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The plot in a nutshell
A low budget, black and white sci-fi (sorta) thriller from Darren Aronofsky, the film
centers on Max Cohen, brilliant mathmatician with a mainframe for a roommate. He
believes that all chaos follows certain patterns, and that these patterns can be
discerned through mathematical theory. His target is the stock market, although not for the
obvious monetary reasons. As he searches for an answer, his work brings him the attention
of a Wall Street firm and a Hasidic sect looking for answers to life in the word patterns of
the Torah. But what is the real answer?
Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
Darren Aronofsky directed his first film, Protozoa, over ten years ago. Hard to believe
when he's considered one of the 'hot new talents' in tinsel town. Pi is his second film,
which took 6 years to see the light of day. Done on an extremely low budget, shot entirely
in black and white, it's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. But unlike most low budget
films, the budget itself has little to do with this story driven movie, depending far more
on Aronofsky's writing and directing skills than big bangs or car chases, or even nasty
Max (played by Sean Gullette) is a man tormented by migraines and visions, injured as a child
by staring into the sun. His vision returned, but with it came a mathematical genius that may
not have been the blessing one would assume.
The film hints around enough at Max's background to make it clear that although he lives in a
ratty, squalid little apartment, he is very well known in the numbers circle for his published
works. With his latest obsession, the stock market, it's pretty obvious that he's going to catch the
eye of the Wall Street power types.
Aronofsky has as nice tight story, with very few loose ends, although the conclusion may leave you a
bit less than satisfied. He deftly uses camera angles, a great techno sound track, and a gritty film
quality to build suspense and set tone throughout the film.
The acting is solid all around, with no big names but some recognizable character actors. Max's
old teacher and now mentor, Sol Robeson, is played by Mark Margolis, not a name you'll recognize, but
with a face you certainly will. But just as they didn't spend a lot of cash, they didn't spend a lot of
time on any of the characters outside Max - it's his film, and Gullette has to carry it on his
This is an extremely well done film considering the budget. When you have no money, it can be very
difficult to tell your story in a way that's both believable and enjoyable. Aronofsky pulled that off
here, and all film students should watch this movie as a how-to in cash poor movie production.
Rating - Qualified Rent It
If you like quirky films, or even quirky sorta sci-fi films, that by all means rent this movie. If you're
looking for a slightly different movie, something you can enjoy (and isn't very long, clocking in at only
around 80 minutes), than this is for you. And if you consider yourself a student of film, either literally
or just metaphorically, than definitely check this out. If you expect big explosions and nasty monsters with
your sci-fi, you may not find this one to your liking.
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
There's some stuff here that is definitely spoiler material, so don't
read on if you haven't seen the film. Unless you don't mind knowing
plot points and resolutions in advance...
Here's my take on what's happened - Max's 'gift' (perhaps given to him by God on purpose, which he begins to
appear to believe in his final conversation with the Hasidic Jews) gives him the rare ability to not only
find the mysterious 216 digit number but to understand it without it killing him. Poor Sol isn't so lucky.
But finding and understanding this number takes things to a higher level - witness the apparent
sentience, however brief, of any computer that happens to crack the code. For Max, this will mean something - what is hard
for the viewer to say. What is obvious is that the knowledge gives him great pain, both physical and mental.
At the end, Max begins to recite the number as he destroys his computer. I'm not sure, since I didn't count, but
he may have said the entire 216 digits...maybe not. I suspect he stopped just before he did,
choosing instead to return to 'normal'. I'm not sure who the mysterious woman that was giving him comfort was, or even if it was a
woman - sure, there was long hair and a feminine appearance from what little you saw, but I vote that this was
actually God. Besides, God as a female character is certainly not unheard of
or even unusual. And then Max makes a decision, destroying that part of his brain that gives him this ability and
gift in the first place.
That's what I took away from the film on an initial viewing. I did a little thinking about it later - I like to
ponder such things when I'm out jogging along, fighting the ever advancing beast of middle age.
Recently, one of the movie email groups to which I belong was discussing The Last Temptation of Christ, and why or why not that
film was blasphemous. As I thought about that, I realized how much Max was like a modern day Christ, one given a
gift from God to bring mankind closer to heaven, but one that makes a different choice. While Christ chose to
endure the suffering and pain required of him to benefit mankind, Max turns his back on it, taking the other fork
in the road of martyrdom.
There were plenty of other similarities - the hooker next door, who did what she could to comfort Max through his
ordeal, in ways similar to Mary Magdalene. Jesus had his water to wine - Max has his ability to multiple huge numbers
together, much to the delight of his young neighbor. In our world, where science reigns as God, Max seems the likely
Messiah. Perhaps Max isn't pure enough, or perhaps it's just that good old free choice thing biting God on the ass.
Either way, the knowledge is lost once again, and the world is left to it's own devices.
Pi isn't a fantastic film, but
it does show that a solid, well written story can be told without spending