Running time: 84 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – Official HCF Artist
0.7854 is a number that I use almost every day in my work to calculate the area of a circle, contributing to the calculation of volumes and weights for casting quotation purposes. You might find this as dull as dishwater and certainly not the basis of making a Kafkaesque, science fiction thriller. Writer/ Director Darren Aronofsky was never one to release a conventional film and his impressive first feature is no exception. Pi mixes grainy black and white visuals and ear piercing industrial sound effects to create a mathematical psycho-nightmare.
Sean Gullette plays Max, an amazing mathematician who is obsessed with the notion that everything can be explained by numbers. Cocooning himself in his wire infested, Chinatown flat, he meticulously studies patterns in the stock market and attempts to discover a formula revealing the outcome with the help of his mini super computer. Max is not interested in monetary gain but the rush of proving his point to the world. Numerous Wall Street organisations and a religious Jewish group are also interested in his studies. However Max is a tortured soul. He explains in a monotone manner how his mum told him not to stare at the sun but he ignored her advice. Since that incident he has been cursed with a reoccurring and severe form of cephalalgia that he attempts to control with a cocktail of drugs. Unfortunately for Max the pain is getting worse and more regular. When a spike in the power supply fries his motherboard and his printer spews out a mishmash of seemingly pointless numbers, the number guru bins the results. Yet his former teacher, chess partner and friend Sol (Mark Margolis), seems very interested in the incident and asks if there were 216 digits in the printout. It seems that his mentor was obsessed with finding a number code that may represent the key to all existence. Max has unwittingly found (and lost) this code and there are many unsavory groups that will do anything to get this information from him. As paranoia and hallucinations cloud Max’s judgment reality and fantasy seem to merge as the quest for the code takes over his life.
Aronofsky’s debut is a haunting but fascinating thriller made with a meager budget of around $20,000 to $60,000. It is not an easy viewing experience with its fuzzy B&W visuals and pounding techno soundtrack; the latter representing the relentless pain revolving around Max’s head. To the director’s credit, he manages to create something compelling and refreshing from a subject that for most is drab and tedious. Aronofsky uses close-ups of swirls of smoke, shells and other objects and merges them with the coding that the mathematician can construct within them. The story does become more dramatic and urgent when a creepy Wall Street stalker (Pamela Hart) and Rabbi godfather (Stephen Pearlman) enter proceedings. Gullette is onscreen for the entirety of the running time and reminded of John Cazale (The Godfather 1&2, Deerhunter). His transition from a shy and reclusive academic to a wide eyed and crazed skinhead is impressive.
Pi is one of the few films that I enjoyed more on the small screen that at the cinema. For once I cannot think of any reason why you would want to buy the on Blu-ray over the DVD version, other than for the enhanced sound effects. Aronofsky’s debut is a highly inventive and original premise that will be pounding around inside your head after the final credits roll.
- Audio Commentary with Darren Aronofsky
- Audio Commentary with Sean Gullette
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind the Scenes Montage
- Theatrical Trailer
- Original (Darren & Eric) trailer
- ?r2 Music Video