Einstein, Hemmingway, Van Gough. These are some of the most gifted and talented minds ever to grace the earth. Were they normal? No, in fact they were far from. Each had weaknesses of his own. Einstein was known to be a little crazy. Hemmingway enjoyed throwing one back every now and again. And Van Gough was deeply depressed for years. So can these men still be geniuses despite their conditions? If so, then was the great John Nash brilliant as well or simply insane? In Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, John Nash is depicted as a brilliant outlandish mathematician. His bizarre behaviour and gifted strategies for solving equations led him to a path of success and achievement, however several people found him to be quite unorthodox. Their curiosities became suspicions that ultimately led to the conclusion of his paranoid schizophrenia. His paranoid thoughts of conspiracy and war were all just images in his mind. So does this make him crazy? Does this affect his credibility as a genius? Or on the contrary, does this boost his credibility? If insanity, alcoholism, and depression can’t prohibit people from being brilliant, why should schizophrenia be any different? By having such detailed characters as simply a figment of his imagination, does this make Nash delusional or even more brilliant?
Throughout the film, Nash’s ability to separate fantasy from reality becomes more and more challenging. His delusions of conspiracy against him develop into something more than he could handle. After his admittance into the mental hospital, he learns that everything he’s believed in over the past 10 years was not dead or gone, but in fact never existed. Nash remains locked up with the thoughts and fears that everyone is after him, even his own wife. At one point, she reveals to him that these people he believes to be real are nothing more than images in his mind. Following weeks of medication and intensive shock therapy John begins to struggle with doubts of reality verses his imagination. His sheer brilliance is overwhelming even throughout these hallucinations. The images and people manifested in his mind are not typical fantasies or visions. They are full-blown structures and characters; some more developed than other characters throughout the film. Had Nash never experienced these mind games, would he have ever reached his full potential intellectually? The thoroughness of his hallucinations in fact makes him what he is. They are the reason of his genius. His figments are not just images he sees. They are well-developed characters he interacts with daily. Not only does he deem them to be real, but also his imagination has convinced others to believe they are real as well. His wife, Alicia, assumed that his roommate, Charles, was real for years. She believed all the stories and things she had heard of him. It wasn’t until the doctors informed her that no such man went to Princeton or even existed. Charles’ niece was even well imagined, down to every last detail. Nash learned of her years before he ever met her, while speaking to Charles in the library. These visions are not just meticulously imagined, but the ideas behind them are brilliant as well. John creates these people not to be simpletons, but to be just as smart and creative as him. He devises an intricate system in which they function. The entire idea behind his findings for the government is mind-blowing. John doesn’t just envision characters, but entire settings. His vision of the government centre at Wheeler was so vivid and innovative. He plays out complete scenarios in his head, including dangerous car chases, package drop-offs, and believes there are people following him everywhere he goes. Nash pictures codes and theories lifting out of random magazines that aren’t even there, thus proving his keen talent of mathematics and his superb intelligence.
John’s vivid images and detailed characterization aren’t the only aspect establishing his high aptitude. His ability to overcome these obstacles and ignore the visions to which he’d become so accustomed to is the true confirmation of his exceedingly intelligent mind. The endless of amount of drugs John is forced to take to keep his illusions from resurfacing cause him to literally deteriorate, both mind and body. He is unable to solve math equations, falls into a deep depression, and loses any sexual feelings toward his wife. At one point his condition became so poor that he was incapable of normal function and stood by while his son almost drowned during his bath. Determined to stop taking his medication, Nash decided he could defeat his illness using only self-discipline and his brainpower. Although he could not make the hallucinations end completely, he was able to stop listening to them and ignored them. In the most compelling scene of the film, John’s visions become too much for him and he breaks down in his living room after trying to save his wife. In the midst of this drama he pushes her away from Government Agent Parcher, because he is threatening to shoot her if John doesn’t come with him. This was a major turning point for all characters. This was the first time that Alicia feared John, and John feared himself. For years they continued to haunt him and he did not give in. Later in the film we see him teaching again at Princeton, still seeing things and still questioning reality. His capacity to hold in all of his feelings for these characters shows an outrageous amount of mind control. These accomplishments alone are extraordinary and not many people could overcome such a severe mental disorder without the use of medication, but he did. Not only was he successful in achieving his goals of living in this condition, but also he went on to receive the Nobel Prize.
John Nash was not a brilliant and gifted man despite his condition; he was because of his condition. What hindered his thoughts and behaviours only pushed him harder to become the beautiful mind that he is. This movie makes us ask ourselves, if he is in fact a genius or just a lunatic under control? This film’s portrayal of John Nash and his illness make us realize what the human mind is capable of. It tells us to strive for our dreams and goals no matter the situation. It’s the story of a man, against all odds achieving his dreams. His mental illness is exactly that, an illness. Something that might not be cured, but can be overcome and even seen as a blessing. Although Nash struggled every day with his condition, it made him what he was. It strengthened him and caused him to reach his full potential. John Nash did something most people will never do in their life. He fought his brain and won.
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