Sunday, September 26, 2021

Zorba the Greek

 SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.


Despite the film’s title character, who relishes living life to the fullest, Zorba the Greek (1964) is shot in black and white (despite the poster being in color). It seems ironic since that choice downplays the variety that the film says existence offers. The opening has Basil (Alan Bates), a nerdish Englishman with a very British name, trying to protect his books stored in a wicker trunk from the rain falling in Greece. From this image one can quickly see that up to this point his interests have relied on vicariously experiencing the world through his readings. He is there because he has inherited a mine on the island of Crete, and he has decided that it was time to venture out into the world. 

Waiting for the storm to end so he can travel to the island, Basil stays in the waiting area for the ferry. IMDb notes that the collection of individuals huddled together are representative of various members of Greek society, including the peasantry and the clergy. Basil sees Zorba (Anthony Quinn, in a career-defining performance) outside in the rain looking through a window. The shot depicts him as a social outsider, or at least someone different from the other members of the community. He behaves contrary to accepted norms. He is observant because he noticed that Basil had many belongings, so he will be staying for an extended period. He asks that Basil take him along with him. When Basil asks why, Zorba says that people always want to know the reason for things instead of just doing something “for the hell of it.” Zorba is not one to contemplate the reasons for acting, but instead relies on his passions. 


Zorba says Basil is English despite his being half-Greek. Apparently, one must be fully Greek to be considered eligible to fit in as a fellow countryman. Zorba relies on his physical instincts instead of his mental abilities, since he says that his hands and feet tell him what jobs to do, so his head has no reason to disagree with them. He admits that he was an excellent miner, but he beat up the boss and was fired, stressing his sometimes aggressive nonconformity. He then laughs exuberantly, disturbing those present, which adds to his role as a rebel. Basil is feeling increasingly uncomfortable because of this stranger’s intrusiveness. He attempts to distance himself from Zorba by saying he will check as to the situation with the ferry. However, Basil then capitulates to social norms because he doesn’t want to appear rude. So, he invites Zorba to join him.

 Basil tells Zorba that he is a writer of poetry and essays. Zorba’s comment to Basil is, “you think too much.” Here we have the dynamic between these two men, where one is cerebral and the other physical. Zorba says people like Basil ponder over everything, wasting time as it were, thus short-changing the time one has to enjoy life. However, Zorba confesses that one of his nicknames is “epidemic,” because he has a tendency to “louse” things up. So, the implication is that appetites that have no boundaries on being satisfied can lead to negative outcomes.  Is Zorba drawn to Basil purely for opportunistic reasons? Does he want to convert him to his way of life? Or, could Zorba have a subconscious attraction to that civilized aspect of Basil that compliments the chaotic parts of life? 


Basil asks Zorba if he has clothes in his satchel. Zorba says Basil asks “sensible” questions, again stressing the Englishman’s rational stance. Zorba is not carrying anything practical, but instead has a string instrument called a santouri. Despite their differences, both men are artistic, since Basil creates poetry and Zorba makes music. But Basil hasn’t written in a while, and instead is traveling to Crete to resurrect a mine his father left him but Basil let stay dormant. He says he “must” do this act, and it’s as if he is also resuscitating that part of himself that is Greek so he can be part of the land instead of isolated in his intellectual seclusion.


Basil has no experience in the mining industry, and Zorba already noted that he worked in mines. So, Basil goes a little “mad” as he says, a bit off his mental script, and decides to hire Zorba to help him out. He also says that they will have fun, so it appears that Zorba is already having an influence on the nerdish Basil. But Zorba says when it comes to his playing and singing music, he must be free to do as he wishes. Basil agrees to this “bargain” between them. They drink to their partnership, and Basil sips rum despite his preference for tea. He toasts “God,” but Zorba includes “the devil,” which suggests that the two sides of people combine to form human nature.


The boat that takes them to Crete suffers a choppy crossing, and the people careen back and forth. But it almost looks as if they are dancing, as if art can be extracted from chaos. It is unexpected that it is Zorba who feels seasick. He becomes queasy when he watches a woman, who seems to be flirting with him, eating. Maybe he has this sudden queasiness because his appetites have been indulged too often. Basil asks him if he is married, and there is some misogyny in his answer as he says he had a wife, family and a house, calling it “the full catastrophe.” When Basil says he is single, Zorba attributes the absence of marital involvement to spending time with “too many books,” which for Zorba denies physical interaction with women.


They arrive at the impoverished village where Basil’s land is located. The townspeople are excited at the arrival of the owner, most likely hoping for some financial gain due to the reopening of the mine. Mavrandoni (Giorgos Foundas) has been overseeing the property in the absence of Basil’s family. Madame Hortense (Lila Kedrova, winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this role) is a middle-aged French woman who owns the Hotel Ritz (a poor version of the elite spot in Paris) and wants Basil to stay there. She is exuberant about getting herself ready to meet the newcomers and she is flamboyant, indulging in clothes, music, and dancing that fits her personality. She stresses that she was once a performer in many chic cabarets, which shows her as someone who may prefer living in the past. 


