Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Man Who Knew Infinity: Movie Review

Tells a good, well-balanced story.

The Man Who Knew Infinity is a biographical drama about a mathematician. While that is enough to draw me in, a can understand that others will need a bit more. Dev Patel as mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan provides that and more. Ramanujan is only 25 years old and from India (under British rule at the time) and is a mathematical genius. It’s been confirmed by enough teachers and others around him, that he can accept that fact without any arrogance. 2015

Directed by: Matt Brown

Screenplay by: Matt Brown
Based on the biography by Robert Kanigel

Starring: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons

As you can imagine, there are many difficulties with being a genius in India in the early 20th century, thousands of miles from any esteemed education centers, and not having the money to do anything about it. But there’s a quiet confidence to Ramanujan, he accepts his day-to-day life while still striving for a more complete future. He mails elite Cambridge professor W.H. Hardy who is so intrigued by the math that Ramanujan has sent to him that he arranges for the young Indian man to travel to England and study under his tutelage.

Interestingly, the quiet confidence that Ramanujan had in India has transferred to a more loud confidence in Cambridge. Instead of being completely overwhelmed by the intellect and historical importance all around him, he gains an immediate sense of belonging. He’s finally arrived and he knows he’s smarter than everyone around him. He has no problem butting heads with the other professors whose racism instantly dismiss him, or butting heads with Hardy who wants Ramanujan to develop more traditional proofs.

Like with all good performances, Patel finds that balance between arrogance, confidence, inspiration and a quest for completion – is he missing his family back home? Or does he have so much knowledge inside him that still has to find an outlet.

The one thing that should help this film find a larger audience is that Ramanujan doesn’t study math for the sake of math. He studies it because he believes there’s a greater spirituality in understanding knowledge. He approaches math like poetry. The screenwriters find the perfect balance between writing for the math nerds out there and everybody else who wants a story of smart young man who worked hard to change history.

Without giving away his life story, life gets challenging in Cambridge. The Man Who Knew Infinity is a sad story, but it’s also a well-told story of a man who history will not forget. I urge you to take a chance on this smaller movie and discover a man you probably didn’t know anything about.
Best of 2016