MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY, THE
Growing up poor in the Madras of colonial India in the early 1900s, self-taught maths genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar (Dev Patel) earns admittance to Cambridge University during WWI, where he becomes a pioneer in mathematical theories with the guidance of his eccentric professor, G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), while at the same time fighting prejudice.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
He was a dumpy sort of guy, unlike the young star who portrays him in this film, Dev Patel, but that really doesn't matter, since hardly anyone has a mental picture of Ramanujan - even if they've heard of him. It's a great story and so far untold on screen, of a born maths genius from Madras, who even at the age of 7 was revealing mathematical formulas of some complexity. What matters more than the physical portrayal is the character portrayal and the way his experience defied his circumstances and the social culture of the era.
His determination was sometimes mistaken for ego, and this is well portrayed in Matt Brown's film, while his transition from life within Indian culture to 1913-1920 Cambridge society is perfunctory, one of the film's weaker points.
Adapted from Robert Kanigel's biography, the film begins and ends in Madras, as did Ramanujan's life. Patel is a brilliant choice, especially playing opposite Jeremy Irons as his mentor at Cambridge, Professor Hardy, a man his total opposite emotionally and spiritually. Where Ramanujan is deeply religious and believes his intuitive and remarkable solutions to mathematical mysteries come direct from his god, Hardy is an atheist. Where Ramanujan is quite an emotional and impulsive character, Hardy is measured, reticent and meticulous. Yet they grow to be the closest of friends either has ever had.
It is in the development of this friendship that the film excels and makes us care for them both, giving the biography depth and texture. We are moved.
We are also moved by the performance of newcomer Devika Bhise as Janaki, Ramanujan's pretty young wife, who is left behind with his mother when he goes to fulfill his destiny. There are heartbreaking moments when letters between the couple fail to reach their destination, prompting emotional misunderstandings about the relationship. Toby Jones is excellent as another great mathematician at Cambridge, John Littlewood, and Britain's finest make brief but welcome appearances: Stephen Fry as snooty Sir Francis Spring and Jeremy Northam as the (not yet great) Bertrand Russell.
The various elements of the film - screenplay, direction, music, design, editing, cinematography - are all competent and effective, but it is the central performances that elevate the film to something of lasting value.
Review by Louise Keller:
While the subject matter of mathematics, equations and proofs may seem dry and beyond comprehension, this engaging film about a man who loves numbers more than he loves people is anything but. Based on a true story, this succinctly told and overtly moving film concentrates on the relationship between a young man from Madras who equates his work with a painting whose colours you cannot see, and the Cambridge professor whose entire life is mathematics. Director Matt Brown has succinctly adapted Robert Kanigel's biography about Srinivasa Ramanujan, whose intuition and lack of formal training astounds the academic establishment. I have always had a soft spot for Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, who is perfectly cast as Professor G.H. Hardy, while Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel steps up to the plate as Ramanujan.
After a brief prelude, the film begins in Madras 1914, when we meet Ramanujan (Patel), frustrated by his inability to find anyone to whom he can show his complex mathematical formulas. A lucky break when he is offered a job with an accountant's firm prompts a golden opportunity for Ramanujan, who is intent on having his work published. We are moved by the tearful farewell between Ramanujan and his bride Janaki (Devika Bhise) from an arranged marriage, as he sets sail on a steamer for Cambridge, despite the fact it is forbidden to cross the ocean.
It is easy to understand his initial intimidation as Ramanujan enters the hallowed grounds of Trinity College, where Sir Isaac Newton developed his theory about gravity years earlier. As Ramanujan finds himself at odds with and discriminated against by the professors and students, his relationship with Professor Hardy (Irons) develops. The best scenes are those in which the two men engage in intense discussions - about mathematics and faith. Their views may be different, but their fundamental language is the same and while Hardy champions his protŽgŽe, he pushes him to prove his theories rather than rely solely on his intuition.
The film comes into its own in the second half as the central relationship is at its fiery best. Ramanujan's hurdles become ours too as he tries to be accepted by the establishment, amid the onset of the war and other complications. Meanwhile Toby Jones and Jeremy Northam are fine as Hardy's colleagues and the fact that the film is shot in Cambridge itself, complete with its hallowed grounds, rich wooden panelled rooms replete with bookcases offers great authenticity. Iron's address to the Cambridge academia is one of the film's most moving moments. If you liked A Beautiful Mind and The Imitation Game, you are guaranteed to enjoy to this involving and satisfying film in which intellect and emotion form two sides of the coin.
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MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY, THE (PG)
CAST: Jeremy Irons, Dev Patel, Toby Jones, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Northam, Kevin McNally, Devika BhisŽ, Shazad Latif, Padraic Delaney
PRODUCER: Matt Brown, Jon Katz, Edward R. Pressman, Sofia Sondervan, Joe Thomas, Jim Young
DIRECTOR: Matt Brown
SCRIPT: Matt Brown (biography by Robert Kanigel)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Smith
EDITOR: JC Bond
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Luciani Arrighi, Rajeevan Nambiar
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 5, 2016