Pi (1998) – 4/5


Weird, tense film with an interestingly bizarre story that doesn’t go as far as it should with its concept but still manages to invent and explore some pretty deep religious and scientific notions that will leave you thinking about it all long after the credits roll. And it was all made on an extremely limited budget, relying primarily on performances, ideas, and creative post production techniques to get its point across. No big budget special effects here. This is true independent cinema, folks, at least as far as I could tell.

That being said, it is a tough watch. The editing is very haphazard, which is appropriate given the disintegrating psychological state of our main character throughout, but man does it make the thing an ordeal to sit through at times. My eyes were spinning.  Darren Aronofsky would go on to use such style to better effect in Requiem for a Dream, which isn’t to say it doesn’t work here, it’s just not as effective, and harder to adjust to visually. Maybe it’s all the black and white, or the choppy, cheap looking film they shot the thing on. I don’t know. Stuff is hard to see, and the frantic editing and closeups and general insanity of the thing made it all somewhat unpleasant to keep watching at times, at least for me.

It reminded me a lot of David Lynch’s “Eraserhead,” actually. Same look, same crazy main character, same weird, discombobulated story that gets crazier as it goes along until you’re driven to bashing your head against the wall in frustration. Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily. And, unlike “Eraserhead,” this actually has a story you can kind of follow for the most part, and what a good story it is. But, again, it’s a tough watch.

Overall, I liked the film. It’s frantic and full of tension and paranoia, and the story is surprisingly deep and engaging despite its complex, ambitious nature and obviously limited budget. It’s a very creative mix of mathematics and religion and science and mythology that actually attempts to answer some of the questions it asks, and does so in an engaging, mostly straightforward manner.

I liked that the complicated nature of the film, and, thus, the chaotic manner in which it’s put together, doesn’t come from the important “discovery” our main character makes so much as the psychological state he sinks into once he comes to grips with it. Aronofsky seems to be commenting here that, ultimately, it’s not god that’s complex, it’s man who makes him complex, with his anger and paranoia and violent obsession to define his world. And that’s where the bulk of our problems come from: this persistent, obsessive need for us to complicate the simple. Thus what happens in the end with the drill. It was the only way he could make it simple, to stop himself from obsessing and just be.

Anyway, that’s what I got out of it at least. Very interesting film. Worth watching, though not for everyone.


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