"Pi" is a remarkable film in many ways. I don't think I've ever seen a film that manages to make mathematics so chic and paranoid reclusivity so cool. "Pi" is shot in grainy monochrome, and is directed pacily by Darren Aronofsky ,using innovative camerawork and an intense techno soundtrack to convey the obsessive-compulsive behaviour of the central character, mathematical genius Max Cohen (Sean Gullette). The storyline is based on Cohen's belief that mathematics underlies every part of existence and that the universe is effectively a large scale computer programme which can be graphed and amended if the correct mathematical formula or numerical sequence is identified. A 216 digit number appears to hold the key to this discovery and Cohen's research into this leads him into a disturbing world of blinding headaches, hallucinogenic visions and harrassment by Kabbalists and Wall Street sharks. "Pi" is a fascinating , intelligent movie that manages to link maths, philosophy, religion and economics into a stylish and exciting thriller. The film is a little on the short side at 70 minutes however. After watching "Pi" , you'll probably wish you'd taken Additional Maths at school when you had the chance.
A film about number theory made for just $60,000 and filmed in high contrast grainy black and white doesn't sound promising - except it is. Starring Sean Gullette this is a highly original independent film in the thriller genre, with Gullette's character Max a mathematical genius afflicted with debilitating headaches and fits looking for patterns in the stock market and in life in general via a homemade computer that takes up much of his disheveled apartment. Max is soon pursued by stock market heavies looking for a way to anticipate trends in markets as he searches for those patterns, happening upon a 216 digit number he initially pays no credence to, whilst simultaneously beginning to have hallucinations thanks to working himself to the point of exhaustion. He is also 'befriended' by Lenny, an Hasidic Jew who also has an ulterior motive, himself searching for patterns and coded messages in the Torah.
The high contrast black and white gives the film a unique look, but Darren Aronofsky's directional style is extremely innovative, using lots of close up shots, surreal imagery indicating Max's deteriorating mental state, and the same repeating quick edit showing Max's increasing dependence upon fit-inhibiting drugs and injections. Also worth note is the electronic soundtrack which uses repetitive motifs which back up both the obsessive compulsive behaviour as well as the increasing paranoia superbly. It's a masterpiece of filming on a restricted budget, and making subject matter you couldn't possibly think would work - but it does, and extremely well. As original a film as you could wish for showing great films don't necessarily need big budgets.
on 17 November 2003
"Pi" is an outstanding and complex thriller with brains and structure. For such a low budget film, this great movie shows you that greatness doesn't have to only come out of big budget films with well-known stars. It is a film that gets in your head and stays with you long after it is over.
This dark and quiet thriller is about Maximilian Cohen, a brilliant mathematician who believes that everything in life revolves around patterns and numbers. For years he has been trying to find this pattern that could unlock everything we see and know. He starts with the stock market, the ultimate system of ordered chaos. The deeper he digs, the more insane he becomes. And the more he finds out, the more danger he is thrown into. The pattern itself proves to be just as deadly as the people who are after him. The twists and complexity will leave you in awe.
While this movie may be confusing at times, it still does its job and keeps us intrigued throughout the duration of the film. The acting and writing is really remarkable. Sean Gullette is very convincing as Max. I don't think there is anybody else who could've gotten the job done. Everybody else was also great in it as well. The film is also a debut from Darren Aronofsky; and a powerful one at that. Very well written and directed. Some of the camera techniques are really great and allow you to get inside of the main character's head.
"Pi" is a movie that requires you to think throughout the film and after. It's a film that will mostly appeal to those who like quiet and unique thrillers. There's no non-stop shootings or explosions in this movie. And it's not a film that everyone is going to like. However, seeing that the movie is only 85 minutes long, why not give it a shot? If you want something new and different, "Pi" is the film for you. A very outstanding picture.
on 12 January 2001
Darren Aronofsky's first feature is a stunning debut feature and a testament to a formidable young talent. The central character of the film is Maximillian Cohen, played by Sean Gullete, a obsessive and brilliant mathematician and his search for a mathematical pattern in the stock exchange. Don't be put off by this though, as there is very little raw maths in the film, and the little there is I actually found quite interesting. Instead, the film focuses on Cohen's descent into madness and paranoia as the result of an `accident' when he was a child, which (cliche, I know) appears to have caused his talent for mathematics, and the gangster types who are pursuing him for the secret concerning the stock exchange respectively. The film builds up the tension to an unbearably level before the shocking yet perfectly fitting climax.
