Spencer Clarke Sound

Engineer and Editor, for Music and Post

Narrative Film Critique - A Beautiful Mind


In the past, if someone discovered that I hadn't watched A Beautiful Mind, they looked at me like I was crazy. After watching the film, I might have to redefine my use of the word. John Nash is crazy; he says so himself towards the end of the film. It's his admittance of that fact that makes his work that much more impressive, and the true story all the more compelling.

The most interesting part of the story is how it is portrayed. For the first half of the film, Nash's schizophrenia isn't even addressed, so I understood his visions (his roommate, and government supervisor) as real people. It's a credit to the director as well that even when Nash was admitted to the mental hospital for the first time, I still thought it was a plot against him. I was on Nash's side, believing that he was being fooled, up until he finally looks at his hallucinations and realizes that they are not real.

I didn't expect to be so attached to characters that would eventually be revealed as hallucinations. There is a line in the film, when Nash's doctor tries to explain the nightmare of a schizophrenic, paraphrased: Imagine if people, friends, that you've known for years were suddenly determined to be figments of your imagination. What kind of hell would that be? In letting me get attached to Nash's hallucinations as much as I did, the director let me step into his head, experiencing some of what the character would have. The effect is so convincing that even upon watching A Beautiful Mind a second time, I still grew attached, and felt hurt whenever the hallucinations were proven as figments. I don't want to believe that the hallucinations aren't real. My compliments to the writer for creating such convincing characters.

Thankfully, sound design in this movie was not an afterthought. When Nash starts to explain the defining principles of his equilibrium in the bar scene, all other voices cut out, so it really sounds like you're going inside his head, hearing him speak it as he's explaining it. Additionally, when he's doing math on the windows of his room, or in the Pentagon briefing room, the muttering inside his head is brilliantly blended with introspective scoring to accentuate the mood. All of the music in the film is quiet enough to sit in the background so that you don't think about it, but it serves to enhance every scene where it is present. This is the sort of thing that music in film should do- Watching a film is not only a visual or auditory experience, it is an equal blend of both. With a deficiency in one or the other, something will feel like it is missing. In A Beautiful Mind, nothing stands out too far, and nothing feels left out.

This isn't a movie just about mathematics, nor is it just about mental illness. It is a movie about love as well, and I'm thankful to the director for never forgetting that. It makes the film feel whole in the end, and it's the little things that tie it all together. Nash credits his semblance of sanity entirely to his wife, still wearing that handkerchief that she gave him on their first date. The only reason that he continued to work is that she believed in him through all of his challenges. The Nash equilibrium was founded in search of love, it's only fitting that love ends the film.