Friday, April 18, 2008

Even PBS Makes Him Look Crazy

Thanks to Ian's suggestion, I rented the PBS Documentary "A Brilliant Madness" from I Luv Video. As one might expect from the title, it is about John Nash and his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia. This film, however, interviews Nash himself, as well as his friends, family, and colleagues from Princeton and MIT. Just like "A Beautiful Mind," the film begins by discussing his time at Princeton and his successes in Governing Dynamics with the Nash Equilibrium. During the interview of this period of his life, the pictures of Nash shown are of him young and clean cut and they are clear and intact. Though, as the film winds on, the picture of Nash in his younger years that is most often shown is one that is wrinkled and torn, severely weathered, as seen below:

Of course, the photo used in the film did not have the writing and titles on it. Consequently, this photo is also one of the first that comes up on a Google Image Search for John Nash. Also, as the film goes on, there are images of a hand placing a Go piece on the board with deep, echoing sounds, as if it were inside your head. Also, images of red sneakers and high-water plaid pants are seen later in the film, referencing Nash's return to Princeton when he was referred to as "The Ghost." Just as we saw in Pi, all these dramatic effects are used to symbolize the schizophrenia and give the viewer a sense of what being schizophrenic might feel like. When Nash is shown in current day, at times he is alone in a room, looking off camera, and only his profile is shown.

Aside from all the dramatic elements, the documentary included some interesting details that "A Beautiful Mind" did not include. For example, Nash received his Ph.D at 21 years old after only 2 years as a graduate student. He also had a son with a former love interest but refused to pay for his son's delivery or accept him as his son and the child was placed in a foster home. There are also interviews with this son in the documentary.

During his time at MIT, Nash interrupted a class and declared that he was on the cover of TIME Magazine, disguised as Pope John XXIIV, citing the fact that 23 was his favorite prime number as the reason. He also claimed he was receiving messages from space via the New York Times and that men wearing red ties at MIT were members of a secret communist organization. During sections of the documentary, the camera zooms in on a red tie. Nash also turned down a prestigious position in Chicago because he claimed he was scheduled to be the next emperor of Antarctica. Interviews with his colleagues and wife revealed that these changes took place very quickly, over the course of a week even, as Nash went from seeming simply socially awkward to severely delusional. Nash also recounts that during his time of mental instability he felt that he was the most important person alive and nobody could understand that.

I could go on and on about the details, but I won't bore you. The documentary is very interesting and insightful and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about John Nash.

1 comment:

emma said...

wow that man was crazy. i can't even imagine what that was like. did the documentary talk about his violence towards his wife? ever since i found out that he was abusive, i don't really care too much for the man. i understand that he was sick, but no excuse makes hitting someone ok.