(2001) dir. Ron Howard
I think that the most interesting thing about this, The Acadamy Awards’ pick for Best Picture 2001, this big Hollywood biopic, is its use of unreliable narrative that opens the first part of the film. It’s not that it is a stunning implementation of what is not even an uncommon device in narratives that deal with mentally ill protagonists, depicting essentially a first person perspective to illustrate the perception of a schizophrenic person. I guess the thing that interested me was the deception of the viewer into believing in John Nash’s world.
The film and the camera work are fairly straightforward, with only a few digitally animated instances of hallucinations that diverge from wholly photographic representation of the world of the film. So, with the film’s naturalistic (by Hollywood standards) photography and narrative, as well as knowing that this is meant to be biographical, it’s reasonably surprising when it turns out that several of the characters turn out to be hallucinations as well.
These types of motifs have been better explored and executed in numerous other films and literature, like very prominently The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1921) or Nikolai Gogol’s “The Diary of a Madman” (1835)? It’s hardly anything new. It’s maybe radical for director Ron Howard, who seems to embody exactly the kind of filmmaker that Hollywood likes these days: clean, straightforward, capable, undynamic.
The story is also somewhat compelling,…though, this is probably so for me knowing its basis in actual events. As to why one might tend to find “fantastic but true” stories more compelling…well, I think that is a whole other kettle of fish altogether.