Zorba becomes a mentor in hedonistic ways to Basil and tries to get him to dance with Madame Hortense. She says that she was involved with four admirals from different countries. Their beards smelled of distinctly different perfumes so she could tell them apart, even in the dark, which suggests that she knew with whom she was intimate with at any given time. She tells a tale of how she used her influence to stop a military confrontation and was outraged that she received no credit for her efforts. While she is telling her story, Basil keeps trying to contain his laughter due to her melodramatic rendition. Hortense sees Basil’s reaction and runs to her bedroom, upset by the lack of acknowledgment of her perceived prior accomplishments. The men follow and Zorba tries to console her as she talks about how the war ended and the four admirals then left her after a night of lovemaking that combined all of their perfumes. She is a woman who is as earthy as Zorba, whether or not she is a reliable narrator of her tales, and Zorba waves Basil out of the room so Zorba and she can consummate their physical passions.


The next scene involves many of the local men capturing a goat that belongs to a “Widow” (Irene Papas), who comes looking for her animal. She is beautiful and dressed in black, and Zorba has already boasted about his ability to charm widows. The men at first hide the goat and then attempt to keep it from the Widow. Goats are a traditional symbol for male lust, and there is an atmosphere of sexual harassment here. The usually bawdy Zorba however does not like what is happening and rescues the goat with a disapproving look at the male villagers. As she exits, the Widow spits on the floor to show her disgust for the men who tormented her. Zorba gives her the goat and Basil also shows compassion for the woman as he hands her his umbrella to protect her from the pouring rain. She softens her face and gives him a smile.


There is a young man, Pavlo (Yorgo Voyagis), who is very upset about what has happened and he runs out of the building. Mavrondoni is Pavlo’s father and Zorba quietly tells Basil that the man is incensed because his son is in love with the Widow. Zorba says that if Basil looks at all of the men he will see that they all “want” the Widow sexually, without love, and are angry that they cannot have her. Zorba says the only man there who can have the Widow is Basil, based on her reaction to him. Zorba really knows how to read a room. 


Basil calls the idea “rubbish.” Zorba urges him to pursue the woman, calling God a “crafty devil,” an interesting contradiction in terms. implying that God is a schemer who allows for carnal satisfaction while advocating abstinence. Zorba says the deity gives a man hands to grab hold of life. They walk past the Widow’s house and Basil, in response to Zorba’s telling him to knock on her door, says he doesn’t want any “trouble.” Zorba expresses his belief that playing it safe is not really living. He says, “Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.” The “belt” represents restriction of freedom, as well as referring to having sex. But Basil is not ready for such bold action.


Zorba leads the townspeople in singing as they head with Basil to work in his mine. Basil was dressed in a suit and tie earlier and still wears dressy clothes even at the work site, which shows how different his origins are compared to the marginally clothed workers. He starts to get himself dirty as he pitches in with the heavy work needed to secure the mine from cave-ins. Some do occur and somehow Zorba survives them, chastising the other workers for running as soon as there is a rumble of noise. The kinder and gentler Basil is grateful no one was hurt, and is not the “capitalist” that Zorba says he needs to be, which suggests some ruthlessness is a requirement to be successful in business.


Zorba finds out that the trees on the side of the mountain belong to a monastery, and he hatches a plan to harvest them. He reddens his face and surprises a couple of the priests who think they saw the devil. After scaring them, Zorba washes his face, then leaves branches in the form of a cross and places the religious object in a large jug of wine, possibly to show God is still there to protect the monks. The clergymen indulge themselves in this heavenly gift, and Zorba ingratiates himself with them by joining in their celebration. 


Zorba returns to Basil warning the Englishmen that Zorba is basically a wild card that could ruin him. But Basil says he’ll take that “chance.” Zorba brightens at Basil’s words since it shows that Basil’s “courage” is emerging, and it is contagious. Zorba starts to dance to the point of exhaustion, which he says is necessary when a man is “full” and needs to let out that fullness or else he will “burst.” He then relates how he deals with life’s horrors. He says that when his three-year-old son died Zorba danced, and although others called him “mad,” (that word is repeated in the film) he says it was the only way to ease the “pain.” It is not mourning that helps Zorba deal with death, but instead it is feeling alive that sustains him. 


Zorba makes a model of the mountain out of sand and tells Basil he has made friends with the monks who own the mountain. He wants to bring the trees down on suspended cables to help reinforce the mine and eventually to build ships. He says they can have their own ship and sail around the world. Basil wonders if he is moving ahead too “fast” with his vision. Zorba says it’s a lie that the older a person gets he welcomes death as a means to rest. He says that he has “enough fight in me to devour the world.” The image he uses is one of appetite for physical satisfaction. He says he has little time, suggesting that he wants to drain all he can out of mother earth, and he probably sees Basil as the means to reach his goal. Basil gives him until Christmas to enact his plan, as if it is a gift that can then be unwrapped.


