A Beautiful Mind Question (answer requires spoilers)

So, I just rented “A Beautiful Mind” and I have a question that I have not yet seen addressed on the boards.

The scene where Nash goes to the Pentagon, and does his pattern-seeing bit with the wall full of numbers… did that really happen? Or was it the first major delusion? With the location shot, etc., it was set up as a “real” event, however, it matched the pattern of his later delusions, AND he saw the G-Man Delusion (I forget his name) for the first time in that scene.

That’s a good question…I always figured it really happened, and was sort of the spring-board for his later delusions. Taking facts and mixing it with paranoia and fear to create delusions…

I agree with pepperlandgirl - it seemed to me that that was where the delusions had their foundation.

On the other hand, the context of the movie does leave it open to question. Remember Nash’s wife talking to Nash’s colleagues about his alleged trip to the Pentagon? They told her that it wasn’t impossible, but very unlikely, that he would have been called to the Pentagon in secret. The movie doesn’t offer any evidence one way or the other – deliberately, I think.

In my view, the point seemed to be that Nash’s mind moved between reality and delusion so seamlessly that even he couldn’t tell the difference – not for a long time, anyway.

I tend to think that it really happened.

All he deciphered were latitudes and longitudes, but they didn’t tell him what they meant, which seems consistent with how the military might really work.

And he caught his first glimpse of “Harcher” there, and when he asked who it was, nobody else had seen him.
On the other hand, it seems a bit weird that they would call him in to break a code that they’d had no luck with, and then after he did it just by standing and staring at the encrypted messages for a while, they said thanks, you’ve done your country a great service, shook his hand, patted him on the head, and sent him on his way, never to consult him again.

Maybe the seeming reality of the scene was meant to simply cement in your head that the whole Harcher program was not only logical, but almost inevitable in a sense.

I haven’t seen the movie, but as far as I remember nothing like that showed up in the book. Of course, if you’re just wondering about this scene within the context of the (largely fictionalized, i believe) movie, then I guess this isn’t terribly relevant.

I say ditto on it really happening.

Plus, it REALLY lent credibility to the Harcher sub-plot. I hadn’t read the book or even heard anything about the movie when I finally saw it.

Come on–raise your hand if you believed the whole thing up until Nash’s breakdown.

I was particularly suprised to find that Charles was a delusion. I had my suspicions about the Black Hatted Men, but Charles caught me from out of left field. That was really sad, because it meant he didn’t have any real, existing, good friends.

Total side note, but Nash (as portrayed in the movie) reminded me terribly of a guy I used to date in college who was not mentally all that well.

I vote for none of it happening.

Showing such skill as a “natural codebreaker” would not have gone unused by the military. Also, I don’t believe there is anything else in the movie to indicate that he has ANY talent as a code breaker.

I just rented this movie as well. I also now see the initial “codebreaking” scene as a delusion. My reasoning on that is the visual effects that we see throughout the rest of the delusional scenes are present there. I think of it as the desperate hope of a very intelligent man who has found his “original idea” and now desperately needs to be needed.

I was also unusually disappointed when Charles was revealed to be a delusion, but I remember during his scenes wondering why he never interacted with the other men, as he seemed to be such a charmer. We also never really got a good idea what he did. I was thinking that it was an error on the part of the filmmakers not to clarify this interesting man, but as it turned out they were doing a very good job of planting the seed of “not quite right”.

Charles also softened the blow of Nash’s strange behavior by laughing at it or participating in it, which really accentuates the sadness of the whole affair when he’s revealed to be a hallucination.

When Charles was shouting at Nash just before they threw the desk out the window, I thought, “Charles isn’t really saying that. Those are the voices in Nash’s head. Those are just the sorts of things that schizophrenics hear the voices in their heads saying.” But I was probably as surprised as anyone when it was revelaed that there was no real Charles, it was all just the voices in Nash’s head!

