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Friday, October 14, 2016

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY (2015)

Fact-based story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-taught Indian theoretical mathematician who leaves his mother & young wife in Madras, India after Cambridge professor G. H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) offers him a passage to England. Inexperienced writer/director Matt Brown runs his film on three issues: the difficulties of cultural & family separation; casual and not-so-casual racism on & off campus; the clash between Ramanujan’s instinctual brilliance vs. Prof. Hardy’s insistence on detailed ‘proofs’ before publication. But writing down the steps that led to a theorem is unnatural for Ramanujan (handsomely played by Dev Patel), who ‘sees’ the finished solution whole, more in the manner of a musical prodigy or a religious revelation, and rebels against having to show the thousand moves needed to get mere mathematical mortals there. Oddly enough, it's the very problem of the film which also assumes results without proper dramatic grounding, slighting the story's emotional payoffs. But if the film never hits its potential (production errors also trip things up; why so dim all the time?), the story holds just enough fascination to carry you along.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Irons’ under-examined Hardy comes across a lot like writer A. E. Housman (of ‘Shropshire Lad’ fame), or rather, as Housman is portrayed in Tom Stoppard’s play THE INVENTION OF LOVE; though here, Hardy's repressed nature is barely addressed. The play, one of Stoppard’s finest, has no film or tv adaptation, though a few scenes can be found on youtube.

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