Helped by a literate and well-researched script, co-written by the director and Eric Watson, as well as a strong and highly-developed central performance from Gullete, Aronofsky has built a claustrophobic, visually intense and innovative thriller. Shot entirely in grainy black and white and reminiscent of David Lynch's own halucinogenic debut feature `Eraserhead', as well as the films of Kubrick and Hitchcock, elements of this film have already had an influence on several directors, most notably Christopher Nolan. Superbly confident for such a young director, Aronofsky is not afraid to repeat himself and uses several recurring visual and aural motifs and segments of film in the manner of a great composer to enhance the insanity of the experience. Every frame is packed with stark imagery and an unmistakable ambience and his use of the camera and of sound to draw the viewer into the mind of Cohen is brilliant. At several points I started to think that it was going to sen me mad, and at one point I had to switch the DVD off for a few minutes and take a break. Not one for the faint-hearted. The thunping electronic soundtrack, provided by the likes of Orbital, Roni Size, Aphex Twin and Massive Attack, is inspired and perfectly fitting.
The extras on the DVD are some of the best I've seen, including my favourite on any disc, deleted scenes. The music video, `PiR squared', captures the feel of the film brilliantly in just under 3 minutes and the trailers are also very good. The obligatory `Behind the Scenes' documentary, complete with voice-over from Aronofsky and Gullete, happily doesn't take itself too seriously. It doesn't aspire to give an `insight into the creative process' so common in these affairs, nor does it become outrageously sycophantic, another common annoyance. It is essentially a light-hearted affair (and the narrators know it), a welcome break after watching the film, with the cast and crew clowning about backstage, although the little in-jokes begin to grate after a while. The director's commentary is very good, and gives an insight into film-making on a budget, and Sean Gullete's commentary is also very good.
In short a worthy winner of the Director's Award at the Sundance festival and a worthy addition to any Film lover's collection.
on 2 October 2007
Taut, thought-provoking, and stylish. A film about maths, mysticism and obsession, powerfully realised on a micro-budget. Forgive the occasional lapse in believability, and enjoy the trip.
on 12 April 2008
For £5 this film is a bargain, cheaper then a cinema ticket. Is worth the DVD if u didn't see it!
This film is in black and white and i thought it might be dull.... but oh no
from tecno matrix style opening. To the repetitive scenes of being shot with a tranquiliser gun this film is one of weirdest I've ever seen. It kinda set to music, there's a headache inducing noise throughout the film if you can call it that.
This is supposed to be a window into the mind of a paranoid genius with a mysterious formula that might explain ..., everything! or the stock market maybe. And perhaps it's pretty realistic?? despites it's craziness the lead character is believable... you start believing in his crazy formula to! The black and white really works making everything feel 'quantified'.
Then people start offering him millions of pounds ... and like a crazy person he naturally trys to run away! not wrecking the plot, that's about the first 3 minutes!
on 29 May 2001
Perhaps the greatest film I've ever seen. The direction and pacing are remarkable, and the music accompanies the film brilliantly. The only problem may be that the 'subject-matter' could be a little complex for some with a non-science background - then again I may be underestimating those individuals - please don't let it put you off.
on 25 August 2009
With most films, I read the bad reviews more carefully than the good, because, well I'm pessimistic. And with 'Pi' i noticed the bad reviews are both harsh and numerous.
I'm familiar with maths and enjoy it in both an artistic and scientific way. So 'Pi' with it's extremely well placed soundtrack, and it's frankly mesmerising cinematography was the perfect film for me. I had watched 'Requiem for a Dream' before this film, and loved it dearly. But after watching 'Pi' i realised such a directing technique could be fitted to a storyline with more depth the some kids getting high, then getting miserable when they can't. If you have a liking for maths, and an obsessive need to watch a film that will bewilder you until you understand it; 'Pi' is the film for you.
on 26 September 2003
An original, fascinating thriller about a reclusive maths genius (played by Sean Gullette) who becomes obsessed with the notion that everything in the universe can be broken down into mathematics and therefore follows a predictable pattern. This acclaimed black-and-white feature debut from Darren Aronofsky is filled with complex issues (can Gullette's “gift” be used to decipher the true name of God?) and makes arresting use of disorientating camerawork to depict Max's distorted view of the world. But, despite its many virtues, Pi becomes increasingly hard to follow because of an overload of intricate ideas that could baffle even Stephen Hawking.
on 1 September 2003
The Film: just a superb crossover of cinematography, mathematics, religion, art and music - watch this film when you need an enlightening challenge. It may be a far cry from Hollywood blockbusters, but hey - if you've watched and loved Withnail, The Ring, Clockwork Orange... etc etc, then you'll be used to the edgy filming and pace... if not, watch it again when you're not drunk or under the influence of any mind-altering substances. Truly, you will not need it.
Slightly cerebral, and shot in coarse-grain, high contrast film - I'm, sure you'll end up mesmerised and share some kind of empathy with the main character Max Cohen. The dark, electronic soundtrack definitely adds to the story's suspense by complimenting the 'techie/mathematical' subject matter.
Watch this film if you are an artist, philosopher, business person, poet, mathematician, architect, computer programmer, designer, cinamatographer, photographer... basically anyone who wants/or can see through society's malaise, and who has a keen interest in visual/sensory material that is not force fed to us by the media.
If you haven't yet seen the film, it might be the best film you've bought, or rented since...