It did explain Charles’s apparent fixation with D.H. Lawrenece, though. I thought it seemed rather singleminded for a scholar of English literature, but Lawrence may have been the only novelist the less literary-minded Nash knew anything about!

The scene in the Pentagon where Nash supposedly breaks codes that are projected on the walls is definitely completely made up. To explain why this must be so, consider the following facts. This is all from the book A Beautiful Mind or similar solid sources.

First, Nash worked at the RAND Corporation in California in the summers in the early '50’s while teaching at MIT during the academic year. This was the only classified work he ever did. It’s not made clear in what I’ve read about Nash just what he was doing at RAND, but given that RAND has done planning for the strategy of nuclear war, I suspect that what he was doing there was wargaming nuclear war scenarios. Given that Nash was a game theorist, that makes sense as something he would be hired to do. According to everything I’ve read, Nash never did codebreaking.

Second, Nash lost his security clearance in 1954. He was arrested in California for something that the police claimed was homosexual solicitation (although it’s possible it was just indecent exposure). He was never tried for the offense, but the police notified RAND and they immediately pulled his clearance. He went back to MIT and never did classified work again.

Third, Nash’s schizophrenia didn’t start until 1959, when he was thirty years old. There was no evidence that he had any symptoms of it before then, and Nash himself says that the disease hit him very suddenly. He had a reputation as being a somewhat eccentric and occasionally unpleasant person before that (but just of the sort that you would find one of in every department), but he wasn’t remotely schizophrenic. He had no visual hallucinations, no auditory hallucinations, no paranoia, no signs of disordered thinking. Nothing. His schizophrenia came on very quickly in the first two months of 1959.

So Nash didn’t do codebreaking, he quit doing classified work four and a half years before the first signs of schizophrenia hit him, and he never worked at the Pentagon. The most insane part of that film is the bizarre notion that you can break codes by projecting them on the wall and picking out numbers by pure intuition. In general, do not use the movie as an accurate account of Nash’s life. It’s distorted his life in many, many ways.

The character’s name was Parcher, not Harcher.

My impression when I first saw it, in the context of the film (not the book or real life, since the film was fictionalized), was that the code-breaking for the government happened. This set up the rest of his delusions and gave them a base of reality to work with. Also, Nash goes back to Sol and Bender(?) and mentions where he was. They say something along the lines of “Called to the Pentagon twice in four years, more than us,” lending credence to the Pentagon trips really happening. Of course, how would they know where he went for sure other than what he told them?

So, being the fence-straddler that I am, and cuz some people have put up some good arguments in this thread for why that didn’t happen. Maybe it was intentionally ambiguous.

Please, read the book A Beautiful Mind. This is all the screenwriters used in writing the movie. It’s clear that they threw out anything in it that didn’t fit their vision of the movie, even when it that meant completely distorting Nash’s life.

Nash didn’t have any visual hallucinations, and he had very few auditory ones. His schizophrenia consisted mostly of generating vast paranoid conspiracy theories. I think in fact that paranoia is much more typical of schizophrenia than hallucinations. A schizophenic is not so much a person who thinks that he sees and hears things which aren’t there as one who sees and hears the same things as others but imagines motives and conspiracies supposedly causing these things, although they aren’t real.

Crunchy Frog writes:

> Also, Nash goes back to Sol and Bender(?) and mentions where
> he was. They say something along the lines of “Called to the
> Pentagon twice in four years, more than us,” lending credence
> to the Pentagon trips really happening.

Apparently Sol and Bender are made-up characters, although perhaps they’re supposed to be composites of Nash’s co-workers. I’m not sure what you’re saying here. If you’re defending the reality of the Pentagon scene because Sol and Bender talk about it, then you’re defending it on the basis of something imaginary characters say.

Yes, exactly. I’m not asking if this scene actually happened to nash in Real Life (many scenes in the movie never actually happened), but rather if, in the movie, this scene reflected reality or a delusion.

