by KE Monahan Huntley

Uncovering the Dramatica storyform in any story can be quite an undertaking--at times headache inducing. Fathoming order (mc solution) in the chaos (mc problem) of nature, human and otherwise, is an endeavor far more intense. In pi, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, it leads to the main character taking a power drill to his brain.

A short film (approximately 85 minutes), it is arguably a story concentrated in one quad-Physics. To paraphrase a recent Chris Huntley communiqué regarding short stories, the rest of the argument, although not apparent, is implied-much as an aspect of a hologram holds the "meaning" of the entire hologram without its detailed resolution (RE: Dramatica: Grand Argument Short Stories, Dramatica e-mail, Dec. 30 1998).

"9:13-Personal Note-When I was a little kid, my mother told me not to stare into the sun. So once when I was six I did (mc approach-doe-er). The doctors didn't know if my eyes would ever heal. I was terrified, alone in that darkness. Slowly, daylight crept in through the bandages, and I could see. But something else had changed inside me. That day I had my first headache."

Main character Maximillian Cohen is a mathematical genius given to hallucinations, excruciating brain pain, and revolutionary number theory. A loner, he has converted his apartment into a virtual computer (named Euclid) of which he lives inside.

"12:45-Restate my assumptions (mental sex-male): 1) Mathematics is the language of nature. 2) Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers. 3) If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge, therefore, there are patterns everywhere in nature."

With the exception of Max's influence character, mentor (ic concern-learning) Sol Robeson, the outside objective world wants Max's brain (os concern-obtaining) for either financial (stock market predictions) or spiritual (decoding the Torah) gain. Tension mounts as Max is caught up in the objective story thematic conflict of morality vs. self-interest, and his own thematic conflict of interpretation vs. senses. Observing Max slowly going out of his mind as he attempts to understand (mc concern) the patterns in pi, Sol compares his student's efforts to the futility of finding meaning in the ancient Japanese game of go (relationship story concern-doing):

"The go board actually represents an extremely complex and chaotic universe. And that is the truth of our world, Max. It cannot easily be summed up with math-there is no simple pattern. . . . When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find the thing everywhere . . . in nature. . . . You need to stop (mc growth)."

Max spirals mentally downward, failing (outcome) all around him. He performs his own brain surgery, effectively removing his brilliance (mc resolve-change). Leaning back on a park bench--contemplating the beauty and wonder of Mother Nature for its own sake-Max feels just fine (judgment-good).

There very well may be a viable storyform on a grand argument scale in pi, and this intriguing and well executed film, winner of the 1999 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay, deserves more analysis than I have given it to date. I could spend more time on it--or I could take a power drill to my own head.

About the Author

KE Monahan Huntley is an editor and publisher based in Southern California. As one of the original contributors to Dramatica, she helped edit and analyze many of the examples. In addition, her numerous articles provided an insightful "conversational" approach to the theory. Today she can be found at Write Between the Lines or follow her on Twitter @kemhuntley.

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