Commentary A Beautiful Mind is a very thought-provoking film which explores the close relationship between genius and insanity. The movie is a somewhat fictionalized autobiographical sketch of the Nobel Prize winning economist John Nash and his struggle with schizophrenia. Although I'm not schizophrenic, I found that I could relate to him quite well. Like Nash, I'm also a mathematician and I have struggled with depression and mania. Nash was blessed with a wonderful wife who saw and appreciated his genius and was willing to deal with his sickness. Eventually he managed to keep his schizophrenia under control so that late in life he became a well-renowned mathematician and economist. I find this to be a deeply moving story.
Plot Summary A Beautiful Mind concerns the life of the world-renowned mathematician and economist John Nash (Russell Crowe). The movie starts out when he's in college. He suffers from hallucinations, including an imaginary roommate with a younger neice. Years later, he works for the government and imagines another character, a government official who warns him of Soviet espionage. Nash becomes paranoid as he is convinced that the Soviets are spying on him. His wive Alicia (Jennifer Connely) helps to set him straight, though he still suffers from hallucinations from time to time. Eventually he is able to take control over his own illness, so that he is able to lead a productive and successful life, culminating in his winning the Nobel Prize in Economics.
Cultural Significance A Beautiful Mind is one of the few movies I've seen which looks realistically into the mind of a genius. Although the movie is somewhat fictionalized, I think the portrayal of Nash is rather accurate. I've found from my own personal experience that genius and insanity (mania in particular) often seem to go hand-in-hand. While insanity must be kept under control, this should not involve suppressing genius or creativity. Unfortunately, there is often a fine line between the two, so this can be a very delicate balancing act.