Pi is quite literate when it comes to its mathematics director Darren Aronofsky and star Sean Gullette write a series of mesmerizing voiceover monologues that wield literate lectures on chaos theory, Fibonacci numbers, Go, game theory and Archimedes. The films conceptual juggle of chaos theory, Cabbala and Godels Theorem starts to reach into that scary territory that quantum physics sometimes touches the ability to give a grandiose glimpse beneath reality that makes this world seem a only pale shadow of a greater reality.
Where another film might start to reach for heavenly choruses and cliché images of communion with true understanding, Pi contrarily goes the opposite way. It is shot in glisteningly beautiful and raw black-and-white where Darren Aronofskys sharp cutting and focus in closeup and densely crowded detail evokes a genuine claustrophobic tension. If there are films that one might compare Pi to, the nearest that one might get is the claustrophobic weirdness of David Lynchs Eraserhead (1977) or the paranoiac dis-ease of the Coen Brothers Barton Fink (1991). Seen cinematically, even on video, Pi is like sitting through the visual equivalent of a migraine headache interspersed with flashes of transcendent meaning.
Expectedly in a film such as this, transcendent breakthrough into greater understanding is something that is ultimately denied one. Running throughout the film is the metaphor of the myth of Icarus with the hero telling the story of how Icarus stared into the sun despite cautions not to and the film ends with Sean Gullettes fall from greater understanding and being found in a state of blissful ignorance, unable to mathematically compute any longer. In this respect, Pi is not that far removed from mad scientist films of the 1930s and 40s in the end assumption that the greater knowledge of the secrets of the universe is something that mankind is better off not knowing.
Director Darren Aronofsky next made the excellent drug addiction film Requiem for a Dream (2000); the mystical science-fiction film The Fountain (2006) about the quest for immortality, which also reaches for transcendent meaning; the critically acclaimed and award winning hits of The Wrestler (2008); Black Swan (2010); controversial adaptation of the Biblical Noah (2014); and the surreal horror film Mother! (2017). Aronofsky also co-wrote and co-produced David Twohys haunted submarine drama Below (2002).