Darren Aronofsky has managed to very successfully melt my brain. “Pi” is his debut feature and I’m still sat here thinking about it even as I write. I feel very close to fully understanding it but I’m not quire there and it is driving me insane. Fitting I feel, as this is the exact feeling Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) has as he approaches the number that will show him the numerical system that the universe must abide by. A number that may or may not exist, but Max is driven mad by the desire to find it. This is the premise of “Pi”, one of the most cerebral movies I have ever seen.
Max is so focused on mathematics that he is mentally unstable in his pursuit of numbers. He states that he believes that everything has a system, including nature and especially the stock market. There is a mathematical way of deciphering a system in the chaos (I believe it has something to do with chaos theory though I may be wrong) using numbers. All he has to do is find these numbers, and he has rigged out his room to do so. His small room looks as if someone mixed the inside of the TARDIS with Frankenstein’s laboratory. Max has a triple locked door with a peep hole on the inside, but even though these are one way, he still has a cover for it. He’s a “private man” in his words, though if I may be so bold, he is to privacy what Adam Sandler is to selling out, the extreme boundary. All of the people that interact with Max do so against his will besides his friend and ex teacher Sol (Mark Margolis) with whom he discusses his latest findings with. Mark attempts to convince Max to take a break from his incessant working as it is essentially frying his brain but he won’t listen
Eventually, the wrong people get wind of Max’s exploits when he has some successes in the stock market. A Jewish group wish for him to find the name of God and the wall street group want him to figure out the stock market for them. They both want the 216 digit number that Max initially believed to be purely a bug in the system which caused him to throw it away. The pressure is on him to find the number and alleviate the tensions coming from these people pushing him in certain directions. The film is in black and white and I believe this is to signify Max’s focus on the universe being solely decipherable using numbers. Scientists often hear people tell them of how they don’t see true beauty but only scientific data. This is how Max sees the world, its all a canvas and numbers are the paint.
Darren Aronofsky tries to convey to us the pain Max goes through when he has one of his “attacks”. I could not come to a conclusion as to what kind of attack it was but I knew how they felt. Aranofsky relishes in his use of sound in these sequences and the high pitched squeals of drilling makes it sound like a banshee getting a root canal with a jack hammer. It goes right through you and makes you wince. You know a film maker has his hooks into you if he can elicit a physical reaction without using intense gore. On that note the techno soundtrack really is stellar and I can’t imagine a better selection of music to represent a film of this genre and calibre.
Max frequently talks of how when he was a child he looked at the sun even though his mother told him not too. It nearly caused him to go blind but I believe the terrifying darkness gave him a moment of clarity away from his eye sight. When he is chasing this number he eventually realises he has to look into the sun again. Sometimes you have to take risks to achieve great things and clarity, sometimes you succeed and sometimes you go the way of Icarus, but it comes with the territory
I have thought about the film now and I have made my own interpretation. The beauty of “Pi” is that if you watch it, you’ll almost undoubtedly interpret it differently. Ambiguity is far more entertaining than crystal clarity, and Darren Aronofsky is completely and utterly aware of that.