retrospect, it is rather ironic some of Indian mathematician Srinivasa
Ramanujan best known work involved the area of number theory known as partitions.
Of course, during his lifetime, the subcontinent remained whole and largely
under British governance. That is why Ramanujan’s supporters eagerly encouraged
his study at Cambridge, hoping his prestige would inspire Indians and generate
greater national respect from the British. Ramanujan’s Cambridge years and his
relationship with mentor G.H. Hardy are chronicled in Matt Brown’s The Man Who Knew Infinity (trailer here), which screens during the
2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
was of Brahmin caste, but he still came from mean circumstances. Despite his mind
for figures, the self-taught prodigy remained unemployed, forcing him to live
apart from his young arranged bride. While scuffling, Ramanujan filled several
notebooks with radical, game-changing equations. However, Ramanujan was not so
keen on the plug-and-chug work of proofs. They seemed so unnecessary to him,
because it was all so obvious. This inevitably leads to friction with his
you not appreciate a film in which Ramanujan, Hardy, J.E. Littlewood, and Bertrand
Russell are allotted considerable screen time? Brown’s adaptation of Robert
Kanigel’s surprise hit biography manages to shoehorn a good deal of real
Ramanujanalia, including the “cab number” business. Unfortunately, Brown’s
narrative arc touches every predictable base, most definitely including the
resistance Ramanujan faces from Hardy’s ridiculously racist colleagues. They
might have felt that way, but it is hard to imagine Cambridge mathematicians
expressing themselves in such crude terms, even in the 1910’s.
you would expect from the star of The
Last Airbender, Dev Patel is solid enough as the sniffling, consumptive
Ramanujan. Not so surprisingly, Jeremy Irons essentially commandeers the film
as Hardy. He is one of the best in the business and the prickly but
sentimental-on-the-inside Hardy is totally in his wheel house. Toby Jones has
some nice scenes humanizing the film as Littlewood (who is the only Cambridge
faculty member we see serving during WWI). Devika Bhise is also rather touching
as Ramanujan’s long-suffering wife Srimathi Janaki, but Sir Francis Spring is exactly
the sort of silly upper-class buffoon cameos that are turning Stephen Fry into
a caricature of himself.
Infinity is a sturdy, respectable film, but it never
takes chances or ventures outside viewers’ biopic comfort zones. Even if you
know nothing about Ramanujan or Hardy, you will predict every step of the film.
Still, it should be happily conceded Irons rocks Hardy, especially in the third
act. Recommended on balance, The Man Who
Knew Infinity screens again tonight (4/17), as part of this year’s Tribeca.
Labels: Jeremy Irons, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Tribeca '16