After Zorba tries to discover the right angle to set up his conveyance system on the mountain, he visits Basil’s room and discovers, despite Basil’s attempts at concealment, that the Widow sent his umbrella back to him along with Christmas cookies. Of course, Zorba wants Basil to press his advantage with the woman. Zorba says that to not go with a woman to bed if she invites him is an unforgivable sin. He says a Turk told him this fact. Basil points out that Greeks and Turks don’t talk to each other, they only fight, and there is nothing wrong with fighting for one's country. Zorba’s life has caused him to become cynical about patriotism. He tells Basil that the Englishman only knows what his brain tells him, but his body is “dumb.” Zorba seems to be saying that Basil never actually experienced war, only read about it, and so is not truly knowledgeable. Zorba points to scars on his body and says he did horrible things in war, and now only evaluates people as individuals, not citizens of nations. In the end even what one does in life, whether for good or bad, results only in death, and each person turns into “food for worms.” We have already heard how Zorba wants to keep death away from him as much as possible. 


Zorba’s attitude toward women wavers between sexism and compassion. He says that they are “weak creatures” that give everything they have if a man places a hand on a female breast. It’s a cringe-worthy attitude in our present day. Zorba and Basil visit Hortense and Zorba gives her a drawing he made of her in the image of a mermaid in control of her four admirals. But Madame Hortense looks run down and confesses to Basil that at her age, “one is never well.” Zorba chases her around the room to tickle her, but she falls, showing how she can’t share Zorba’s defiance against the ravages of time. Zorba tries to give her hope saying that there is a doctor who can make her feel like she is in her twenties again, and Zorba will get some of his medicine for her. He is desperate not to capitulate to the inevitability of human mortality. Hortense talks about how she was in various parts of the world when she was younger and mentions her former lovers. Hortense is tired, and Basil tucks her in so she can rest. She tells Zorba that in her dreams she is twenty again. Zorba is jealous of her past romances and is disappointed that she spoiled his plans with her for the evening. He is cruel by dismissing her as a “dirty old cow,” which is again a way of distancing him from aging and death.


Outside, the church bells ring, announcing the start of Christmas Eve mass and Basil wants to attend. Zorba is frustrated, saying that Basil is wasting his youthful energy. Basil declares that he is different from Zorba and must go his own way, which shows the desire for personal freedom. But Zorba thinks he is denying life’s offerings. He alters the focus of Christianity on the spiritual and moves it to the carnal by dismissing the idea of the virgin birth and says that if Joseph didn’t have sex with Mary there would be no Jesus. For Zorba, salvation comes from indulging one’s passions. As Basil heads for the church, Zorba’s witty line is, “On a deaf man’s door, you can knock forever,” illustrating how he can’t get through to Basil.


By using his mountain model, Zorba believes he has found the right angle to carry the trees. Basil gives him all the money he can afford to buy and return the supplies necessary for the job. Zorba is dismissive of Hortense as he sets off on his errand, even as she asks that he remember her. Basil consoles her like a gentleman again, this time offering a parasol to protect her from the sun as he used an umbrella to shield the Widow from the rain.

Basil encounters the Widow on the road, but only nods toward her, not making any overture despite her sending him the cookies. It shows his reticence in engaging in anything that resembles Zorba’s sexual aggressiveness. But, she has shown an interest, and he is on the verge of allowing a missed opportunity to enjoy life in other than an intellectual way. 

 In contrast, Zorba, who was supposed to buy the supplies and return quickly, is out on the town, and is miffed when the young bar woman named Lola (Eleni Anousaki) at a club calls him grandpa. He uses Basil’s money to order champagne and buy her a whole basket of flowers to win her attention. She follows him out of the club and they spend the night in a hotel. Zorba sends a letter back to Basil about what has transpired, and Basil is very angry, writing a letter telling him to return immediately. Zorba’s desire to live life to the fullest does not take into account his age. Thus, he acts in a pathetic and unethical manner, using someone else’s funds selfishly to obtain physical pleasure and buying attention to boost his ego, while at the same time scorning death by taking up with a young woman.


Hortense has heard that Zorba sent a letter, but she has vision troubles (literally and figuratively, since she can’t see Zorba’s varying dedication to her), so she is unable to read it. Basil, the man of compassion, is unable to tell her of Zorba’s sexual escapades, so he invents language that expresses Zorba’s missing Hortense, and his desire to be with her forever. Hortense is ready to prepare for a wedding, and it is sad to observe her delusion as she asks Basil to witness the nuptials. 


Basil has a Hamlet moment, trying to make himself commit to taking action. He starts to mimic Zorba a little by doing dance moves and strumming the santouri. Basil no longer looks prim and proper. He appears more like one of the Greek peasants now, with an open shirt, ruffled hair, and an unshaven face. It appears as if the Greek part of him is trying to win over his personality. The young Pavlo is at the Widow’s home in the dark as she sings a song. She sees him and he has a love letter for her, but she tells him to go away. He tosses his letter to her but then leaves as the dog barks and his father, Mavrondoni, approaches. The Widow throws the letter at Mavrondoni’s feet, and Pavlo tries to get it away from his father before he reads his son’s professions of love for the woman. Mavrondoni then smacks his son. There is a strange kind of jealousy over the same woman going on here which fuels this conflict between the two. 

