Analysis / A Beautiful Mind
How the Movie Depicted Schizophrenia
Normally, the symptoms of John Nash’s schizophrenia are hard to depict on the movie screen. However, the makers of the film created a way to visualize Nash’s visual state by creating characters out of his auditory hallucinations and using Russel Crowe’s acting as a way to subtly hint at Nash’s mental state.
Charles Herman, the first hallucination, is first seen from Nash’s point of view, announcing that “the prodigal roommate has arrived” (Howard). This is to indicate that Charlie is a hallucination since he shows up in a shot filmed in Nash’s perspective after an empty shot of Nash’s dormitory door. After a scene transition, they are chatting on a university building roof and getting to know each other better. In this scene, Nash and Charles are the only people filmed on camera. This scene is trying to subtly hint at Charles being a hallucination because of how the scene is focused on Nash and Charles. Nash describes himself as a man who does not “like people much” (Howard). Charlie quips that Nash has “wit and charm” and bad-mouths mathematics (Howard).
In the library, Nash talks with Charles about Nash’s work. Once again, Charles is the only person in this scene other than Nash. This indicates how Nash is in his own world when he is with Charles. Charles suggests that Nash should take a break and drink some booze. Charles leaves abruptly and Nash loudly proclaims that he is going to get wasted, which garners a few stares from the other students (Howard). This part indicates how Nash’s mental state is deteriorating because the students witnessed a man having an outburst. Also, Charles disappeared as suddenly as he showed up.
After a long chat with a professor about how Nash is not performing well in school and an argument with Charlie, Nash angrily tosses his desk out the window, laughing because he felt that was therapeutic and apologizes to the students staring at that incident (Howard). This scene hints at Nash’s schizophrenia by having Charles acting strangely and encouraging Nash to do strange things. Also, the students only react to Nash’s actions. Nash heads to the bar to cool his head.
After a Eureka moment, Nash comes up with his thesis and gets hired at Wheeler Labs. Charles seems ecstatic upon hearing that. Charles is the only one in that scene. This moment acts as a subtle hint for Charles being a hallucination of Nash because the apparent focus on Charles and his actions. After decoding a message and finding out about a Soviet plot to blow up locations in the USA. Someone was watching him during the decoding. No one seems to notice this, which suggests that the watcher is one of Nash’s hallucinations. After teaching a class at MIT and meeting his future wife, he meets William Parcher.
During Parcher’s introduction, Parcher shows up in Nash’s perspective. This scene hints at Parcher being a hallucination because the previous shot showed that no one was exiting the building at the time. Also, Parcher is the only prominent person other than Nash in this scene. Nash got an assignment from Parcher because he is “the best natural code-breaker [Parcher has] ever seen” and gets a strange implant placed in his arm by Parcher. The diode implant hints at Nash’s schizophrenia because the diode implant was placed in him using technology that was not around during the Fifties. Nash drops off his work in a mailbox near a lit mansion. This hints at Nash’s schizophrenia because the lit mansion would suggest that it is not that private. Some time passes and Alicia enters Nash’s office, wondering why the students “waited half an hour” for a missing teacher and saying that she solved the problem on the board (Howard). Nash asked Alicia out for a date and fell in love with her.
While visiting Harvard University to visit Charles, Nash encounters Marcee, Charles’s niece. Like Parcher and Charles, she shows up from out of nowhere. He also has a chat with Charlie about Alicia. No one seems to butt in on the conversation. This hints at Nash’s schizophrenia because the extras in the scene do not react to Marcee or Charles’s presence. Some time passes and Alicia is worried about Nash. Nash says he was so busy at work, he forgot about wrapping Alicia’s birthday gift (Howard). This scene hints at him suffering a mental disorder because of how he forgot an important task. He also proposes to Alicia and marries her. He resumes his job after that scene until something major happens.
After a car chase scene with the Soviets and Parcher, Alicia is worried about Nash because he “didn’t call” her (Howard). Nash proceeds to lock himself in his room and Alicia demands that Nash should “open the door” for her (Howard). This scene hints at Nash’s schizophrenia because of the way he is acting around Alicia. There is a shot of cars approaching Nash’s house seen through Nash’s eyes. This could be seen as a hint of Nash’s schizophrenia because of the cars entering the camera shot in a certain way. Nash heads to the Government building to have a chat with Parcher.
