Remembering back, the personal dimension is the stand out for Darren Aronofsky’s debut, Pi. The film has an austere look at how insanity can manifest when in the hands of an obsession. A lonely mathematician seeks to explain how the stock market is understandable and predictable by mathematics and he holds the key to unlocking the mystery. Set by a tunnel vision drive, Aronofsky creates a harrowing look at how a crazed mentality can make an apartment looking continually claustrophobic since it’s clogged by an impossible dream. It’s a freak idea to think anyone would believe the stock market could be predicted with such a simplistic view, but the simplicity allows for transcendence of how devastating madness can appear.
The personal fall into madness is nothing new. For me, the interesting development with the film is how it reminds me about articles over the trending issue of scientism and the continuing debate about what it can and cannot explain. Scientism is the promotion of various scientific disciplines to move their fields into new arenas to see how unlikely sciences can explain moral issues. Since religion has been discredited for many things among strict secularists, there is wiggle room for new assumptions to take hold.
While Pi is about math (a form of structured science) trying to explain a cultural phenomenon, scientism usually bleeds into how science can explain morality and people’s deepest instincts and natures. By some accounts, both are impossible tasks. Both try to simplify a structure that if it really could be explained, would have to be honed in by a number of different investigations and disciplines. The problem with writers who adhere to scientism have professional biases which allows them to highlight certain means of logic over others. However, this challenge has spurted a literature of different thoughts. The current race to in literature to explain the last unknown personal realms away seems to be a chase for who has the key to the lock. All anyone wants at the end is the cultural credit for having the convincing argument that swayed the public.
The problematic center of making films about scientism is the lack of interesting drama which comes in talking about methods to re-define morality. Since the literature itself is trying to model theoretical as a way to blueprint future executions of the ideal approach to morality, the human element of how and why aren’t there yet. Films about science failing to explain human elements in society have come and gone. Most memorable is the first episode of Kieslowski’s Decalogue in which a father and son try to measure the adequate durability of ice for human crossing over a lake. Confident thanks to scientific precision, the story ends in tragedy as the boy falls through the ice and dies. The implied failure from the filmmaker is the lack of ability by the people to not see themselves as God. The sturdiness of ice over water is defined by nature. Trying to fully understand and predict nature is the continuing battle.
Pi feels more relevant today since it is the drama of trying to bridge a theory into reality. The film finds a human element of how someone can be so invested by their own genius that it drives them to be defied by nature. An implication of nature can be the work of God; however, it can also be more of a comment on the limitations of scientism as a realistic theory to explain anything. The distance of scientism (in most cases) from drama is that most theories can neither be proved nor disproved. A man failing at writing a book and trying to prove a thesis would need some specific science fiction parameters. For everyday reality today, theories float through different social chains and exist in half amassed success and failure. Some people believe them and some don’t. There are concrete groundwork surrounding the idea of a man trying to visibly understand the stock market. He has an idea of how success will come and how if he continues to grind at something impossible, the results will eventually be visible. It’s the closest drama we have to depicting scientism.
Someday a drama will reign in a specific subject related to scientism and explore the inexplicable shortcomings it encompasses. For now, the territory is mostly unmarked and itself a seemingly impossible story to be convincing about. Pi is an allusion since most books on scientism have no interest in stock market prediction, but considering the questions we ask scientism to broach, is Pi any more unrealistic or unconvincing? Historical dramas continually are made by filmmakers. Many times the sole purpose is for allusion to problems in modern times. In foreign countries, there is more reprimand by a government if a filmmaker is too accusatory. Pi may be accidentally treading on some relevant topics. More I read on this social phenomenon, more the film grows for me.