A Beautiful Mind: The Courage of The Heart

The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.
The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.

Truthfully, I really love the poster from the bottom of my heart. There is another version of this movie’s poster, but I think the one that described what the movie is about more accurately is this one. Even more truthful, I just can’t stop loving the movie. One word to describe it all: touching.

Synopsis

This movie actually has the similar conflict with the movie Forrest Gump, where the main character has a mental problem. The difference is Forrest Gump suffers a low IQ, while here the main character suffered from schizophrenia. Who is the main character? It is no other than the celebrated John Nash; the 1994 Nobel Economic Sciences prize, and guess what? He is still alive! Basically, this movie is a biography of John Nash coping with his paranoia, which is caused by his mental illness (schizophrenia). Nash, an exceptional mathematician, is an asocial, paranoid, and an eccentric figure. He is obsessed by finding an original theory during his early times at Princeton, and he finally did (in a bar). For the revolutionary theory he has found, he managed to get a position in a prestigious wing in MIT (Wheeler Lab; but in fact, this is actually fiction. See http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2002/nash-0213.html) since then, he taught classes and utilized the facilities MIT has lent them with his two partners, Sol and Bender. Since he got married with one of his students, his delusions reached a new low; he began to believe that he was a part of some secret service that has the intention to stop a communist party from succeeding in blowing up a ‘portable nuke’ on American soil. Nash was supposed to look for codes that was embedded in magazines (such as LIFE) and deliver them to a drop location where he will collect the ‘confidential documents’ to a postbox. This delusional conspiracy he is involved in made him more and more paranoid by the day, until his wife, Mrs. Alicia Larde reported his paranoid behavior to a psychiatry hospital. The recognition of his mental illness opened up a new chapter, as Nash took medications and therapies and struggled to cope with his dulled mind (side-effect of the medications he took). He finally couldn’t stand it anymore and secretly skipped his medications, which caused his delusions to come back. Nash, believing he is still in the ‘secret conspiracy’, continued his obsession with cracking codes embedded in magazines while neglecting his household duties. His wife finally finds out about this, and at first went mad at him. But soon Nash figured out by himself (intellectually, as he put it) that his delusion IS a delusion that is not real. This, again, opens up a new page for him, where with the enormous dedication from his wife he attempted to cope with his mental disorder without medication. There are several times where he reluctantly willing to go back to his medication, as he couldn’t stand his mental delusions anymore, but with the support of his good wife, he went through. This story about a brilliant man with ‘two helpings of brain but half a helping of heart’ is overall heartbreaking and introduced the world of a schizophrenic to our common eyes. To me, personally, this movie is a close second to Forrest Gump, whereas Forrest Gump has more humor in it. The soundtrack is truly exceptional. It produces the subtlety yet escalated tension in several action-packed scenes very well. It blended very well with all of the scenes in the movie. The song itself also described the whole core of the movie in a delicate and precise way. Top class, and must I say; tres bien! Russell Crowe was very natural in this movie. He speaks in a West Virginian accent so fluently that I am leaded to believe he is originally from West Virginia, which is not true. His act as a schizophrenic person is also a gem of this movie. He used body gestures all the time to appear agitated, and he also arranged his facial expression in what I must say, appeared to be a ‘disturbing person’s’. The four right words to describe Jennifer Connelly in this movie is perhaps  ‘seducing, attractive, patient, and smart’ in this movie. But in my opinion, there is one word to describe it all: ‘aggressive’. Yes folks, her eyes can pierce through yours and her voice, soothing as it seems, have the power to make you submit to her. I might as well imagine Yoda saying, “Strong, the force is inside her. Aggressive, she did not look. Out, watch.” Credits also must be given to Paul Bettany and Ed Harris for being a ‘perfect delusion’ in Nash’s world. Ed’s naturally great act made me believe that at first, Nash is actually involved in a real conspiracy; while Paul’s exceptional act made me believe that he really do exist. Somehow, in a way, both of them made me relate to a schizophrenic’s world.

Introduction

So what is schizophrenia? Let’s beam up our old ‘know-it-all’ pal, Wikipedia.

“Schizophrenia (/ˌskɪtsɵˈfrɛniə/ or /ˌskɪtsɵˈfrniə/) is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by impaired emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions, such as paranoid beliefshallucinationsdisorganized thinking; and negative symptoms, such as blunted affect and avolition.” Wikipedia

Below is a self-portrait of a schizophrenic.

Courtesy of Wikipedia. Such a helpful pal.
Courtesy of Wikipedia. Such a helpful pal.