Wendell, I think we’re mostly discussing the reality of the scene in the context of the movie, so when Crunchy Frog says that Sol and Bender’s statements lend credence to the Pentagon scene, he’s not trying to argue that John Nash went to the Pentagon in real life, but rather whether the screenwriters wrote the Pentagon scene as something that really happend (in the context of the movie) or meant it as one of Nash’s (the character’s, not the real man’s) delusions.

(And thanks for the correction, Crunchy . . .)

I’m intrigued, stolichnaya. Can you give some examples? All I remember are is the rapidly circling camera, and the lines and figures indicating the patterns forming in Nash’s mind, which we see in other mathematically-oriented, nondelusional scenes. That, and Horner’s absolutely brilliant score, which I can’t stop listening to, despite the dippy love theme, which I hate. :wink:

Yes, Podkayne, that’s what I meant when discussing the charaters of Sol and Bender. In fact, I thought that’s what I said with the line (emphasis added): “My impression when I first saw it, in the context of the film (not the book or real life, since the film was fictionalized), was that the code-breaking for the government happened.”

I haven’t read the book, nor would I have recognized the name John Nash prior to release of the film, so I don’t mean to make any claims as to what may have really occurred in John Nash’s life. My comments pertain solely to the world of the film.

Just to clarify something here. John Nash’s illness, per Wendell’s statement, was not particularly characterized by hallucinations. For other’s schizophrenia may be strongly characterized by hallucinations. IMO schizophrenia is a bit of an umbrella description that covers many similar illnesses with varying symptoms, but that is purely opinion.

Here is what the American Psychiatric Association defines as symptoms of schizophrenia (a bit long, sorry)

Some definitions of schizophrenia that I found indicate that only certain symptoms need to be present for a diagnosis, which runs slightly counter to the language above, but sometimes that’s what you get on a website. So don’t expect that all people who suffer from some form of schizophrenia would have all symptoms above. That said, hallucinations, both auditory and visual, are clearly one of the criteria used in making an assessment.

Sorry about the long hijack. As to the OP, I wasn’t clear from the film whether that was intended as (fictionalized) reality or hallucination. Maybe we should e-mail Ron Howard?

That’s kinda what I mean… As I recall, all of the pattern identification that involves Nash’s “codebreaking” involves the randomly highlighted letters that come together in lines and at angles. The only other time that I recall seeing the same highlight effects was in the magazine-decoding scenes, which were established as delusional.

I could be forgetting certain scenes that established that as the way he found patterns in real life, but I see a distinct difference in the portrayal of the reality-based reasoning he did (on the windows of his dorm room and on chalkboards) and the pattern-finding in the other scenes. For one, the “patterns” he found never seemed to mean anything to me, which made me wonder whether that was intentional. Wouldn’t the point of highlighting numbers be to help us see what he sees? Perhaps the point was that there was no pattern, that it was all completely imagined.

The above is strictly limited to my perceptions of the character of John Nash as depicted in the movie.

Shibboleth- you beat me to it. Just to clarify a little more. You hit the nail on the head when you said the Schiz. is sort of an umbrella diagnosis. There are all sorts of different forms of the disease. Including-- Hallucinations/delusions and things of that sort.

There are also what they call negative (Read negative as taking away. Basically when you lose something its a negative symptom. If something is added it’s a “positive” symptom.) symptoms. Loss of Affect/Withdrawl.

There’s a lot of wierd stuff going on with ti which I’m not going to get into. If you can find a DSM-IV that should go over the symptoms (The DSM diagnostic manual psychologists use.)
Here’s a couple of links that show the criteria–


I tried to load it from a psychology website, but the site wouldn’t load [/hijack]

I thought that the scene really happened. It seemed that his delusions were created to fit his reality. He never met the roomie till he really felt like an outsider. He didn’t meet Parcher until he thought he was being used in some bigger plan. The reality sort of setup the delusion so to speak.