CFS finds order in chaos

Claire Mitchell

There are few concepts in mathematics more mystifying than that of chaos theory. The theory suggests the existence of a phenomenon in which there is a fundamental pattern or order within all occurrences that are seemingly random. In Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 debut film “Pi,” the idea of chaos theory is exposed in a way that forces one to examine one’s own perception of reality – essentially, “Pi” forces the audience to think.

Disturbing and puzzling, yet utterly fascinating, this acclaimed independent film compels its viewers to reach beyond the limits of human comprehension to search for deterministic meaning in a purportedly disordered world. One is driven to ask questions such as how does one perceive and understand the complexities of the universe? How does one deal with such a monumental challenge to reality? Do patterns truly exist everywhere from religion to business to nature? Is it possible to find a degree of faith in ordered chaos?

It is true that the theme for this semester’s Cultural Film Series is “Struggles of the Spirit”; however, the torment that the protagonist of “Pi,” Max Cohen, experiences stretches beyond that of the spiritual. Max is a mathematical savant who is so preoccupied with numbers and their representations that it becomes his life’s obsession.

While he is on the verge of making a discovery about the cosmic order of the universe, it becomes increasingly more apparent that his physical and mental health is rapidly deteriorating. The further Max tries to test his genius and his faith in mathematics, the more he becomes enveloped by insanity.

Despite the obstacles of incessant migraines, lapses in cognition, the harassment of Wall Street investors seeking to shatter the stock market and the pursuit of a Kabbalistic sect of Hasidic Jews searching for the true name of God, Max refuses to end his quest to reveal the mystery hidden within chaos theory. In his efforts to obtain the key to the patterns in nature and human behavior, Max encounters the desperation of society and religion and the extent to which both will go to possess the power of truth.

“Pi” awarded Darren Aronofsky widespread recognition for his daring use of image sequences with accompanying sound effects that have since become his signature technique. Aronofsky has developed a definite style that can be seen in his other films such as “Requiem for a Dream” (2000) and “The Lone Wolf and Cub” (2005). Many of the scenes in “Pi” exhibit intense action and raw editing to allow the audience to visually experience Max Cohen’s mental, physical and spiritual breakdowns as they become more violent and outwardly chaotic. Although his struggle with chaos causes Max to suffer, it is also this same chaos that urges him forward to unlock the secrets of the world. Maybe the famous philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was correct in his statement, “One must have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing start

The fourth feature in the Cultural Film and Lecture Series’ Spring 2006 roster, “Pi” will be screened four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19 at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for everyone else. The Monday showing only will feature guest speaker Paul Wilson, from the communication department, who will provide an intro to the film and lead a discussion afterward.

For more information call the communication department at x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS web