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Overcoming Insanity Within A Beautiful Mind

Updated on April 26, 2012
John Nash suffering a delusion concerning a paranoia of Soviet spies
John Nash suffering a delusion concerning a paranoia of Soviet spies

An Outstanding Achievement In Film

A Beautiful Mind is a spectacular film directed by American filmmaker Ron Howard and starring renowned Australian actor Russell Crowe. Released on 23 December 2001, this film grossed 2.5 million in it's opening weekend and was widely hailed for great directing, illuminating musical score, and eye-raising make-up and costume palates that near total perfection; overall this film is a masterpiece worth commendation. The screenplay is magnificently composed, enhanced only by the fine-tuned acting of a carefully crafted cast created conscientiously for the development of the plot and the overall presentation of the movie. A Beautiful Mind is more than a moving cinema work; it is an emphasizing allegory into the inner struggles of man exhibited by the alternative perspective of progressively degenerative schizophrenia. A clear work of art, this film should be analyzed in he cinema-based classroom for the wealth of glimmering techniques issued by the compounding vision of Ron Howard.

Initially, cinematography takes the reigns in the pace and mood of the film. I noticed that especially at the beginning of the movie fluid, shifting camera movement either through physical displacement of the camera or visually induced encroachment or retreating perspectives subtly introduces the subversive tone of the film. Subsequently, Ron Howard establishes a setting, plot direction, and string of characters that allows the audience to assume comfort and predictability before unilaterally pulling the carpet from under our feet. Concurrently, the movements of the camera allude to the notion that main character John Nash, as played wonderfully by Russell Crowe, is not firmly rooted or established in his sense of being, reason for existence, social proclivity, or even a state of cognitive and psychological equilibrium. The movie, presented through his point of view, rightly represents his state of uncertainty by keeping the camera in motion. In some cases, quick editing helps to deduce this emotion by allowing the audience to question the authenticity of the events and characters John Nash encounters. These elements of the film are subtle and easily noticed by those scrutinizing the visual details or the audible dialogue, thus possibly referring to an intended audience.

Lighting color and great acting help unfold the vivid drama of the life of John Nash
Lighting color and great acting help unfold the vivid drama of the life of John Nash

Technicality and Thematic Elements

Mise-en-Scene is a critical aspect of the film. Ron Howard does a beautiful job in directing the composition and framing his shots. Warm colors often contrast with shots dominating with cool and cold hues. These various tones explicitly emit the emotions of John a particular moments, while also establishing seasonal time settings of the plot. For an example, a scene near the beginning of the movie reveals John Nash conversing with one of his professors during the winter of his first semester at Princeton University. The temperature of the weather is established with cold whites and blues, which also signify John's disappointment, sadness, and desperation at trying to achieve a placement at MIT's Wheeler Labs while struggling with discovering his "great idea" involving "governing dynamics", which at the time kept slipping from his grasp. The framing is definite and consistent by being point-for-point, keeping people and places of value in clear, central focus. The smooth camerawork allows the audience to "follow" John's line of sight, and what he perceives or imagines. This sense of sight enhances the audience's ability to assume the viewpoint of John at various times, which brings the character and the viewers into a more intimate relationship.

A clear theme of this film is redemption and accomplishment. Early in the movie it is made abundantly clear that a primary struggle John Nash faces is a sense of lacking achievement, and the fear of never succeeding. Despite numerous disqualifying odds, he overcomes all obstacles and adversity, internal and external, by making the achievement of a lifetime: winning the Nobel Prize in 1994 for Economics. His theories in complex mathematical approaches to economics, as well as finding solutions to convoluted metaphysical algorithms, gave him the edge in overcoming paranoid schizophrenia. Prior to his speech in Stockholm, Sweden, John is treated with the "Pens" at the professors' lounge at Princeton University. The significance of this event once minimized his self-confidence, and now many years later it mustered his resolve to accept the Nobel Prize. The Pens is a recognition for the achievement of a lifetime, where all the professors of the University spontaneously place their pens on the table of the one they mean to honor. Additionally, it is this event that spurs Thomas King, a representative from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, to ensure that John receives the award amid doubts due to his widely known insanity.

The film takes the narrative format of a biographical drama, reenacting the lifetime events of John Nash from his entry into Princeton University in 1948 to his reception of the Nobel Prize for Economics in Sweden in 1994. The movie progresses by capturing segments of John's life and linking together missing pieces through implications, dialogue, or historical references. An example is when John leaves the MacArthur Psychiatric Institution to resume a process of re-integration into social life. The clothing he wears signifies a change in his life, both internally and externally. He had endured much and has morphed into a weathered person who is much more understanding and aware of circumstances beyond just his sphere of influence. His new clothing serves as a symbol of his new found acceptance of reality while on his medications, while also being a time reference thus linking the gap between his time in the mental hospital to the present; the movie now focusing on his life in the 1970's.

The relationship between John and Alicia becomes the central driving force of the plot, as well as the emotional center that helps John overcome the power of his hallucinations.
The relationship between John and Alicia becomes the central driving force of the plot, as well as the emotional center that helps John overcome the power of his hallucinations.

A True Masterpiece

The meaning of this film cannot be derived by simply viewing it, but by truly understanding it. Ron Howard crafted this work to be a message to society, a wake-up call concerning how we define reality. The purpose of the movie is to invoke self-reflection, allowing the audience to question their own natural perceptions and to challenge viewers on an intellectual level instead of an instinctual level. This can be observed in a scene where John has a serious relapse due to a willful failure to consume prescribed medication. As his wife flees with their baby, John blocks her before she can speed off in her car. As she stares at him through the windshield and pouring rain he shouts, "Marcee...she can't be real! She never grows old!" Referring to one of his mental projections of a little girl, John is explaining that logic is finally overcoming passive observation which, until that point, had been feeding his schizophrenia. This triumph is an open challenge from Ron Howard, thus solidifying this film as more than just an entertaining piece, but as a work of art. It instigates the audience to view people, circumstances,even society from a new perspective in order to bring improvement instead of decline. Instead of perceiving something as how it appears to make sense, he leaves an invitation to see it from another point of view if one is to discern the truth.

Overall, A Beautiful Mind is a cinema masterpiece. With realistic soundtrack and enigmatic orchestral score pieces; smooth and fluid cinematography; excellent acting and direction; superb screenplay; as well as insightful allegories, this film is more than just an entertaining movie; it is an art piece that sparkles with finely tuned edited and an engaging plot that is unforgettable. This is a great experience for audiences ranging from the average to the intellectual. This is a movie not to be missed!

John Nash receiving the "Pens"

Check out the movie!

A Beautiful Mind (Widescreen)(2001)
A Beautiful Mind (Widescreen)(2001)

A Beautiful Mind widescreen edition


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