Tribeca Film Festival 2011: A Beautiful Mind – Tribeca Talks: After the Movie

(l-r) Sylvia Nasar, Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Brian Greene, Dave Bayer, Ira Flatow. Photo Credit: Sachyn Mital.

For its tenth anniversary, the Tribeca Film Festival engages in a panel discussion of 2001's Best Picture winner A Beautiful Mind.

Tribeca Film Festival: The Art, Science and Math of a Beautiful Mind

City: New York
Date: 2011-04-30

Last year’s Tribeca Talks film selection and discussion, Memento The Science of Memory” was an exciting choice partly because Christopher Nolan has gotten huge recognition for his work since his 2000 film (and Inception was looming on the horizon) but also because the I can recollect the memory of my first viewing of the film.

This year, for its tenth anniversary, the Tribeca Film Festival decided to take on, “The Art, Science and Math of A Beautiful Mind”, the 2001 Best Picture Oscar winner (also celebrating its tenth year) from Ron Howard. A brilliant film, A Beautiful Mind is a feature about Nobel Prize winning economist, John Nash, played by Russell Crowe. However, unlike last year, where I knew how I felt seeing Memento for the first time, this year, I could not remember my initially feelings for Mind (interestingly memory and perception are a factor in both). But I did get to experience much more of the depth and layers of the film.

After the film ended, when people had a chance to wipe away their tears and their tremendous applause quieted down, the panel discussants came out. The moderator Ira Flatow (NPR) gave his introduction, and then Sylvia Nasar (author of the book, A Beautiful Mind), Akiva Goldsman (Academy Award winning screenwriter), Ron Howard (Academy Award winning director), Brian Grazer (Academy Award winning producer), Brian Greene (Columbia University Professor of Physics and Mathematics) and Dave Bayer (Barnard College Professor of Mathematics and math consultant on the film) took their seats.

First, to break into the reality of the film, A Beautiful Mind should not be considered as a biopic because, as Goldman said, of compression of time and the use of actors, there is no such thing. As the feature film style strives to elicit emotion (and win awards), directors can take certain liberties in the story-telling. Two key scenes in the movie never actually occurred: the first, the iconic pen ceremony scene, where Nash is recognized by Princeton professors for his outstanding accomplishment and, second, Nash’s heartfelt speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony where Crowe so eloquently responds to his own question, “What truly is logic?”

So what does the initial viewing of A Beautiful Mind make one feel? I recommend you see it before reading on but, otherwise, just as Nolan blankets viewers in amnesia (his protagonist’s “condition”), Howard makes the audience unable to tell delusion from reality. He “pulls the rug out” from under the viewer when it is revealed that Nash is schizophrenic: having been apprehended by what he (and we, the audience) thought were Russians, Nash is instead confined to a psychiatric hospital. Here, the characters of Charles (Paul Bettany) and Parcher (Ed Harris) are revealed as mere figments of Nash’s imagination. We then get closer to his wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) and see her turmoil as she has to delve into her own heart to understand and grasp the impact this will have on their lives.

Though the bulk of the film is serious, it is punctuated with levity at times. Similarly, the panel was able to raise some laughs from the crowd. After Howard admitted he had not seen the movie since it came out, he said, “and I like it. I was moved by it.” After attending a math lecture to get some pointers for the film, Crowe and Howard left not understanding any of it, but instead having figured out how to grasp the chalk excitedly.

For a scene where Crowe erases a chalkboard full of equations, Bayer had spent six hours writing them up, so the filmmakers ensured Crowe “pulled his punch” and double checked that it was okay before wiping it away. Finally, when asked about the scene in the bar with the blonde where Nash begins to develop his equilibrium model, Goldman replied, “If I made math about sex, people would understand it.”

Mind extends over two hours, and has three segments or styles, nostalgia, noir and the “simple honest, unromanticized look at life”. At Crowe’s insistence, Howard approved of filming the movie chronologically so Crowe could grow into the character, despite any extra costs that came with it.

Despite what you might infer from the opening scene with the necktie and reflections, Mind is not a math film, which would be “impossible to pitch” today. In fact, as Flatow pointed out, they “could have left out the math” and still made an engaging film. The movie is about mental illness, “part of every family” as Howard said.

Near the end of the discussion, Nasar shared three comments Nash made after seeing the film; he had “liked the pace”, “thought it was funny” and “that Russell Crowe looked a little like me”. After seeing the film a second time, I know that at least the first two still hold true. But I look forward to seeing it again, when I might discover something new in the multi-layered movie. A Beautiful Mind remains every bit as poignant today. Even Ron Howard thinks so.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

I Went on a Jewel Bender in Quarantine. This Is My Report.

It's 2020 and everything sucks right now, so let's all fucking chill and listen to Jewel.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.