 Basil finally commits and visits the Widow, who has a gun handy because she realizes the sexual danger she may find herself in. But after seeing Basil, she opens her door to him, which can be a metaphor for allowing herself to being physically approachable when it comes to Basil. The two go to her bedroom, but she begins to cry, most likely because she is overwhelmed with emotion at the loss of intimacy since losing her husband. Basil thinks he has caused her to be upset and is ready to leave, but she tells him to stay. They kiss passionately. At first Basil seems unsure as to whether he should continue, and the Widow then feels vulnerable at exposing her nakedness to him. But he shows his affection for her by hugging her and they go to bed. All of this loving communication is through body language since they don’t know each other’s language, which shows how genuine are their feelings for each other that they transcend obstacles. 


Some of the men of the town are with Pavlo who, fittingly, is playing solitaire, which echoes his loneliness. (Don’t these men have any other women on the island to connect with?) They whisper to him, supposedly telling him that Basil is with the Widow. They send Pavlo into a jealous panic, probably because they can’t have the Widow, as Zorba said, and so want to cause her anguish. But, instead of going to the Widow’s house, Pavlo, devastated by the news that the one he loves is with another man, drowns himself. They carry the youth’s body past the Widow’s house, and begin to throw rocks at it, as if she is the cause of Pavlo's death. 


Zorba returns and has gifts for everyone, including Hortense. Basil says he better have a wedding gown for her and he admits he couldn’t hurt the woman by telling her what Zorba was really up to. Zorba is not happy about this fact, but he says he has the supplies they need to carry out his plan. Zorba looks silly as he dyed his hair dark so Lola would not feel embarrassed about being with an older man, another attempt at trying to stay young despite the facts of life. Basil can’t stay angry at the “incorrigible” Zorba as he is amused by his shenanigans, but he still feels inhibited about saying where he was the night before. 


The Widow tries to attend Pavlo’s funeral but is blocked by Mavrondoni. The townspeople, led by the men, chase, surround, and throw stones at the Widow, and Mavrondoni gives the order to have her killed. This attributing men's problems to the seductive power of women goes back all the way to Adam and Eve, which shows how the demonization of women is so entrenched, and how men do not take responsibility for their own actions. Basil can’t break through the crowd to reach the Widow, and sends word to Zorba, who arrives and wrestles the knife out of the hand of the man ordered to kill the Widow. Zorba may take advantage of women’s desires for his own purposes, but he obviously wants to prevent violence against them after seeing and being part of it during his time fighting a war. He tries to lead her away from the crowd, but Mavrondoni grabs her and cuts her throat, killing her. This scene reminds me of the movie Psycho, which shows how men lust for women, then feel degraded by that desire, especially if it is thwarted, and subsequently penetrate women violently with knives instead of with their sexual organs. Apparently, the town allows this atrocity to take place without retribution. The scene of the Widow’s death is very traumatizing for the viewer, and what follows seems almost anti-climactic. The scene shows the clash between restricted and unrestricted behavior, which is at the center of the story. 


Later Zorba is angry about why people die, especially the young, and he tells Basil that despite all of his books and learning, he can’t answer that question. Basil only offers that books talk of men agonizing over death. Zorba’s response is, “I spit on their agony!” Zorba sees no help in self-indulgent ruminating about the loss of others without an explanation for why it happens. Also, one would expect that Basil would appear more emotionally affected by the death of the Widow.


Hortense shows up on the porch of Basil’s cabin where she has been waiting in the cold for Zorba. She is angry that she has been made a fool of since she thought he planned to marry her. Zorba says quietly to Basil that he started this problem. Zorba goes along with the marriage scenario, saying he has commissioned a wedding dress made with pearls and gold. Once he gets started on his tales he keeps ramping up the exaggerations. He even agrees to becoming engaged. Zorba is used to charming his way out of situations by not being necessarily honest.


It is now Easter, and Hortense has become ill. Zorba tends to her, again trying to spare her any anxiety by saying she only has a cold. Knowing Hortense will die soon, the impoverished villagers are like vultures, ready to take her belongings before the government has access to her estate. She does pass away, and the residents shamelessly ransack her hotel. Zorba rescues her pet parrot since that is all he can do. He tells Basil that there will be no typical burial because Hortense was a “Frank” which does not allow her to qualify for an Eastern Orthodox burial. Zorba says it doesn’t matter to her since she is dead, but he is very sullen since death is something he can’t reconcile himself with. 


There is a large event with many people to witness Zorba’s plan to deliver the trees down the mountain. It turns out to be a disaster, with the lumber supports collapsing under the increasing velocity of the descending timber. Despite the failure, Zorba and Basil enjoy food and drink meant to celebrate their success. Zorba realizes that Basil will return to England and feels that despite Basil’s reassurances, they will not see each other again. He tells Basil that the only thing the Englishman lacks is “madness,” which he says a man needs or else, “he never dares cut the rope and be free.” For Zorba, the real insanity is to tie oneself up in a conforming way of life, trading in courageous adventure for security based on fear.

 Basil finally gives in to not worrying about appearing foolish and asks Zorba to teach him how to dance. Zorba laughs at what a “splendiferous” mess their project was. Basil joins him in joy at the madness of their endeavor as they dance on the beach. The world according to Zorba seems to say that no matter what one does it is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.

