“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
This quote by Arthur Fletcher can be interpreted in many ways aside from its original intent. One of these additional interpretations could be that the imaginations and creative muses of all people are unique and should not be ignored. After all, with as many new and interesting pieces of media being created each day, there seem to be no limitations to what our minds can do. Unfortunately, this power can be a bit overwhelming to some. Much like savants, who have startling mental prowess, usually at the detriment of social skills, many with mental disorders will have overactive minds. When the line between true reality and perceived reality is blurred, problems ensue. This week’s two films examine the effects of overactive minds and what the world looks like inside of them.
A Beautiful Mind
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours
If Inside Out (2015) taught us anything, it’s that a lot goes on inside a person’s mind. Besides the variety of emotions we can experience, it’s where we go to solve complex problems, recall memories, or engage our imagination. But what if our imagination compensates for other aspects of our lives? What’s difficult to understand about mental disorders is that people who seem normal on the outside can have their own internal struggles as well. Often, we are shocked to learn some famous person suffered from depression, mania, or multiple personality disorder. If we can overcome the stigma of issues of the mind, perhaps some headway could be made on the medical front to solve some of these maladies. Of course, sometimes it’s these different mental conditions that give people the creativity and intelligence to solve some of the world’s most interesting problems.
Upon arriving at Princeton University in 1947, John Nash (Russell Crowe) meets his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany). While John is an up-and-coming mathematician, he gets along with the literary student. One evening, while he socializes with his mathematic friends at a local bar, he accidentally develops a new theory of governing dynamics. This new theory allows him to move to MIT, where Nash meets Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). He has to be careful around her not to reveal the work he’s doing for the government via his handler, William Parcher (Ed Harris), as it could jeopardize the whole operation. Partly because of this, Alicia becomes suspicious and learns John imagines some of the people in his life. She stays with him through his treatment, despite the difficulties it places on their marriage.
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours
When the world is too difficult to handle, sometimes the only way to make it bearable is to retreat into our minds. If we fabricate fantasies to help us perform simple tasks just to get through our day, then it can be easier to deal with the harsh realities of our situation. The trouble with this approach is understanding where the line between fantasy and reality lies. After an extended time in a fantasy, it becomes difficult to know what reality is. This was one of the main problems encountered in Inception (2010). Manipulating dreams inside the mind of a target is just as dangerous for the target as it is for those manipulating the dreams. Because it’s easier to create a world where everything works out, suddenly reality no longer has its appeal. I suspect that becoming trapped in our minds will increasingly become a problem as virtual reality becomes more ubiquitous.
After being wrongfully admitted to a mental institution, Babydoll (Emily Browning) escapes into her mind to deal with the harsh realities of her new life. Imagining her new home as a brothel, she connects with four of the other “dancers” in an attempt to escape. Since she is new to the brothel, she is asked to perform a dance. When she begins to move, she delves even deeper into another fantasy world, fighting robotic samurai giants as part of her “dance.” Recognizing her trance-inducing dancing, she continues to dive into these deeper fantasies in order to obtain four items to help her escape. Unfortunately, the owner of the brothel, Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) gets wise of their plan and Babydoll has to realize the escape she has been planning isn’t for her, but for one of the other girls. When reality is revealed again, a lobotomy has erased everything in Babydoll’s mind as one of the girls boards a bus to freedom.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 mental manipulations