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  A Beautiful Mind (2001)  
  Rating: (8.5/10) (50 votes)
Directors: Ron Howard
Writers: Sylvia Nasar
Akiva Goldsman
OMDB: 0032745
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Country: USA
Language: English
Duration: 135 min
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A Beautiful Mind
Directed by Ron Howard
Produced by Brian Grazer
Ron Howard
Written by Sylvia Nasar (book),
Akiva Goldsman
Starring Russell Crowe
Jennifer Connelly
Ed Harris
Paul Bettany
Christopher Plummer
Adam Goldberg
Anthony Rapp
Josh Lucas
Judd Hirsch
Music by James Horner
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date December 21, 2001
Running time 135 min.
Language English
Budget $60,000,000
IMDb profile

A Beautiful Mind is a Academy Award-winning film inspired by the Nobel Prize (Economics) winning mathematician John Nash and his experiences of schizophrenia. The film is loosly based on the more factual biography of the same name, which was written by Sylvia Nasar and published in 1998.


As the story unfolds, Nash is able to work through his illness to (in his words) "matter" in the world. This film is essentially a story of how a brilliant man was able to live with the vicissitudes of a debilitating mental illness to attain a true sense of accomplishment, or some would say, even a sense of greatness.

At the beginning of the film, John Nash arrives as a new graduate student at Princeton University. He is a recipient of the prestigious Carnegie Prize for mathematics. He meets his roommate Charles, a literature student, who soon becomes his best friend. He also meets a group of other promising math and science graduate students, Martin Hansen, Sol, and Bender, with whom he strikes up an awkward friendship.

The first part of the film establishes Nash's intellectual stamina and his propensity to be too outspoken in his social life. He admits that he is better with numbers than people, saying, "I don't like them much, and they don't much like me." He sometimes goes out to a bar with his fellow students to try to meet women, but is always unsuccessful. However, the experience is what ultimately inspires his fruitful work in the concept of governing dynamics, a theory in mathematical economics.

After the conclusion of Nash's studies as a student at Princeton, he accepts a prestigious appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), along with his friends Sol and Bender. It is while at this post that he meets Alicia, a student who he falls in love with and eventually marries.

While at Princeton, Nash runs into his former roommate Charles and meets Charles's young niece Marcee. He also encounters a mysterious Department of Defense agent, William Parcher. Nash is invited to a United States Department of Defense facility (The Pentagon) to crack a complex encryption of an enemy telecommunication. Nash is able to decipher the code mentally. Parcher observes Nash's performance from above, while partially concealed behind a screen. (His general appearance and behaviour is similar to that of the so-called Men in Black.) Parcher later encourages Nash to look for patterns in magazines and newspapers, ostensibly to thwart a Soviet plot. Nash becomes increasingly paranoid and begins to behave erratically.

After observing this erratic behavior, Sol follows Nash during one of his late night drops of "top secret Soviet codes". Sol sees Nash place the documents into a drop-box at a long empty building, and reports this behaviour to Nash's superiors. He is forcibly sedated and sent to a psychiatric facility. Initially, Nash's internment seemed like confirmation of his belief that the Soviets were trying to extract information from him, and that getting picked up by the officials of that psychiatric facility was a kidnapping by Soviet agents.

Alicia, desperate to help her husband, visits the drop-box and retrieves the never-opened "top secret" documents that Nash delivered there. When confronted with this evidence, Nash is finally convinced that he has been hallucinating. The Department of Defense agent William Parcher and Nash's secret assignment to decode Soviet messages was in fact all a delusion. Even more surprisingly, Nash's friend Charles and his niece Marcee are also only products of Nash's mind.

After a painful series of insulin shock therapy sessions, Nash is released on the condition that he agrees to take antipsychotic medication. However, these drugs create negative side-effects that impact his relationship with his wife and, most dramatically, his intellect. Frustrated, Nash secretly stops taking his medication, triggering a relapse of his psychosis. While bathing his infant son, Nash becomes distracted and wanders off. Alicia barely manages to save their child from being drowned. When she confronts Nash, he claims that his (hallucinatory) friend Charles was watching their son. Charles, Marcee, and Parcher all appear to John and urge him to kill his wife rather than allow her to lock him up again. Nash finally realizes that these people are products of his own mind when he observes that Marcee is the same age that she was when he first met her several years before. Only then does he accept that all three of these people are, in fact, part of his psychosis.

