05 Sep

The Man Who Knew Infinity


“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.” – Bertrand Russel.


I didn’t know that this movie existed until I saw it in the movie line-up during the flight from Adelaide to Singapore. The Man Who Knew Infinity is about Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-taught Mathematician extraordinaire from Madras (now Chennai), India. S. Ramanujan was invited to the Trinity College in Cambridge, U.K. to be guided by Prof. G.H. Hardy so that he could have his theorems published. As expected, Ramanujan had to endure much prejudice – especially since he was up against other esteemed professors and scientists who had tried to solve the issues and theorems that Ramanujan could solve so seemingly effortless.

In the movie, Ramanujan is played by the talented Dev Patel, who could portray Ramanujan’s confidence (which was interpreted as arrogance by the Cambridge scholars) as well as inner conflict – for having to leave his wife and homeland behind to pursue his scientific dreams. This movie is presented so beautifully – albeit conventionally – by the director, Matthew Brown. Some of the scenes are very predictable – however, this minor factor aside, I found myself moved by the story and I want to know more about Ramanujan. Hardy is played by Jeremy Irons – who portrayed a cold and slightly detached academic very convincingly.

I wonder how I should rate this movie – it’s certainly not perfect, and it does not break any mould in presenting the story of Srinivasa Ramanujan. What makes this movie shine is the sincerity of those involved with the movie – from the director and the actors to the soundtrack and the photography. For those interested in science, this movie also provides some answers as to why scientists and mathematicians seem to be so adamant in finding evidences and proofs. There are many themes in this movie that resonate with me – the connection between faith and science, and how we, as scientists, try to find patterns that are already established in the universe. We are here to discover whether such patterns can be explained in theorems and terms that are accepted and defensible among the other scientists in the field. Certainly a cinematic gem this year.