Friday, January 13, 2006


I could begin by telling you that Proof is this year's A Beautiful Mind, but it is going to be difficult to prove that this movie is as good as the Oscar winning film, so I shall attempt to prove that it's not bad.

Anyway, mathematicians might rejoice that here's another movie which celebrates mathematics, and the rigours involved in the scientific methods to proof something, be it a hypothesis, equation, or theorem. Yes, although it trivializes and makes it look like it could be thought of in an instant, it still provided enough tension to make it look hip.

Based upon an award winning play written by David Auburn, Gwyneth Paltrow reprises her role as Catherine which she played in the West End stage version. A daughter of a brilliant mathematician played by the fuddly-duddly Anthony Hopkins, we see that she's on the verge of insanity as she imagines talking to her recently deceased father. She fears that she is threading along the same path of madness as her father, since both had been rather reclusive in her bid to care for him.

There are many heart-warming moments between father and daughter, as he flits between sanity and insanity, but ever providing her that strength in challenging herself, to not throw her life away, providing that bit of extra in believing in herself.

Some may have experienced, in one way of another, the sacrifices children make to care for their aged, sick parents. How many would drop everything just to nurse their loved one back to health, or to accompany them in their twilight? Contrasting Catherine's character is her sister Claire (Hope Davis), one whom those in the same situation, might be able to see in some other sibling (hopefully not) - the one who's giving the excuse that they're too far away, with mounting work, the one who pays just lip service. And of those perceived friends who turn up at your funeral to celebrate what was, a long time ago, as they have shunned you when you were sick.

This film isn't just about maths, but it's chock full of human drama and emotions. Playing a fellow geek is Jake Gyllenhaal as Hal, who falls in love with his idol's daughter. However, this love is put to the test under her suspect conditions, as well as a notebook which contains a certain proof that neither he, nor Claire, believe is the work of Catherine. The heart-wrenching moments of not having your loved one believe and trust you, it's all there. Though I kinda liked that claim Catherine made about being better than Hal, about being more gifted and about him being unable to accept the reality that a non-graduate could produce ground-breaking work that most graduate students can't even understand.

Jake Gyllenhaal doesn't have a platform to showcase his acting chops (save that for Brokeback Mountain), as this film is primarily Gwyneth Paltrow's stage, and she portrays Catherine with grace, a tinge of madness, and vulnerability. Her scenes with veteran Anthony Hopkins are the highlights in my opinion, though I thought it wasn't much of a challenge for Hopkins anyway, by just being there.

The narrative at times in the beginning really feels like you're watching a play, with the dialogue having a very play-like slant about it. Then again, it managed to adapt well into the moving pictures medium. The difficult part, for some, might be the transitions between time that seem to have the effect of losing the audience, or at least, I had some moments before realizing that it's oh-back-in-time-oh-now-current-time. However, the way the narrative is juxtaposed in this manner allowed a "whodunnit" to be weaved, as we slowly discover the secrets behind that notebook containing that geeky-land-shattering proof.

Is there a thin line that separates madness and genius? Perhaps. Sometimes it takes a madman to break boundaries and go for the seemingly impossible. If you don't believe me, then you'll have to see Proof for yourself. What seemed to have screamed out at me, is a reminder of what an old soldier told our platoon of privates once - don't let others look down you (sic), you do not look down yourself.

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