Sunday, December 12, 2010

Movie Appraisal: π (Pi) (1998)

"...Press Return"

π or Pi is a movie primarily concerned with knowledge. It is a very good film, reminiscent of some of the greatest films I've ever seen. It is a great film, full of imagery and emotion. It is about a man who is crazy in the  obsessive kind of way. He probably suffers from some kind of autism. He shows his descent into something beyond madness. It is a fantastic film to watch even if it makes very little sense.

It reminds me of Jacob's Ladder sometimes, especially the scenes that take place in the subway and his room. Quite a few scenes are also heavily reminiscent of Eraserhead (1977) and Un Chien Andalou (1929). There are quite many surreal images throughout the film, and there is also plenty of body horror to go around. Another reason this film reminds me of the two latter films is because of the way the film is shot. It is in black-and-white, and tends to look like a much older film. Some of the filmography looks a bit more recent, but on the whole it is hard to see how this movie wasn't shot in the 1970s. It is very well done. I loved the imagery and the way the character is shown as going increasingly insane in his search and eventual finding of a very important number.

This film is confusing. The soundtrack sounds like some kind of hardcore science music, which is actually quite fitting, although I've never heard a soundtrack quite like it before. The narration from the main character, Max, is fitting, but also out of place in some areas of the film and a bit distracting. I've never been a person who loves narration in film. I think that the film should speak for itself, and if this film was allowed to speak for itself and would let go of its narration, it would be a better albeit more confusing film.

It's also a very disturbing film. The body horror is there. It may not be prevalent, but it does exist. Some of the ant imagery and the slime-goo stuff is kind of creepy, if not downright disturbing. The issues with migraines throughout also are very different. I have migraines, but I never get the hallucinatory and very hardcore migraines that Max has to suffer through. It can be hard to watch at points, and a lot of the more gruesome imagery does very much remind me of Jacob's Ladder. Honestly, that movie and this one seem to be almost like siblings to one another. Jacob's Ladder is the better film, but this movie is trying very hard to be as memorable, as exciting, and as bat crazy as Jacob's Ladder and it does a very good job.

It's not perfect. The shooting of the film seems a bit amateurish, much like the filmography of Eraserhead. But it does a good job showing Max's life falling apart into some kind of insanity. The other characters throughout the film do a good job of changing. They become likened to monsters at points in the films and it's a little terrifying to watch. I must say that the acting throughout the film is one of the reasons to watch it. It has some absolutely fantastic acting. The acting really does make this movie quite a good film.

I did mention that I do have a few issues with this film though. Mostly simple things that kind of bug me. Lenny, a friend character of Max, whom he meets in a diner early on in the film, is a Hasidic Jew who studies the Torah for the true name of God. He works on number theories for finding the name in the text. But he's never heard of the simple Fibonacci Sequence, something that I would think anybody working in number theory would know. I understand the filmmakers were trying to explain the sequence and the patterns seen throughout the film, but that bothered me to no end. I don't study number theory and yet I've heard of that sequence. Hell, I heard about it when I was taking Algebra II in high school. So, it seems that anybody actually studying this stuff would have much more reason than me to know and recognize the term. Some of the other simple explanations bother me as well, but again, they make sense. I was a little confused by some of this movie, and the jump-cuts didn't make it any easier to follow, but I understand. That's the kind of movie the filmmakers were trying to create and it works even though it sometimes makes no sense.

I like the ending of this film, but again, it makes no sense. The thing that leads up to the ending is actually hard to watch... and then the movie ends on a... note? I don't want to spoil it, but it is reminiscent of the beginning of the film. I liked it, but again, it was confusing. This whole movie was confusing, and yet I liked it, and I think anybody who watches this film would like it too if they don't mind being confused.

This film is surreal-horror, of the same genre a movie like Eraserhead would be. It's like a David Lynch film without the David Lynch. It's good, but I could see David Lynch making it both better and more confusing. Great film altogether though. If you enjoyed any of the films I mentioned throughout this review, you'll probably like this movie too.


  1. I think you and Jacob's Ladder need a room.

    I ought to see this one, probably to gear up for Aronofsky's latest. But other than that, yeah, haven't seen it yet.

  2. Jacob's Ladder is fantastic... not my fault it's too awesome for its pants...

    I actually forgot that Aronofsky directed The Fountain too... ugh, that was a terrible piece of garbage movie. I couldn't even finish it... although most of his films I've seen of his are incredibly good. I still have to check out Below though.