Truth is a complicated, abstract idea, and truth seekers come in all forms. Some search for truth in religion. Others do it through art. Some seek to find the truth within numbers.
Max Cohen, the protagonist of Darren Aronofsky’s debut film, Pi, is a man of the latter category. “One, mathematics is the language of nature,” he states. “Two, everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers.” Despite the urgings of his mentor, Sol, Max is a man driven by a quest for meaning – a man driven to the point of obsession, obsession with the very numbers he seeks the answer from, obsession that leads to hallucinations, paranoia and, by the startling conclusion of the film, a complete mental breakdown.
Pi is a dark, intelligent psychological thriller, with a tone and style somewhere between David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. It’s a daring film that asks a profound question. A question that has haunted men for millennia, and that we may never find an easy answer to:
Is there meaning in life, nature and the universe—a pattern that brings it all together, perhaps? Or is everything simply chaos?
Pi , like much of Aronofsky’s work (including the recent Noah) is an intense examination of a man’s search for God. It’s about a quest for truth. And like many similar quests in fiction – from Victor Frankenstein’s monster to Johnny Truant’s book obsession in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves – the road that Max goes on is one fraught with deadly ramifications upon his psychological state, finally leading to a shocking ending that’s not easily forgotten.
Though Aronofsky has directed many films since 1998, Pi remains– to me, at least – his most fascinating work.