PI (π) directed by Darren Aronofsky (1998)

Darren Aronofky’s directorial debut is a horror movie about maths; or , more precisely, a horror movie about a man obsessed with maths.

The protagonist is Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) who began his lifelong obsession with the power of numbers as a child after he disregarded his mother’s advice and stared too long into the sun.

In his fried mind, he is convinced that there’s a mathematical explanation in everything.

He directs most of his energy, helped by a room full of primitive computer devices, in attempts to decipher the pattern recognition in the stock exchange. Given that he rages against “petty materialists” his motives for this appear to more cerebral than financial.

He is pursued by a group of unscrupulous money grabbers from Wall Street and his numeric know-how lures another bunch of Hasidic Jews ( Kabbalah scholars) who want him to direct his mind towards the higher goal of solving the mysteries of the Torah.

Along the way there are some techno-mumbo jumbo from his math-mentor Sol about computers becoming conscious and humans turning into machines

The movie is shot in saturated black and white as though the movie reels have also been exposed to too much sunlight. This heightens the surreal, claustrophobic quality which makes it reminiscent of the other-worldly industrial landscape in David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Both movies centre on bizarre individuals hovering on the edge of sanity.

The excellent score by Clint Mansell adds to the brooding menace, this music is augmented by tracks in a similar vein by Autechre and Massive Attack.

The complex intelligence and restless energy of Aronofsky is singular enough to keep you watching even if you haven’t got a clue what was going on in his head when he made this.

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