Sunday, October 29, 2006

[Japanese Film Fest] The Professor and His Beloved Equation (Hakase No Aishita Sushiki)

The Feel Good Factor

This is a very beautiful movie.

If Mathematics was never your choice subject in school, with the way the subject is presented in this movie, I'm sure it'll win some new fans over. The last time I can remember where Maths was used as a central plot device was in Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind, but here, it gains a lot more mileage than that Hollywood movie.

I enjoyed the method in which Maths was written into the script, into the characters, and given a life of its own. It revived interest in things like perfect numbers, prime numbers, pi, the imaginary number, and Euler's famous equation. Even if you're clueless about the concepts of these terms, the movie will succinctly introduce them in a highly enjoyable manner. I'm actually quite in awe how complex terms can be weaved so simply into the entire narrative, and made it all work together so well.

Borrowing a similar plot device to Memento, a Maths professor suffers from current memory loss, and can only remember events up until his accident. Everything else that is current lasts only 80 minutes, which is why he relies on little notes and his blackboards to remind himself of important current information each time he comes back to square one. A housekeeper is hired to look after him, and despite the trying times and unique circumstances, both of them manage to strike a deep friendship, through the help of mathematics - one who inspires, and the other who admires. The friendship develops further as the housekeeper's 10 year old son, nicknamed by the Professor "Root" for his square head, comes into the picture, and three of their lives become intertwined.

There are many touching moments in the movie, and almost everything revolved around mathematics, food, and even baseball! But you'd come to understand that the movie goes beyond that, and clearly the message is in the philosophy of maths itself, using concepts and applying it to real life, to living life. As such, it made the mathematical concepts introduced here quite accessible and easy to understand.

The formation of friendships is core to the story, and the antagonist is none other than a jealous sister-in-law trying to break up what seemed to be going good for everyone involved. I sort of paralleled it to real life, in a not-too-recent episode which I and a few friends personally encountered, and the subsequent treatment we suffered. It makes you wonder how sometimes, even though with honest and sincere intentions, and out of the earnestness in valuing a friendship, you're demonized.

It's quite uncanny, but all 3 characters in the professor, the housekeeper and her son are all quite lovable, both in character and in presentation. The cinematography is brilliant too, bringing out the best in the landscapes of the town that they live in, in a picturesque like fashion.

I liked the simplicity of the movie, and the feel good factor that exudes from it. It's very beautiful and poetic to watch, given its even and comfortable pace, and it's definitely one of my favourite movies of the year, and my choice as the best film during this festival! The last time I had such a feeling watching a movie was last year's Be With You (not to be confused with Eric Khoo's Be With Me). This is a must-watch if you have the opportunity!

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