The next film is Belle de Jour.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A Beautiful Mind

 SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.


The title of the film, A Beautiful Mind (2001), takes on depth as the story of mathematician John Nash unfolds. His mental abilities produced Nobel Prize winning insights. But, he also was schizophrenic, so the same mental powers that engendered brilliant rational breakthroughs also created damaging hallucinations. He was someone who was searching for insights in the abstract realm of numbers to be applied to the real world, but he also many times had no connection with reality. 


The opening speech from Professor Helinger (Judd Hirsch) at Princeton University in 1947 to new graduate students places a great deal of pressure on the entering class. There is a focus on using the science of mathematics to fight enemies, breaking codes and building the atomic bomb. Nash sits in the back of the room, his eyes avoiding contact, already establishing himself as an outsider. Helinger’s outlook may have contributed to what John Nash (Russell Crowe, excellent here) thought was his purpose and which fueled his paranoia about foreign adversaries targeting him. 

 At the outside reception, Nash observes patterns in what he sees as lines forming geometric shapes light up as he perceives them. This camera imagery is often used by director Ron Howard (winning the Oscar for Best Director here) and his fellow filmmakers to highlight mental epiphanies, according to IMDb. They are flashes of light, showing how his creativity is drawing things together. The scene also illustrates Nash’s witty humor when he says to a fellow student that “there could be a mathematical explanation for how bad your tie is.” Martin Hansen (Josh Lucas) asks Nash to get him a drink, saying Nash presented himself as a waiter, probably because he is wearing a bow tie. Again, Nash’s sarcasm surfaces as he says, “Imagine you’re getting quite used to miscalculation.” He goes on to say that Hansen’s publications lack anything noteworthy. Rivalry obviously exists between these two winners of the Carnegie Scholarship. Nash has nervous, quirky hand movements which show his awkward social skills. Nash also meets Sol (Adam Goldberg) and Bender (Anthony Rapp) here who become Nash’s friends. 


In his room, Nash encounters his supposed English major British roommate, funny (“Officer, I know who hit me, it was Johnny Walker) Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), who is suffering from a hangover. While he cracks jokes, Nash writes mathematical equations on his dorm window, a sort of metaphor for how his mental powers shed light on his numerical exploits. In answer to Charles’s questions about him, Nash says he is “well-balanced” because he has “a chip on both soldiers.” It is comical, but it also reveals Nash feeling that he must battle adversity. Charles points out that Nash is better with “integers” than people. Nash adds that he had a teacher who said he had “two helpings of brain but only half a helping of heart.” This discussion points to Nash’s lack of emotional connection to others. He admits that he doesn’t like people and they don’t care for him. He is impatient to bypass personal relationships so he will not waste time on his quest to map out “the governing dynamics” of existence and find a “truly original idea” so, as Charles says, he will “matter.” The two are drinking on a roof, which is fitting as Nash looks down literally and figuratively on the other students, calling them, “lesser mortals.” 


Hansen challenges Nash to a board game, and he is astonished that he loses to Hansen. Nash feels his “play was perfect.” Competition is at the center of Nash’s drive to succeed. It is here that he starts to investigate “game theory,” which will lead to the idea of those “governing dynamics” that will be applied to economics and for which Nash will be most known. 


Nash approaches a blonde at a bar and is unsocial to the point of insensitivity. He says he is not sure what he is supposed to say so that they can have sexual intercourse, so maybe they should skip right to having sex. She slaps him and walks out. He must learn to try a different tactic, as we soon discover. 

At present, Nash hasn’t been attending classes, which he sees as being just derivative, and not aiding invention. He doesn’t have a topic for his doctoral dissertation, and hasn’t published anything. Helinger tells him that he can't be recommended for placement in a post-graduate position. Nash sees recognition and accomplishment as the same thing, showing his need for validation as the talented outsider. 

 Nash becomes upset, telling Charles he must follow “their” rules in order to get ahead instead of taking the road less traveled. This idea is symbolized by his pushing his desk away from the window, on which he scribbles his equations, where the light of inspiration shines upon him. Charles counters that argument by telling Nash he must follow his passion outside the walls of the educational institution, and he pushes the desk through the window, watching it fall to the ground. The act shows the need for Nash to break through traditional restrictions on his “beautiful mind.”

 Nash is in the bar again. But now he employs a version of game theory when he tells the other math men that if they avoid making a play for the blonde who is present, then they will not have to compete for her, and the other women there will not consider themselves as second choices. That way, they can all “get laid,” and thus win. He says that economist Adam Smith's idea of everyone doing what’s best for himself will automatically be good for the group is “incomplete.” Crowe does a hand gesture with the fingers of one hand curled up touching his forehead. It seems to signify that he has some idea to communicate, but it also shows his shyness, a way of not looking directly at someone. Nash says that the individual must do what’s good for himself and take into account what’s good for the group. He is devising a plan that allows for participation in a goal-oriented strategy that does not have to produce a loser but instead allows each person in the group to win. He goes back to his desk, restored to its spot near the illuminating window, and he begins writing his equations, revising 150 years of economic theory. Helinger is impressed with Nash’s work and gives him the go-ahead to develop his theories on “governing dynamics.” He chooses his pals, Sol and Bender, to be part of his team.


