“It’s a difficult case…to give a man back his heart.”
Angel (John Travolta) in Michael
“The fact is, I don’t like people much. And they don’t like me.”
John Nash in A Beautiful Mind
At the core of the film A Beautiful Mind is a love story. Sure it deals with mental illness and the fragmented life of John Nash, but at the end of the day—it is a love story. A love story between John Nash (Russell Crowe) and his wife Alica (Jennifer Connelly). Here is how screenwriter Akiva Goldsman brings the story to a close as Nash gives a speech at the end of the film:
INT.—ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY—NOBEL CEREMONY
A giant hall. Full. Nash, stands at the podium, blinking his eyes. Hundreds sit watching, as camera flashbulbs finally cease.
But Nash just stands there. A long beat. And even longer.
KING-CLOSE. In the audience. Concerned. (*)
ALICA-CLOSE. In the front row. Starting to worry.
Back to Nash. Still standing there. See what he sees. Hundreds of faces staring back at him. Finally, just when all seems lost…
Nash: Thanks You for your patience.
But he’s not only looking at the speech before him. He’s not looking at the audience. He’s looking at Alicia.
Nash: I have always believed in numbers. In the equations and logics that lead to reason. I was wrong. It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found. Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind. But a better gift is to discover a beautiful heart.
And suddenly there is no one else in the room but the two of them, Nash’s magical vision reveling the patterns of the heart.
Nash: Thank you for your belief in me after so many years. You are the reason I am here today.
On the A Beautiful Mind DVD commentary this is how screenwriter Goldsman sums up that scene;
“This speech, which was not a speech that was actually made, was for me a construct for me to signify what was important about the theme of the film and personally my experience with people who suffer from mental illness began very young, and this movie and the writing of this movie was a tribute to my mother…What she taught me is this ‘It is a good thing to have a beautiful mind, but a better gift is to discover a beautiful heart.’ I’d like to believe that’s what this movie’s about.”
And as a nice poetic gesture, Goldsman’s mother was on stage sitting behind Russell Crowe when they filmmed that scene.
Nash’s personal life may have been even more schizophrenic than the movie, (and we could debate the dichotomy separating the head and heart for the next decade) but I think director Ron Howard & Goldsman were simply creating a story that would resonate more with audiences’ hopes and dreams. How we’d like life to be, rather than how it is. The movie did resonate with audiences and the Academy as well as it won four Oscars in 2002, including Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay (based on other material, Sylvia Nasar’s book A Beautiful Mind, The Life of a Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laurate John Nash.)
And over the credits of the film is the beautiful voice of Charlotte Church singing All Love Can Be:
I will guard you with my bright wings,
Stay till your heart learns to see
All love can be
Happy Valentine’s Day—
(*) Isn’t that moment echoed in The King’s Speech?