Monday, February 13, 2006

Beautiful Mind, Repulsive Life

After watching this film again, I am struck by the attempt to portray Nash's life as a "happily ever after" story. His mind may have won him the Nobel prize, but his life wins him the Ignoble Prize.

It's not so much Nash that bothers me -- it's how the screen writers portray him. We should sympathize with Nash because he was mentally ill -- something beyond his control. In fact, the only reason Nash didn't live out his days rocking back and forth in a padded room was because of a loving wife who believed in him and a persistent psychaiatrist who medicated him.

But what of John's early days? When he arrived at Princeton for graduate school, he was so obsessed with academic achievement that it certainly contributed to his psychological deterioration. When he later began the road to recovery, he couldn't even comprehend a life outside of work. Somehow, John had gotten the message from an early age -- "the only thing that justifies your existence on this planet is your mathematical achievement, and by the way, you have to be the best." His story is pathetic, even without the psychosis.

And what of John's dark side? From what I understand, it was far more stygian than the filmmakers would have us realize. Of course, he comes around in the end, realizing that life is more than numbers, realizing that the most important thing in his life is his family, especially his wife. Thank God for that. I can only imagine though, that in her heart of hearts, his wife was saying, "Too little, too late, Johnny-boy."


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