A Beautiful Mind

by Sylvia Nasar

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How would you describe the opening sequence when John Nash sees the others in A Beautiful Mind?

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Nash sees patterns in the natural world that others do not see. He is an outcast and a visionary. The scene is set up to help the audience understand how Nash thinks and also how he differs from other people. His talent sets him apart, but his perception of reality makes him an outcast in Princeton as well as in society. While working at Princeton, Nash meets a psychiatrist who will counsel him through many years of mental illness. Dr. Rosen tells Nash that he has "a rare form of genius." However, Dr. Rosen warns that "genius is often misunderstood." He cautions that "

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The opening scene in A Beautiful Mindshows how different John Nash is from everyone else around him.

The first words of the film attest to the importance of mathematicians.  The aspiring math students listen to a Princeton graduate school professor speak to how mathematicians "won the war" and...

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how they are the key to stopping Soviet "world domination." While all the students look similar in their absorption of the professor's ideas, Nash sits in the back of the room, alone. He is processing a different reality.  While Nash pays attention to the professor's words, the way the scene is shot makes him appear to be different than his colleagues. 

Nash's distinct nature is further underscored at the luncheon.  While the other students are networking with one another, trying to ascertain who "among them will be the next Morse, the next Einstein," Nash stands apart. Nash walks to a table where two other students are talking about job placement and fellowships.   Nash takes a glass from the table to position the sunlight's reflection off of it.  As it converges upon one of their ties, Nash says that he is able to provide a "mathematical explanation as to how bad" the colleague's tie is.  The two colleagues stop talking and are visibly taken back, as Nash has demonstrated his "beautiful" gift of seeing patterns and functions in the natural world.

Nash's talent differentiates him from the other students. While his peers are very good at regurgitating currently accepted mathematical ideas, Nash is working on another level.  He strives to find mathematic ideals that have not yet been articulated.  He sees what is as what can be. This film's opening scene communicates how Nash's gift makes him different than his colleagues.

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One of the ways people say the intelligence works is through the ability to see patterns out of chaos. So, when John Nash is able to see patterns,  this show that he is somehow different. In short, he is a genius. The patterns, he sees are in numbers, people, animals, etc. However, there is a fine line between genius and insanity. And there may even be a blurring of the two. The movie, in my opinion, does a superb job exploring this tension. In the end, John Nash is both - an insane genius whose genius controls the former.

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