11th September 2017

Practise Essay – A Beautiful Mind

Over the year I have studied the film ‘The Beautiful Mind’ directed by Ron Howard. The film follows the true story of John Nash, a highly talented mathematician studying at Princeton University, USA. The film starts in 1947, so the time era is just after the end of World War 2, hence mathematics is very important to the country to solve problems at the time. Throughout the film, John develops the mental disorder schizophrenia which is where abnormal social behaviour is shown and also the failure to understand what is real and what is not. It affects the John’s ability to act, think, feel and behave clearly. The film follows John’s life – his career, his delusions and how much they affect him, and relationships he develops along the way. There are several relationships in the film that deepen the viewer’s understanding of John Nash. One relationship is between John and a delusional character Charles Herman. We learn that John has little social interactions and is excluded/excludes himself from any social outings or experiences. Another relationship is that of John and William Parcher, another delusional character. This shows that John thrives on challenges, he needs intellectual stimulation to stop him from becoming bored and irritable. The final relationship that I’m analysing is between John and Marcee, the final of the three delusional characters. We learn that John values his family, his wife Alicia and their child. Charles, William and Marcee are are the result of John’s schizophrenia, they are created by John therefore show some of John’s characteristics and what he is feeling in his sub consciousness, giving the viewer a deeper understanding of John.


John Nash and Charles Herman have a friendly and close relationship. Charles provides a friend and emotional support when John is struggling and at his worst. He pulls John back up and gives him a new perspective to look out.  An example of the compassion Charles shows to John is in the library where John has been trying to come up with his original idea for the past two days. An effective two person/close up shot shows John looking completely exhausted, and Charles looking directly at John giving comfort and encouragement. Charles says in a calm and comforting voice “When did you last eat?” This shows the support Charles provides for John in his current crisis. A pattern that the viewer learns throughout the film that Charles appears when John is feeling lonely and sad, showing that John lacks any friends or social interactions. He spends his time watching the real world behind the face of mathematics. He is very dedicated to his study and finding his ‘original idea’ to gain a spot at Wheeler Labs. When John is out in the real world, he is almost always analysing movements for his original idea; pigeons fighting over bread crumbs and even watching a mugging. Charles is the voice of reason in John’s life, “You watched a mugging, that’s weird’. We learn that John has very little grasp or connections to reality, even when his schizophrenia isn’t at it’s worst. John needs a friend, someone to give him encouragement, motivation and just someone to talk to. John’s schizophrenia allows John to create Charles, a friend for him. We can gather as the reader that John is lonely and that he feels that mathematics is the only way John will matter in the world, as realised with Charles on the rooftop.


Another relationship that helps us to develop a deeper understanding of John is between William Parcher and John. William is a delusional character, but reveals to us certain characteristics of John. Like Charles, William appears when John is a time of need for something – in this case when John needs intellectual stimulation. When John has started working for Wheeler Labs, he often gets the same, boring problem easy to solve over and over again. John is a highly intelligent mathematician, he finds most things easy that others find hard. When John is bored and in need of a challenge, William appears and gives him one. An example is at outside Wheeler Labs, after John has had a long, boring day at work. William appears and gives John ‘top secret’ information about the Soviets communicating to agents in the US using codes through newspapers and magazines. Here William gives John what he is craving – a good challenge. William states also to John in a close up shot “You are quite naturally the best natural code breaker I have ever seen”. We can see in another close up shot of John’s face a genuine smile and his self esteem raised. This provides that emotional encouragement for John that Charles also provides, and since William is a delusional character, John strokes his own ego, making him feel more confident. This relationship reveals to us that John gets bored easily, thrives on challenges and needs intellectual stimulation. His lack of social interactions relate to this as challenges and maths problems occupy his time and keep him from facing the real outside world.


John also develops a third relationship with another delusional character, an 8 year old girl, Marcee. Marcee reveals John’s emotional feelings, about family and especially his relationship with Alicia. Marcee first appears after John has had a date with Alicia in the park. She has a chat with John, where she states in a medium shot just of her; “My uncle says you’re very smart but not very nice so I shouldn’t pay attention if you are mean to me”. She understands him even though she is 8 years old and speaks to him quite abruptly. This relationship shows us that John is always thinking 5 steps ahead into the future. An example of this is after John and Alicia’s date, he is thinking of marriage, children, deep into the future. Marcee appears when John is dealing with emotional feelings like this time. Marcee is a ‘trial run’ for John to see what it would be like to have a child. We also learn that John has a compassionate side, he wants to protect the people he loves. This is evident when in the scene where he learns what is real and what is not, after he nearly endangers Alicia and their newborn baby. A useful dutch angle scene is used, showing everyone important in his life in a fast montage. We learn that his schizophrenia has gotten so bad it’s dangerous. However it is at this point that John makes the important realisation with the help of Marcee, who puts her hand in place of where the gun from William would have gone. Mental disorders can become dangerous for the person that has it, and for their friends or family. Alzheimers can push people over the edge, push friends or family away without meaning too. People can become suddenly violent and endanger family. It is important to look after these people correctly and be understanding with them, like Alicia does with John.  


All these relationships give the viewer a deeper understanding of John Nash. Each of these characters of the relationships are created by John with his schizophrenia. We learn why these characters are who they are and what they provide because of what John is missing; Charles provides a friend, William provides intellectual stimulation and Marcee is a ‘trial run’ for John to see what it would be like if he had children, and he eventually does. These characters do consume John, and his schizophrenia does worsen over time. He cannot differentiate between what is real and what is not, until he endangers Alicia and their newborn child and states “Charles and Alicia cannot co exist”. John eventually makes the decision to cut ties with all three delusional characters to move on and get out of the negative place he is in. We learn that John is extremely strong to do this; these characters helped John, gave him purpose and helped his confidence. There are other people in reality that have faced what John faced, not only with schizophrenia but other mental conditions and addictions. To cut something or someone of that made you feel good at the time e.g alcohol, drugs or even some people is very hard and takes commitment to do so. People with depression have to gather the mental strength to think positively and try get out of the negative place they are in to make the most out of life, which can be very hard to gain motivation and purpose to do so. Overall, Charles, William and Marcee provide a deeper understanding of John Nash for the viewer, and all contribute to shows John’s journey with schizophrenia and how strong he is to cut ties with these characters.

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