Caught between the intellectual paralysis of the antipsychotic drugs and his delusions, Nash and his wife decide to try to live with his schizophrenia. Nash attempts to ignore his hallucinations and not feed "his demons". The rest of the movie depicts Nash growing older while working on his studies in the library of Princeton University. He still suffers hallucinations and periodically has to check if new people he meets are real, but with the help of newer antipsychotic drugs he is ultimately able to live with and largely ignore his psychosis. Nash approaches his old friend and intellectual rival Martin Hansen, now head of the Princeton mathematics department, and receives permission to begin teaching again. He is honored by his fellow professors for his achievement in mathematics, and goes on to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his revolutionary work on game theory.

Fictionalized nature of film

The movie should not be regarded as a biography of Nash, nor as a film version of Nasar's book. It is a drama inspired by the life of John Nash.

Goldsman brought to the script his life experience as the son of child psychologist Mira Rothenberg, who maintained a group home for emotionally disturbed children in the family's residence. Goldsman said that his goal was "to use [the story of John Nash's] journey to give some insight into what it might feel like to suffer from this disease." It can be inferred that Goldsman's priority was conveying his conception of the truth of the inner experience of schizophrenia, rather than the documenting the factual data of John Nash's life. In an interview, Goldsman stated:

I was reasonably absurd in my approach. I don't know how to write a bio-pic and this was one of the best researched scholarly biographies I'd ever read. Instead I wanted to use my understanding of what I'd read with additional research to evoke the grander beats of John's life. I didn't want it to be literal. I wanted to take [a] stab at the truth of John's life, but not by way of the facts.[1]

Critics argue that the movie glosses over his alleged homosexual relationships, his anti-semitic statements, his abandoning a woman shortly after fathering a child with her, and that it rewrites his actual psychotic experience (eg. being "attacked by Napoleon" or being "the left foot of God") into a more exciting but fictional account. The producers of the film argue that the claims of Nash's relationships with men are unverified and that Nash himself continues to deny that he is homosexual. The producers claim that they omitted the anti-semitic remarks because they did not serve the story. Nash himself has argued that although he did make these comments, he was extremely mentally ill at the time.

The movie also misrepresents the effect Nash's mental illness had on his work. The movie depicts Nash as already suffering from schizophrenia when he wrote his doctoral thesis. In reality, Nash's schizophrenia did not appear until years later and once it did his mathematical work ceased until he was able to bring it under control.

Many of the specific incidents and life events depicted in the movie do not correspond to anything mentioned in Nasar's biography. "There are many discrepancies between the book and the film," says a Nash FAQ on the Princeton website [1]. For example, the pen ceremony "was completely fabricated in Hollywood. No such custom exists." The scene in which Nash thanks his wife Alicia during his Nobel prize acceptance speech is fictitious; Nobel prize winners do not give acceptance speeches, and Nash was not invited to give the traditional Nobel lecture due to concerns about his illness.

The plot of the movie makes much of Alicia Nash's unwavering devotion to her husband. In reality, the couple divorced in 1963 and lived apart for several years. In 1970, Alicia allowed John to live in her house but it was not a romantic relationship. It was not until the 1990s, when John was recovering from his mental illness, that their romantic relationship was revived and the couple remarried in 2001.

The scene in which Nash demonstrates to his girlfriend his ability to find any specified pattern in a starry sky does not correspond to anything in the book; nor does the scene in which Nash's infant son almost drowns because he believes that his hallucinatory colleague Charles is taking care of him; nor Nash having delusions of a password-generating device being implanted in his arm; nor were Nash's hallucinations both visual and auditory, in reality they were exclusively auditory.


The film version of A Beautiful Mind was created by Universal Pictures and DreamWorks. In 2001, the film was awarded four Oscars for:

It also received four other nominations:

See also

  • Cinderella Man, a 2005 movie whose creative team included many people who worked on A Beautiful Mind, to which it bears striking stylistic resemblances.

External links and references

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
  1. ^ Writers' Guild Awards: Akiva Goldman, Screenwriter of A Beautiful Mind

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