Friday, May 20, 2016

The Man Who Knew Infinity (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Man Who Knew Infinity” Is About Genius -- And Friendship
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

IQ is now thought to be only moderately useful as a gauge of potential. But some people are simply smarter than others. Those who have a genius-level IQ are about one in 400. But true geniuses -- people with amazing mental abilities -- amount to less than 1,000,000 people worldwide.

“The Man Who Knew Infinity” is a biopic about such a genius. It’s currently playing at Tropic Cinema.

The yes-it’s-true story: Although he had almost no training in mathematics, Indian-born Srinivasa Ramanujan proved to be a genius at mathematical analysis, number theory, continued fractions, and infinity series. He discovered many new theorems, compiling a massive 3,900 results. The masters at Cambridge barely knew what to make of him. Fortunately, a professor named G.H. Hardy did.

When the Cambridge dons challenged this young savant’s work  (“There’s no proofs … we’re just supposed to take him at his word?”), Hardy tartly replied, “No, you’re to take him at mine.”

Dav Patel -- today’s favorite go-to Indian guy for a movie -- stars as Srinivasa Ramanujan. You’ll remember Patel from “Slumdog Millionaire,” as well as “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and its sequel. Also from his turn in Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant TV miniseries, “The Newsroom.”

Jeremy Irons -- moviedom’s on-call guy for stiff-upper-lip roles -- co-stars as Godfrey Harold (“G. H.”) Hardy FRS. You’ll recall Irons’s fine performances in “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” “The House of the Spirits,” and “Reversal of Fortune,” which won him an Academy Award. And his TV roles in “Brideshead Revisited,” Elizabeth I,” and “The Borgias.” You may also recognize his voice as that of Scar in Disney’s “The Lion King.”

Although moviegoers may be expecting something along the lines of those warped genius films (like “A Beautiful Mind” or “The Imitation Game”), “The Man Who Knew Infinity” is actually more of a buddy movie: The poor kid from Madras, India, taken under the wing by the uppercrust Brit who belonged to the Cambridge Apostles, an elite, intellectual secret society.

“An Unlikely Friendship,” the movie trailer heralds.

Almost immediately Hardy recognized Ramanujan’s untutored brilliance and championed him. The two became close collaborators. When asked about the greatest achievement of his career, Hardy cited the discovery of Ramanujan. He described their collaboration as “the one romantic incident in my life.”

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