfortunately, about math. Numbers. Equations. Ants. But I gave it a fair chance, and I’m pretty glad I did (especially since I rented it with John Carpenter’s Vampires, which was an utter waste of money and fast-forwarding time). Pi is a black and white indie film about a brilliant mathematician. But unlike Matt Damon, our hero Max (Sean Gullette) is a recluse suffering from intense headaches that leave him incapacitated. So he retreats to his techno-lair where he has machines wired up for the sole purpose of number crunching.

Max’s theory, which he states early in the film is that numbers are everywhere and if you look hard enough, you can find a pattern to everything. For Max, this includes the stock market, ant spit, Go, and even God. At times, it plays like a fascinating if quirky Discovery channel documentary about math. But the images that flash in quick succession, the claustrophobia of Max’s world, the strange characters that follow him around all point to something far more important and significant.

It’s a very intense piece of work, but hard to classify. It hosts elements of sci-fi, government conspiracy, and even drama… yet it’s none of these. Max’s quest is about obsessions and numbers… and the one Big Number that puts everything in its place. You want to believe and trust the movie, since Max’s voice croons to you stories and facts about math. But some of the plot twists are pretty hard to swallow; of course, that doesn’t make them any less interesting.

Pi is well-crafted, and even appealing to people who don’t give a rip about math. The soundtrack, a pulse-pounding assortment of techno, gives the film an undercurrent of life. Pi’s greatest achievement is in bringing dull and relatively uninteresting topics back from the dead and daring us to look at the universe with a whole new set of shades.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s