Historical Context-Cold War Snapshot
Interview with Ron Howard
As always with a Module B close study, key characteristics of the film text need to be addressed such as setting, characterisation and the varied cinematic elements and techniques that are used to convey the narrative. Students should get a copy of the script so that textual reference can be clearly sourced and contextualised within the convoluted twists and turns of the plot.
The focus however needs to be on 'distinctive' qualities the film has to offer which throws focus on the representative 'how' and the thematic 'why'. Besides the normal range of film techniques consider the evocative music score and the actual structural components of the film which support the hybridised genre depiction of the adult life of this Nobel prize winner.
What is required in a close study?
Students are to engage with the text to respond imaginatively, affectively and critically. They explore and analyse articular characteristics of the text, considering how these shape meaning. They also consider the ways in which these characteristics establish the text's distinctive qualities. Composition focuses on meaning shaped in and through the text and may be realised in a variety of forms and media.
The contextual support required for 'A Beautiful Mind' involves some general understanding of the Cold War Period as well as the treatment and effects of Schizophrenia. What becomes quickly apparent when researching this film is the fact that the' biopic' representation offered by Ron Howard, is largely fictionalised , the facts reworked to fit the Hollywood 'triumph of the human spirit' template. Criticism of the film's treatment of mathematics, schizophrenia, the Cold War and Nash himself is largely based on issues of filmic misrepresentation.
Hollywood films have nearly always focused on telling a compelling story rather than sticking to the facts about factual events or individuals. We are drawn into this film and there are many positive qualities that can be acknowledged. It is however far more complex than 'Witness' ever was and will be a more challenging prescribed text to Standard students. Reliance on superficial storyline and filmic techniques does not meet the demands of a Close Study.
Nor will it be enough to enable students to differentiate between what is 'real' and what is hallucinatory within the film. Mathematical genius is juxtaposed with mental instability and students will need to grasp this as well as evaluate how well Howard portrays it on the screen.