7 horror movies for halloween
revisiting a cult classic

by request: the man who knew infinity (matt brown, 2015)

(A quick note about requests: I welcome them! Sometimes it takes me a very long time to get to them ... today's movie was recommended a year-and-a-half ago. But I keep track, and eventually, I watch them.)

The Man Who Knew Infinity is a historical drama about Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematician who is invited to Cambridge around the time of World War I by G.H. Hardy, an eminent English mathematician. For whatever reason (the film accepts Ramanujan's statement that his work is revealed to him by a Hindu goddess), Ramanujan's work is unlike much of what has come before, so unique that he is years ahead of the standard for the field. As Ramanujan's mentor, Hardy helps him advance through the barriers set up at Cambridge for an unlettered scholar from India. Eventually, Ramanujan is accepted, he returns to his wife in India, and continues working on mathematics until his death at age 32 from complications due to dysentery early in life (the film seems to suggest it's tuberculosis ... not sure why).

The film is efficient and inspiring in the way of the better biographical dramas. Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons are fine. I didn't know anything about the subject in advance, and now I do (even if that knowledge remains superficial). But the movie is about a mathematician who worked almost completely outside the box, and it would have been better if, like the mathematician, it had stepped outside the usual. Instead, it was about Ramanujan, but it was directed as if Hardy was behind the camera. (And the framing of the film, as the recollections of Hardy, emphasizes this.) I would have preferred a movie that did a lesser job of explaining the math to me and a better job of getting inside the mind of such a unique person.

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