Nash has an argument with Parcher about the code-breaking. Nash feels it “is not what [Nash] signed on for” (Howard). After Parcher leaving the building and Nash demanding that Parcher should give one more chance, one of Nash’s colleagues seems concerned about Nash’s well-being. This scene hints at Nash’s schizophrenia because Parcher did not show up in the next shot. Also, the concerned colleague was wondering who Nash was talking to. Nash leaves the building and tries to hide himself. He also tells Alicia to “go for [her] sister’s [residence]” (Howard). They have an argument, which ends with Alicia concerned about Nash’s sanity.
After a scene with Charles at Harvard University, Nash encounters Dr. Rosen. Dr. Rosen and a few men proceed to drag Nash off to MacArthur Psychiatric Hospital after warning Marcee and Charles about how the Russians are coming to get him. Dr. Rosen does not react to Nash’s conservation, hinting that Nash is talking to his delusions. Charles somehow ends up at the hospital with Nash. Charles has different lighting placed on him, hinting at how Charles is just a hallucination. Upon seeing Charles in the Hospital, Nash proceeds to rant and rave at Charles for a bit. Charles does not respond back, hinting at Charles being a figment of Nash’s imagination. Dr. Rosen says that no one else is in the room but them. In response, Nash insists that Charles is right there. (Howard). Dr. Rosen sends Nash away while Nash rants and raves about being captured by the Russians (Howard).
The story switches to Alicia’s perspective. Dr. Rosen and Alicia talk about how Nash has schizophrenia. Dr. Rosen asks Alicia to retrieve Nash’s work. Alicia heads over to Nash’s office and talks to Sol about the location of the hidden drop spot (Howard). At the hidden drop spot, Alicia sees that the Mansion is abandoned and damaged (Howard). This scene of Alicia exploring the drop spot is used as a comparison between reality and Nash’s delusions. Alicia heads over to the hospital and talks to Nash about his illness and how it is all in Nash’s mind. After Rosen gives Nash his treatment, Alicia and Hansen talk about their lives. Life goes on normally until Nash has relapsed.
He has a chat with Parcher in the forest surrounding the Nash residence. There’s a shot of Nash being surrounded by the army, hinting that Nash is suffering schizophrenia because of how sudden they arrived. Also, the moment that triggers Nash’s encounter with Parcher is seen from Nash’s perspective. The situation escalates with Alicia finding her baby almost drowning to death because Nash thought that “Charles was watching him” (Howard). Alicia and Nash argue about Charles’s existence and Nash tries to make up a flimsy excuse. During the argument, Nash accidently hurts Alicia while trying to protect Alicia from Parcher. In this scene, Parcher is a hallucination because of how he quickly appears in front of Nash after a distraction. He also pulls a gun out way too quickly. After a moment of clarity, Nash realizes his delusions are not real.
For a while, Nash struggles with his delusions while everyone mocks him for being a lunatic. At one point, Parcher is berating Nash while Nash denying his existence (Howard). Another time, Charles says that he is disappointed in Nash’s behavior (Howard). These two scenes are considered hints of Nash’s condition because no-one other than Nash is reacting to Parcher and Charles’s presence.
Nash tries to find a student to tutor, so he can find someone to talk to other than his delusions and succeeds. His life proceeded normally until Thomas King approaches Nash and tells him that Nash has earned the Nobel Peace Prize because the “[Nash] Equilibrium is a cornerstone of modern economics” (Howard). King and Nash have a chat about the Awards and how his schizophrenia could impact the ceremony. At the Awards ceremony in Stockholm, Nash gives a speech about his life before he accepts the Award. He says that he has been “through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional” and that he has found out “logic” can be found in the “the mysterious equations of love” (Howard). He also thanks Alicia for helping him with his schizophrenia. These scenes showed that Nash learned to cope with his hallucinations because the hallucinations do not show up in those scenes. Also, the scenes focused on the people Nash knows are truly real.
As the director of the movie, Howard knew how arrange the movie to convey a certain message. To make it seem like we were in Nash’s mind, he used shots that looked like they were shown through Nash’s point of view. To make Parcher, Marcee and Charles look unreal, they used shots where no one is around and used shots where they looked like they have appeared from out of nowhere. As a result, A Beautiful Mind got an Academy Award in several categories.
, dir. A Beautiful Mind. Writ. Akiva Goldsman, Sylvia Nasar, and Perf. Russell Crowe
Studios, 2001. Film. 4 Apr 2012.