A Beautiful Mind: An Abnormal Movie Analysis A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 cinematic semi-biography based upon the life of Nobel Laureate of Economics John Forbes Nash, Jr. Seneca said that there is no great genius without some touch of madness, and this is certainly the case with Dr. Nash. The movie opens on Nash as a graduate student at Princeton University. He struggles to find a unique idea, one that will set him apart from his peers and earn him recognition.
Though Nash is self-admittedly “better with numbers than people”, he finds an unlikely friend in Charles, the “Prodigal Roommate”, who becomes Nash’s best friend, during grad school and beyond. With Charles’ support, Nash develops an idea that earns him the recognition he desires, as well as a prestigious appointment at MIT. Things are going well for Nash, personally as well as professionally. He falls in love and marries Alicia Larde, a grad student in his class, and also reconnects with Charles and his adopted niece, Marcee.
He is also covertly hired by the CIA, and works with the mysterious William Parcher to help decipher and thwart a Soviet bomb plot. However, things rapidly deteriorate when Nash’s paranoia becomes extreme and his actions increasingly erratic and nonsensical. After Alicia sends him to a psychiatric hospital, Nash is officially diagnosed with Schizophrenia. He discovers that much of his life, including Parcher and the CIA work as well as Charles and Marcee, have been nothing more than delusions and hallucinations.
The rest of the movie follows Nash’s and Alicia’s journey together to try to navigate life with this disorder. It culminates in Nash’s being awarded the Nobel Prize, and in being able to acknowledge his delusions for what they are. The movie relates to our class in that the main character suffers from Paranoid Schizophrenia, a mental disorder that falls under the category of abnormal psychology. Several of the symptoms cited in the DSM IV are present, including delusions and hallucinations (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV-TR], 2000). It is worth noting that auditory, and not visual, hallucinations are most common in those suffering from schizophrenia; in fact, the real life John Nash heard, rather than saw, his hallucinations. ) He also suffered from social/occupational dysfunction, as evidenced, among other things, by his bluntness with women, his unusual behavior in public (such as the school library), and his dismissal of his professor duties in lieu of his delusional CIA duties. In particular, Nash seems to fall under the category of paranoid schizophrenia, which tends to be a higher-functioning form and is therefore often harder and takes longer to spot.
It is interesting to watch not only the progression of Nash’s illness, but the way those close to him treat him. Because he was so intelligent and also a bit odd and socially awkward, it took a long time for even those closest to him, including his colleges and his wife, to realize that something was indeed wrong with him. With this realization came fear and distrust from his wife, and understandably so. She loved him very much, but she never knew whether he was being truthful, since his lack of ability to distinguish reality from fantasy caused even himself to not know.
She could not leave him alone with their child (the baby almost drowned which Nash’s hallucinated best friend was watching him), and she could not trust him to not accidently harm her in the midst of his delusion (as he accidently did while trying to knock an imagined gun out of Parcher’s hand). There was a growing void between the husband and wife due to the stress that the disorder placed upon their marriage. In addition to his marital issues, Nash also faced the awkwardness of his friends and colleagues when they had to interact with him who weren’t really sure how to act around him.
Humor did help, such as when he led his friend to believe that he had sat upon one of the hallucinated friends. However, as he got older, and learned to cope better and better with his disorder, others became more comfortable around him, and more open to helping rather than avoiding him. Indeed, he even recruited others to help him in determining whether new acquaintances were real or delusions. In the end not only was his marriage strong and intact (which sadly wasn’t the case in Nash’s real life), but he was also an admired and sought after teacher and colleague.
As a side not, this movie also followed the journey of treatment for this disorder. Initially Nash was treated with shock therapy, then with pills that kept the hallucinations away, but also severely compromised his functioning, cognitive and otherwise. He couldn’t solve equations, he couldn’t work, and he couldn’t be intimate with his wife. It’s no wonder he didn’t want to take those meds! However, it seems that throughout his life he found the right balance of medications that treated his condition while not negatively affecting his functioning abilities.
It reflects how far we’ve come in terms of treatment and psychopharmacology. In terms of research questions this movie inspires, I would be interested in seeing among college students if certain mental or personality disorders are more common amongst certain majors of study. For example, is schizophrenia more common among math majors? Are paraphillias more common among psychology or sociology majors? Is narcissism more common among criminal justice majors? I suspect that there may be a correlation, though it would be much easier to study this in terms of the more common disorders than schizophrenia.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this movie. I have seen it before, but watching it through the eyes of one studying abnormal psychology makes it that much more interesting. I also found it inspiring and encouraging that Nash not only learned to deal with his disorder, but flourish in spite of it. It makes me all the more determined to enter the field I plan to enter. References American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed. , text rev. ). Washington, DC: Author.