I can’t say I understood all of the above before watching the movie. To my former self, hallucinations of a schizophrenic must be something that is temporary, easy to shrug off. But I never thought schizophrenia could drive someone to his/her edge only from their own hallucinations. This movie showed me that to a schizophrenic, the line between reality and its counterpart is a very fine one. I’d like to coin a phrase from Nash’s psychiatrist at this point:

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?” Dr. Rosen, Beautiful Mind

That guy certainly knows what he’s talking about.

Main Characters and Their Stories

In total, there are several important characters that arguably earned the dignified position as the main character. But I will crown only two out of the lot, since the story basically spins on this particularly courageous couple; John Nash (Russell Crowe) and his wife, Mrs. Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly).

There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.
There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.
I'm sorry, just give me a moment to redefine my girlish notions of romance.
I’m sorry, just give me a moment to redefine my girlish notions of romance.

As I said before, the movie was touching. But to be more particular, it is actually courageous. The only thing that drives Nash is courage; a courage given by his wife’s dedication, and for the first time Nash cannot rely on logic and reasons alone. It is courage that he held onto, his belief that he can overcome his mental disability without medication; the courage that he acquired from his wondrous wife, Mrs. Larde.

There’s not much of a background to Alicia Larde in the movie, so let’s talk a bit about her.

Her full name is Alicia Esther Lopez-Harrison de Lardé; quite a name, and she was born in San Salvador in El Salvador. She was smart and has an ambition to be ‘the next Marie Curie’. She first met Nash at an Advanced Calculus for Engineers class and, let’s just say the term ‘love at first sight’ is a perfect fit to the situation.

“A pair of odd ducks, then.” John Nash, Beautiful Mind

Highlights

I will discuss about the ability of the disabled first as a tribute to all with the problem. Disability, you might say, literally disabled you effectively to live the life of other normal people’s. But as my old man said, when a door is closed, another will open somewhere; you just need to look for it. Take a look at John Nash. He is paranoid all the time, putting it mildly, as well as his son. Both of them became mathematician of prestige; John Nash earned a Nobel prize, and his son earned the privilege of being a top chess player and an artist. Look at it this way: a disability made you impossible to improve in some skills, which made you focus more on doing what you can; which made you sharpened those skills more frequently than normal people does. Normal people are like jack-of-all-trade-but-master-of-none, but disabled people (I really think I need to switch the term ‘disabled into ‘special’ here) are, you can say, an ‘ace’-of-a-trade.

What is that? You said you’re normal, unfortunately? Well folks, here’s the good news: normal means more options! What I just said earlier above is the TENDENCY of what normal people did, not their ‘fate’. Look at it this way: you can be anything you want, you just need to FOCUS (my old man always said that). Normal people usually didn’t get anywhere because they don’t focus on only one thing, instead they ‘greedily’ try everything they wanted to be. The result? They’re usually halfway this and that, never reaching their final destination. Focus, my folks, is the key; and ‘special’ people are just so good about it (Come to think about it, I think this lesson is best learned from the famed movie Forrest Gump. Recommended at the best).

That’s not it. The main highlight of this movie is actually the power of the heart; the power of love, belief, and courage. In a deleted scene, John Nash has said: “Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.”

“Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.” John Nash, Beautiful Mind

At the beginning of the movie, Nash was supposedly told by his elementary teacher that he has ‘two helpings of brain but half a helping of heart’. Now most of us nowadays usually think that actually it is good to be that way, and that is why most of us are wrong. As John Nash put it delicately when he made a speech directed to his wife, “I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.”

“I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.” John Nash, Beautiful mind

To put it in an easier term, who will you choose for your lifetime partner in a deserted island; a brilliant and multi-functional robot which did not know any emotions, or a stupid, dumb, and slow human that has ‘twice the helping of heart’? If you pick the first, then I’ll stay away from you. If that makes you happy, then you are most definitely not a person, because a human is always in need of an emotional embrace as part of their social need. Take John Nash for an example. Without his loving, caring, and supporting wife, he’ll be a hobo for sure. According to Sylvia Nasar, Nash’s biography author: “If she hadn’ t taken him in, he would have wound up on the streets.”  Deep down, a person; however asocial he/she is, will always need that emotional embrace. They need someone who loved them from the heart, care for them no matter what, and support them in a time of distress.

John Nash: "And then, on the way home, Charles was there again. Sometimes I miss talking to him. Maybe Rosen is right. Maybe I have to think about going back to the hospital."  Alicia Larde: "Maybe try again tomorrow."
John Nash: “And then, on the way home, Charles was there again. Sometimes I miss talking to him. Maybe Rosen is right. Maybe I have to think about going back to the hospital.”
Alicia Larde: “Maybe try again tomorrow.”

Review: An easy 4/5.

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