When we catch up with Nash later he has his doctorate and has gained that recognition he sought, appearing on the cover of Fortune magazine. The Pentagon calls him to attempt to decipher code they believe the Russians are transmitting. After looking at a wall of numbers, the digits illuminate for Nash, and he says that there are latitudes and longitudes among the figures that relate to routing places in the United States. When he asks about what the Russians may be planning, he is basically told to leave as he is not authorized access to further information. He looks up and he sees a man on a walkway, but the others there do not acknowledge this person. 


While in a car, Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s voice is heard, the man who promulgated the “red scare,” and paranoia about communism. The belief that the enemy was among us plays into Nash’s personal feelings of persecution and the urgency being promulgated that mathematics must be used to fight political adversaries. Nash now works at the defense labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He complains to Sol and Bender that the Russians have the hydrogen bomb, the Nazis found sanctuary in South America, and the Chinese are gaining force. But he complains that he is being underused by being assigned to study stress problems in a dam. He has taken Helinger’s mission that he first heard as a graduate student very much to heart.


Nash must still teach classes as part of the deal to keep his research projects going. At the class, he throws the textbook into the trash, showing his disdain for tradition. He sees the class as a waste of his time. He puts an equation on the board as a kind of test to weed out who is worthy of his teaching efforts. In the class is Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly, winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this role). By using her attractive attributes, she is able to persuade the construction workers outside to be quiet during the class, winning Nash’s admiration for problem solving.

 Just as Nash has complained that he isn't getting a chance to show his abilities to fight America’s enemies, the man who Nash called “Big Brother” at the Pentagon observing from above shows up to give Nash a chance at more recognition. He calls himself William Parcher (Ed Harris), and he says he supervised security over J. Robert Oppenheimer’s atomic project. When Parcher brings up how many lives can be lost in the pursuit of weapons, Nash is rather cold, saying progress requires the need for sacrifice. Parcher says Nash’s “lone wolf” life will be advantageous, most likely for performing covert activities. Thus, Parcher’s existence justifies Nash’s anti-social nature and his desire for recognition. As they walk into a “secure” area, Parcher says they know him there, so he doesn’t have to show credentials. Therefore, he does not interact with the guard. The above details become important later.


Parcher takes Nash into what were supposed to be abandoned warehouses. Inside, he sees many men in white coats operating rows of computers. Parcher tells Nash he now has top secret clearance, and calls him the best natural codebreaker around. Parcher’s function then is to bestow the acknowledgement of Nash’s talents that the mathematician believes he deserves. Parcher says that the Russians took a portable atomic bomb that the Nazis had developed, and the locations that Nash identified earlier at the Pentagon are places the Russians are exploring to explode the bomb. Parcher says that the Russians are placing coded messages in newspapers and magazines, and that’s why they need Nash’s help. Parcher makes an interesting observation when he says, “Man is capable of as much atrocity as he has imagination.” His comment adds irony to the title of the film by showing the underside of a brilliant “beautiful mind.” Parcher’s team supposedly puts an implant in Nash’s arm so he will have access to a drop point where he can deliver his findings.


Alicia comes to his office with what Nash calls an “elegant” proof of the problem he wrote on the board, but she made assumptions which didn’t solve the problem. She asks him to dinner, but he says he usually eats alone, and he says he is like Prometheus with a bird circling above. His humorous image reveals that he sees himself as a rebel, like the mythological personage, who gave fire to earthlings. Nash sees himself as a godlike entity who will endure tribulations to bring mental illumination to those incapable of such achievement. 

 Nash takes Alicia to a formal university affair. She is able to navigate his social awkwardness by engaging in his peculiar humor. He draws objects in the night sky by connecting stars with his hand. He sees patterns, maybe where there are none except what we impose on them. The exercise again shows his desire to find form and insights in the universe. However, at the event, he believes men there are observing him, which shows how imagination can warp reality into something ominous. He later drops his sealed classified findings into a lockbox at a gated house by using the changing codes on his implant that are illuminated under a black light. It is done at night and there is a dangerous feel to the place as a car slows down to observe him there.


Nash tells Alicia that his directness has not been socially successful, so it is an effort for him to adapt to the rules of society. She encourages him to say what he wants to say. He concedes that even though he finds her attractive and wishes to have intercourse as soon as possible with her, he feels he must go through “platonic” romantic rituals to reach that outcome. He then says he expects a slap across the face, as he experienced earlier at the bar. Instead, she kisses him passionately, showing that with her his honesty is rewarded, and how the two are compatible.


Charles reunites with Nash and brings his niece, Marcee (Vivien Cardone), who Charles says he has taken custody of since the death of his sister. Charles says he is close by at Harvard. IMDb notes that when Marcee runs through a field full of birds, they do not scatter, suggesting that she doesn’t exist. Nash tells Charles about Alicia and wonders how he can be sure that asking her to marry him is the correct move. Charles says, “Nothing’s ever for sure, John. That’s the only sure thing I do know.” That unpredictability comes from a person who supposedly studies literature, an art form, and it offsets Nash’s longing for mathematical certainty.


