"When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere."
Darren Aronofsky's first feature film, Pi, was a unique and experimental movie that cemented his status as an auteur director. Even in his latest big budget film, Noah, his unique and creative voice shined through. Just like his characters, Aronofsky seems obsessed with discovering what drives them. His films are a psychological character study in which he delves deep into their minds in order to try to discover what leads them to their self destructive behavior. In the surface, Pi may sound like a boring film dealing with math and numbers, but Aronofsky sucks you in from the beginning with his very unique style of film making including some crazy chase scenes shown in fast motion and a strange soundtrack. The cinematography in dirty black and white sets the tone of the film as well, although I didn't find it quite engaging. It's amazing what Aronofsky did with such a low budget and it won him special recognition. He won for best director in Sundance in 1998 and an Independent Spirit Award for his first screenplay. He also proved Pi was no one hit wonder as his following films were all received with warm praise by the critics. Aronfofsky's unique personal vision is reflected in each one of his films and if you go back to Pi you will find several similarities and trademarks that were already established from the beginning. If Pi were my first film from Aronofsky I might have enjoyed it even more, but I think he has perfected his craft in films like Black Swan and The Wrestler.
The screenplay written by Darren Aronofsky and Sean Gullette centers on a mathematical genius named Max (Sean Gullette). He's a number theorist who believes that nature can be explained through numbers and that there are patterns that can emerge from it. He is working on discovering these pattern through the stock market and considering all the variables involved. He works in his home through a homemade computer he has developed. He locks himself in his small apartment and becomes obsessed with discovering these patterns while also worrying that people are spying on him. He suffers from terrible headaches that sometimes lead him to delusions so he is currently on medication and at times its hard to decipher if he is really seeing things or imagining them. One of the few people Max interacts with is Sol (Mark Margolis) who is his former math mentor. He worries about Max's obsession and asks him to take a break, but Max is determined to discover the pattern that could unlock the mysteries of nature. The other person who Max interacts with is Lenny (Ben Shenkman), a Jew who is currently working on the numbers from the Torah. As Max becomes more and more obsessed with unlocking these numbers the crazier things get for him.
I really enjoyed this film despite the fact that I knew where it was heading. Although his characters are very different in every film the resolution is very similar and the ending is always open ended for the audience to interpret. Pi marked the beginning of Aronofsky's love affair with Mark Margolis who has been in every one of his film as a secondary character. He was the only face I recognized in this film as I was unfamiliar with the rest of the cast. Sean Gullette gives a very convincing lead performance but the rest of the cast aren't as great. You could tell Aronofsky had a very limited budget to work with, but he did marvels with it. Pi is a clever film with some memorable scenes. I never thought a film about math and numbers could be so thrilling, but it is because Aronofsky manages to put the character in the center and turns it into a psychological character study.