The Man Who Knew Infinity

Movie:  The Man Who Knew Infinity

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   In 1914 India, the rule of the British Raj is soon coming to an end.  In Madras, India, a young clerk named Srinivas Ramanujan (Dev Patel) takes a menial book keeping job to support his new wife Janaki (Devika Bhise).  Ramanujan’s Indian supervisor is soon impressed by the theoretical mathematical formulas created by the young man, and urges him to write to England to get the attention of the best mathematical minds in Europe.  Ramanujan’s letters, containing examples of his theoretical formulas, eventually come to the attention of G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), a renowned scholar at Cambridge University.

At first reluctant to cross the ocean for religious reasons, Ramanujan eventually leaves his wife and mother to go to England and work with G.H. Hardy and John Littlefield (Toby Jones).  However, the assimilation to life in England was a difficult one for the young Indian man.  The customs and climate were difficult to adjust to, and Ramanujan found it hard to even find food to eat that allowed him to follow his religious beliefs because of the rationing going on during World War I.  Then of course there was the racial discrimination to be endured as an Indian in early 20th century England, as well as strong skepticism that was entrenched in the Cambridge scholastic community that doubted the legitimacy of the mathematical theories produced at an alarming rate by Ramanujan.  Acting as a mentor and eventually a friend, G.H. Hardy endeavored to rein in the young genius, and labored mightily to convince Ramanujan to work on the detailed proofs that would give legitimacy to his revolutionary mathematical theories.

This film is a small gem that is getting lost in the cluster of action films cramming the theaters in blockbuster season.  I urge you, the discriminating film goer, to make time to see this fascinating true story about one of the greatest mathematical geniuses the world has ever known.  Most people will not understand the mathematical jargon that is tossed out and batted about, but it doesn’t matter.  You will understand the urgency of the people who are struggling to accomplish great things.   Kudos for Jeremy Irons; could be a Best Supporting Actor nomination for him this year.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Ramanujan – “I’m doomed, like Galileo.  The English think I’m a raving lunatic.”

Indian Accountant – “Why aren’t you using the abacus?”  Ramanujan – “I can do it faster in my head.”

Littlefield to Ramanujan – “See that sapling?  The very tree Newton sat under when the apple hit him in the head.”

Hardy – “Why do you think they want us to fail?”  Ramanujan – “Because I’m Indian.”  Hardy – “Well, there’s that.”

Littlefield to Hardy – “He may belong to a world beyond us, but he’s not God!”

Hardy to Ramanujan – “Major MacMahon says Partitions can’t be done, especially by the likes of you.”

Hardy to Doctor – “I’d be praying, too, if you were my doctor.  And I’m a bloody atheist!”

Hardy – “An equation for him had no meaning unless it expressed the thought of God.”

Actress To Watch Out For:  Newcomer Devika Bhise is not only uncommonly attractive, but has talent as well.  Look for her in starring roles soon.

Get Your Geek On:  For those who speak mathematics, you will understand and appreciate the genius of Srinivasa Ramanujan.  How he came up with his theoretical equations is unknown, but others have followed and proven almost all of his theoretical work was correct.  His work with G.H. Hardy at Cambridge on the Partition of Numbers was groundbreaking, as well as their new method for finding asymptotic formulae which was labeled the Circle Method.  Many years after his death, Ramanujan’s theories have been used to understand the behavior of black holes by physicists.



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