Nash meets Alicia at a restaurant and says he needs “proof” and “verifiable data” that would indicate that they can be in a long-term relationship. He says this while bending on one knee. It is like a mathematical marriage proposal. In response, Alicia says she must modify her notions of romance to accommodate his data-driven inquiry. She asks how big the universe is, and he says it is infinite. But, he concedes that impression can’t be proven, so he just believes it. She says it’s the same with love, one can’t prove it, but somehow just believes it. Alicia is able to show that not all things, such as emotions and ideas, can be proven, but they still exist within people.

 The two get married, but on his wedding day Nash sees Parcher with a disapproving look, since the lack of attachments to others supposedly justified his service. This image shows the conflict within Nash. When Nash drops a report off, Parcher drives by, tells Nash the spot is compromised, and they are being followed. They speed away as Parcher fires on the approaching vehicle. The terrified Nash sees the enemy vehicle eventually end up in the water. Nash is distant when he goes home to Alicia, and locks the door of his room behind him, as he is now suspicious of everyone, which reinforces his detachment from others. He looks at his students and out through windows and doors as if everyone is a threat. His warped view of reality paints him as a victim of other forces which are trying to destroy him. 


Parcher visits Nash in his office, and his presence is there to prevent Nash from rejecting his immersion into his world of paranoia. Nash asserts that he has a wife and will soon be a father, and wants to quit so as to shift his focus to positive things, away from his preoccupation with fear. But Parcher is here to assert that feeling of dread by threatening Nash, saying if he doesn’t continue his work, Parcher will not protect him from the Russians. 


There are shadows on the walls of Nash’s house as he keeps watch through his blinds. They appear to be real, but shadows are just optical illusions, like Nash’s fears. Alicia begins to realize there is something wrong with her husband as he acts irrationally, suspicious of why she turned on the light at night, and then ordering her to leave for her sister’s place. She looks at the telephone and it seems she is about to seek help for Nash.


As Nash gives a lecture he sees men entering from the back of the room that he thinks are enemy agents who are after him. He says to his students that one can’t assign values to variables, which shows that Nash can't even find sanctuary among the predictability of mathematics. He runs out of the lecture hall and he is pursued, but not by enemy agents. Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer) approaches him and says he is a psychiatrist. Nash punches Rosen and tries to flee. Rosen injects him with a sedative as Nash sees Charles and his niece observe what transpires.


Nash has been admitted to a psychiatric facility where he is in restraints. Nash addresses Charles who he sees there, and he believes that Charles betrayed him by delivering him to the Russians. But, Rosen says there is no one there. If we haven’t already deduced it, Nash has hallucinations. Rosen informs Alicia that Nash is schizophrenic, which many times involves paranoia, and her husband’s belief that he is working to discover conspiracies is a symptom of his mental disorder. Moreover, Nash’s occupation allowed these delusions to go on without being discovered. Rosen gets Alicia to admit she never met Charles, saw a photo of the man, or talked to him on the telephone. Nash said that Charles was his roommate, but Rosen discovered that he lived alone at Princeton. Rosen says he must make Nash distinguish between what is real and what are illusions generated by his otherwise beautiful mind.

 When Alicia gets into Nash’s college office she sees how extreme his activity has been, cutting up magazines and placing pictures and articles all over the walls. Sol and Bender, knowing how offbeat Nash is, gave him a great deal of leeway and did not question his covert activities. Sol followed Nash once to the drop site and now Alicia goes to the estate where Nash was supposed to deliver his findings. The place has been abandoned for some time, with the drop box a broken mailbox and the gate opener busted. 


At the hospital, Nash adapts the “facts” as he sees them to fit his beliefs, as most conspiracy obsessed people do. He says the Russians can’t kill him because he is too well known, so they are confining him. Alicia tells her husband that she found out there is no Parcher and no conspiracy. She shows him all the unopened envelopes he placed in the mailbox. Of course, he walks out on her because the truth will upend his universe, and he can’t tolerate that. 

 He tries cutting out the implant in his arm, but says that it is already gone. Nash starts to get a glimmer of what has been plaguing him. As Rosen prepares Nash for drug therapy, Rosen says how horrible it is to realize that people an individual thought one knew never existed, and that beliefs one held were completely false. It’s as if the “fake news” that one accused others of propagating was real, and one’s own beliefs were the false ones. 


Back at Princeton, Alicia tells Sol that the delusions have passed, but Nash will not show up at Princeton, possibly feeling shame, where his academic competitor Hansen is now department chairperson. She feels an obligation to take care of the man she fell in love with, making sure he takes his medications and encourages him to be active. Sol visits Nash, who tells him not to sit on Harvey, the imaginary rabbit from the film. Nash has kept his sense of humor, saying what’s the point of being “nuts” if one can’t have some fun. But when he hands his indecipherable scribblings to Sol, it is obvious that Nash isn’t capable of functioning efficiently, as he says, due to the effects of the medications he is taking. He still feels that his work is the most important part of his life at this stage. He holds his child while in a stupor, despondent, devoid of any emotional attachment to his family.


