Tox' Retro Reviews: Pi

Martintox Presents: His Retro Reviews


A.K.A How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Became Part of the Jewish Mathematician Master Race


Released in: 1998
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Surrealist Psychological Thriller
Length: 83 minutes
Main Actors: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman and Samia Shoaib
Budget: 500,000 $
Box Office: 3,221,152 $

About Darren Aronofsky

If you're a tool and happen to keep following the Academy Awards, you would know about that movie called Black Swan, a wonderfully messed up tale of ballerinas taking their jobs way too seriously. That movie was made by Darren Aronofsky, one of few "independent film-makers" who made the rise to fame, and not for the wrong reasons (i.e.: Trash Humpers).

Most of the few movies he has directed are chin-deep in controversy. Requiem For A Dream contained a graphic sex scene (that's what Wikipedia says, I'm not going to watch the movie to see if it's right), The Wrestler was considered an anti-Iranian movie and doubt was cast over whether or not the dancing was actually done by Natalie Portman (who plays the main character) or a dance double she had, like a ballet spin-off of Singing In The Rain.

But I'm not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about Pi, his debut movie that is only partly about the number.

About the Movie

The story centers around a number theorist capable of solving simple mathematical problems in his head, named Maximillian "Max" Cohen, who believes that all of nature can be explained through the use of numbers and patterns in nature. He is also socially anxious, only holding a real social connection with Sol, his mathematics mentor (sadly not in the sense of "ratio on, ratio off").

Give me your secrets, Slinky!

When Max was 6-years old, he was a smart-ass like all of us and attempted to stare into the sun despite his mother's warnings, causing him to have headaches after he recovered from his blindness. He states in his retelling, since he serves as the narrator in this movie, that something changed inside of him after that incident. I don't know about you, but something would definitely change inside of me if I was enough of an idiot to stare into the sun until my eyes burned.

His apartment houses Euclid, a supercomputer that he uses to find patterns in the stock market, but not for monetary purposes, since he's not one of those foolish materialists. During his search for the pattern, he is contacted by a representative of a Wall Street firm and meets Lenny Meyer, a Jew who searches for mathematical patterns in the Torah by using techniques such as Gematria. You probably don't know what Gematria means, but go look it up yourself, I'm not telling you.

Things get serious, one day, when Max does his daily check to get Euclid's stock predictions but instead gets a seemingly random 216-digit (it actually has 218 digits, I counted) number right before Euclid's computer chip dies. When he sees the printed number, he thinks it's just a load of crap spewed out by the machine and throws it away.

But since God (ironic considering the context of the movie, amirite?) likes to screw with his creation, when Max goes around talking about the number to Sol and Lenny, he ends up believing from what they said that it might be a key element of proving the theory of patterns in nature. However, when he looks for the paper, he's unable to find it. So when the Wall Street firm gives him a new chip, he uses it to try and find the number again.

Wierd shit happens.

Pi is Darren Aronofsky's first film, and, ignoring the fact he only made like four of them, it greatly varies from the style he's known for, which consists of adding sex scenes into his movies because it's deep or something (I didn't see any of his other films yet), instead bordering on the usual experimental style that you see in independently made films.

Hey, Max, you seem different these days. Did you get a haircut?

As mentioned before, the movie is told from the viewpoint of Max Cohen himself, and the cinematography gets it pretty damn well. There are multiple hallucinations laid out throughout the movie, leading up where, when the third act comes around, you have almost no idea what's going on and all you know is that Max is going completely nuts.

The film is shot entirely in black and white, which doesn't come out as an attempt to look artsy but instead, since you can't be distracted then by tons of different colors everywhere, gives you a way to focus more on the details, which again works in the favor of Max being the narrator, since you get a better view of how he sees the world around him.

But the meticulous cinematography is not the only thing that makes this movie so great, since the acting is pretty much one of the best I have seen in any movie to this day. Most of the actors in the film, especially Sean Gullette and Mark Margolis, are masters at their work. Shakespearian acting? Screw that, we're talking Aronofskian acting.

Yes, that computer is super-powerful and can attempt to calculate patterns in the stock market, but can it run Crysis?

Just about everything that's in the movie (save, arguably, for some hallucinations, depending on how much of a philistine you are) works and has purpose. It would never have the same impact if you removed any scene. From the beginning to the ending, the movie is one whole.


Pi is probably one of the best movies I have ever seen in my life, or at least one of my top 3 favorites (there's that thing called subjectivity, it's all the rage these days). It's a bit of everything; it's a thriller, a religious movie (fortunately not to the point of pretentiousness), a psychological movie, an extremely monochrome acid trip and artsy.

If you're interested in that kind of movie, you should seriously consider watching it. If you're not interested in that kind of movie, you should consider watching it, but not as seriously. If you hate that kind of movie, don't watch it.

As always, feedback is welcome, and remember that you can request me to review an album, game or movie.

You can find my previous reviews on the archive that's been made just for that purpose.


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