A Beautiful Mind

«A Beautiful Mind» was released in 2001 by the hands of Ron Howard, a prominent director that eventually would be known by his work on «Frost/Nixon» and «The Da Vinci Code». This movie is based on the book »A Beautiful Mind» by Sylvia Nassar, and highlights the performances of Russell Crowe (as John Nash, beautifully personifying schizophrenia) and Jennifer Connelly (for her role as Alicia Nash, acknowledged with an Oscar for supporting actress). Regarding its soundtrack, «A Beautiful Mind» evidences the excellence of the outstanding composer James Horner, eternized by his musical creation in «Titanic», his chef-d’oeuvre, «Braveheart», «Avatar», «Legends of the Fall», etc.

Being of a biographical essence, the film’s greatest demand was personifying John Nash’s schizophrenia through a film language particularly difficult to enact (found, for instance, in Dustin Hoffman’s role in «Rain Man»).

«A Beautiful Mind» enlivens reflections about a man and his path on earth, his duty, by painting a portrait which is divided into self-discovery and improvement versus man’s integral relationship with others.  

Thus, Nash is split between cultivating his gift in mathematics, maximized by his schizophrenic state, and his family, chiefly his wife.   

This review will compare this dilemma to the major notion of Nash Equilibrium, never intending to delve into this complex economic theory. The idea to optimize a participant’s outcome when playing[1] can also be applied to John’s life, especially when John Nash faces a predicament related to the antipsychotic drugs[2] (actually, the director opted by introducing Nash Equilibrium just in the middle of a night out with colleagues – enlightening the applicability of this Economics theory to Nash’s routines).  

Analogously, we may consider the “maths world”, the hypothetical Pentagon world of the movie; and his relationship with his wife. Providing that he takes the medication to wane his schizophrenic condition, prospecting to increase his quality time with Alicia and diminishing all the possible familiar troubles (by helping John to sever reality and imagination); his problem-solving/mathematical skills are significantly reduced as a side effect. On the other hand, if he avoided the medication course to keep on operating in the Pentagon world (which is the activity that makes him feel useful, contended), he would lead to harsh repercussions in his daily routines (as he would become distraught) arising from the inimical imaginary presence of Charles, his university colleague.

Succinctly, a decision between the individual intellectual pleasure of an imaginary world and the “palpable” familiar welfare is demanded; what is firstly emphasized in the movie as a forever existing clash between man being fundamentally alone in the world, enclosed within the uniqueness of himself (as was suggested by ancient greek tragedians such as Sophocles, whose works included lonely heroes like Antigone and Ajax), or being one with humanity, as english poet John Donne pointed out:

“No man is an island,/Entire of itself,”

However, and likewise the economic theory, the best solution for both parties seems to be offered by an equilibrium. In fact, it is only with the help of his wife that John Nash is capable of a breakthrough, harmonizing his two main priorities in his life.

Even though Nash’s romantic life was adapted to meet Hollywood’s standards, the movie remembers us that man cannot be alone, and that his wife is the reason he is. In the Nobel speech, added by the director as a fictional part of the plot, Nash says: “It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found”. At the end of his life, he was able to reconcile love and family in his world of mathematics, despite the fact that he had disregarded his wife during their entire relationship[3]. Reflections about the role of a woman in a man’s life emanates. Man’s roots are grounded in women (a mother, wife, etc.), just as Alicia supported Nash throughout his disease and constant absence from reality. She cared for both his visual appearance and his psychological well-being and, like ground and soil drive a tree to mature and flourish, she allowed him to stem and branch into the man he finally became.  

Nash was always headstrong, yet arrogant for success and being extraordinary. Perhaps it was his duty, given his exceptional abilities with numbers. Nonetheless, his pursuit of happiness came when we least expected: in the form of a pen ceremony[4], intelligently crafted by the director as an appreciation of an achievement of a lifetime. Life consists on discovering what fulfills us, what may last from cradle-to-grave. But we are not alone, and perhaps this is the first step of a long and winding road.

[1] – based on http://www.investopedia.com/terms/n/nash-equilibrium.asp

[2] – Antipsychotic drugs are a class of medicines used to treat psychosis [e.g. schizophrenia] and other mental and emotional condition” in http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Antipsychotic+Drugs

[3] – based on https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/dec/19/a-beautiful-mind-john-nash

[4] – based on https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-history-behind-professors-giving-colleagues-pens-for-notable-lifetime-achievements-as-portrayed-in-A-Beautiful-Mind

Additional references

http://www.mhhe.com/mayfieldpub/mythology/instructors_resources/harrispt1ch10.pdf

http://www.cinefile.biz/script/beautifulmind.pdf

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/1994/presentation-speech.html

http://www.columbia.edu/~rs328/NashEquilibrium.pdf

John Nash’s Nobel speech – extracted from the movie

Nash: Thank you. I’ve always believed in numbers and the equations and logics that lead to reason.

But after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask,

“What truly is logic?”

“Who decides reason?”

My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional — and back.

And I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found.

I’m only here tonight because of you [wife, Alicia].

You are the reason I am.

You are all my reasons.

Thank you.

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