Alicia has her own paranoia concerning what Nash states, assuming what he says is influenced by his schizophrenia. He tells her he was talking to the garbage collectors, but she says they don’t pick up trash at night. Then she sees the men working outside. They both giggle, and she apologies, probably realizing she too must adjust to what is really happening. But that light moment is followed by a heartbreaking one as Alicia makes sexual overtures in bed and he resists. He admits it’s the medication, which can decrease the libido drastically. She looks devastated, so the implication is that there has been no intimacy for a long time. She goes into the bathroom and throws a glass of water at the mirror, shattering both, and screams her frustration. When Nash takes the shards out to the trash, it is a metaphor for what is broken in their lives.


Nash secretly stops taking his pills, most likely so he can provide the intimacy that Alicia wants. But, that brings back his condition as he is confronted by Parcher who has armed soldiers with him. He takes Nash to a large shed on Nash’s property that he staffed with personnel and electronic equipment to pinpoint the location of the nuclear weapon the Russians want to detonate. Nash tries to deny the existence of what he sees, but then submits to the fantasy. The film seems to be saying that delusions which feed our preconceptions are difficult to let go.


Alicia hears a radio transmission coming from the dilapidated building on their property, and when she enters she sees that her husband has reproduced his office and plastered the place with newspaper clippings and push pins with thread which try to depict an imagined conspiracy. She runs back into the house where Nash has left their baby alone in a tub filling up with water. He says that Charles was watching over the child, but she can't see him because Charles has “been injected with a cloaking serum.” His own arm implant “dissolved” allowing him to see Charles. The storm that is raging outside mirrors the mental one that is devastating Nash’s mind, tearing down all the sturdy logical ideas that once thrived there. 


Parcher appears and tells Nash that he must get rid of Alicia because she is a national security risk. After Alicia sees Nash talking to nobody, Nash then conjures up Charles and his niece, and Charles tells him to do what Parcher said. Nash is mentally at war with himself, wanting to believe what he sees but also protective of his family. Then, his mathematical rationality bursts through with an epiphany that will not allow a delusion to extinguish. He stops Alicia and says that he realizes that Charles’s supposed niece, Marcee, never ages; therefore, she can’t be real. 


With Rosen present, Nash still sees Charles and his niece, and Rosen says he must return to the hospital for more treatment. Nash says the medication stops him from working, taking care of his child, and responding to his wife. He says he is a problem solver, and he needs time to figure out the solution. But Rosen points out the dilemma, since Nash’s condition is not like a mathematical mystery, and Nash’s mind can’t be the tool to fix things since the defect is in his brain. 


Nash does not want to return to the institution, but fears for how his condition threatens Alicia’s safety. So, he tells her to go to her mother’s place where the baby is already. But, she refuses to leave him, and touches him, saying what’s real is in his feelings, not in his mind. In this way, she expands his sense of reality.


Two months later, Nash visits Hansen at Princeton University. Hansen says he is an old friend, and he no longer seems to be a foe. As opposed to feeling that being apart from others allowed him to excel without distractions, Nash now sees being part of a community will help him become mentally healthy. He just wants to be able to hang out in the library. But, he appears outside, fighting his demons, as Parcher resurfaces and harasses him, while others watch as Nash argues with an illusion.


But, with Alicia supporting his fight to overcome his symptoms without resorting to extreme medical treatment, Nash goes back to the college library each day, writing equations as he once did, on the windowpanes, letting the real and figurative light shine upon him. He now refuses to speak to his imaginary creations. 


Time passes, their son grows up, and there is now a gray-haired Nash in 1978 still working on equations at the Princeton University library. He eventually engages with some students and expresses a desire to teach again. He admits to Hansen that he still sees Parcher, Charles and Marcee, but since he has ignored them, they don’t intrude anymore. Hansen says that they still haunt him, but Nash says. “They are my past. Everyone is haunted by their past.” The problem he must deal with, though, is that Nash’s past just happens to feel like it has more substance in the present than that of others. 


The next jump is to 1994 and Nash is an elderly man, but he is back to teaching and working on his math projects. Someone from the Nobel Prize committee visits him, saying he is being considered for the award based on his bargaining theories that have numerous economic applications and eventually even biological evolutionary considerations. Nash realizes that the visit is to make sure he doesn’t embarrass the prestigious awards ceremony by acting crazy. He admits to the possibility that he may act out because he still sees things that aren’t there. He takes newer medications, and says he is on a sort of mental “diet” where he does not indulge his fantasies. While entering the faculty dining area for the first time in years the other professors pay Nash tribute, as he saw they did many years ago for another professor, by giving him their pens. He has received the recognition he once sought.

 The story concludes with Nash’s Nobel Prize speech where he says all of his mental explorations have brought him to the conclusion that, “it is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found.” Love, a supposedly irrational area, has provided him the most meaning concerning existence. He directly thanks Alicia for all that he has come to really understand about life as a whole.

The next film is Zorba, the Greek.