A Beautiful Mind

by Sylvia Nasar

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Which production techniques in the film A Beautiful Mind communicate the themes of individuality and love?

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The themes of individuality and love in A Beautiful Mind are expressed in a variety of ways. First, John Nash's very unique and individual point of view is demonstrated by the artistic choice to treat his delusions as reality. Both his roommate Charles and his supervisor Parcher, along with Charles' niece Marcee are all treated as real people instead of hallucinations. Only when John realizes that Marcee has not aged over several years is he able to admit she is a hallucination.

We also see John's mind at work when there are flashes and sparkles of light, as well as a hyper-focus on objects of interest. There are also visual representations of equations and codes, showing how his unique mind is calculating in real time. We also see him finding patterns in texts and putting disparate pieces together in ways that make sense to him.

Conversely, another strong theme in the movie suggests John is trapped by his delusions. We see this through the many depictions of squares, windows, doorways, windowpanes where John is looking through the window, panels on walls, sidewalks, corridors, and many other crisscrossing lines, all leading to an oppressive, trapped feeling that demonstrates how John's illness made him a unique individual and yet also imprisoned his true individual self.

John and Alicia's love is what helped him learn to cope with and adapt to his condition. Her soft, feminine loveliness and supportive demeanor contrast with all of the mechanical, numerical, and angular aspects of the movie. She often has softly waving hair and is lit with natural light while the hallucinations become darker and more chaotic. I agree with the other Educator's comment that the scene with the stars in the night sky expresses the expansiveness, mystery, and infinite quality of love as a natural part of life.

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In examining A Beautiful Mind, there is quite a bit of detail in the production of the film that helps to reinforce the idea that individuality and love are major themes of the piece. Perhaps one of the most frequently used techniques is the use of angles. Throughout the film, at times where John Nash is seeing things differently the camera angle is very deliberately above, below, or to the side of him. This variation on the point of view of the audience parallels the point of view difference that Nash is experiencing personally due to his own individuality. Taking a closer look and analyzing why a particular angle has been chosen may reveal deeper insights into his character and the plot.

This can further be seen in the path that the filmmaker takes when it comes to focus. In multiple scenes the cinematography deliberately shifts to focus on something very minute, such as an equation that Nash is working on, while in the background there is a flurry of blurred activity. There are multiple examples throughout the film where focus is very purposefully adjusted to help reinforce a specific perspective.

Additionally, it may be beneficial to look at obstructions in the production for evidence of love. Love is often rooted in passion, and when characters are faced with an obstruction such as a door between Nash and his wife as they fight to communicate with one another, it could be deduced that their love is worth overcoming the obstacle. Additionally, there is a fair amount of play with lighting when their love story is explored. Taking a look at when and how it is adjusted may help to reveal more about their love and the theme as a whole.

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In my mind, I would pay attention to some of the cinematography offered in the film.  The opening scene where Nash is at the luncheon and holds the glass in different positions and at different angles to create different results of refraction from the sun might be one instance where the filming technique helps to bring out the idea of individuality.  Nash is an individual through such a photographic technique because he sees things that are not there.  In a world where individuals are driven by what is there, Nash is animated by what could be there and what might exist.  It is through this scene that we begin to understand his individuality.  I thought that the scene where he and Alicia are staring at the stars and through this begin to grasp the infinite nature of both their love and the universe is another production technique that helps to bring out the subjective and the objective experience.  In this scene, the photography of the immensity of the night sky helps to bring to light that their love is as expansive and helps to bring their love as a natural consequence of the world in which they live.

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