He also has hallucinations about being followed by a federal agent, in keeping with his academic world where the government seeks on the one hand to employ mathematicians and scientists and on the other hand mistrusts them. Many of the encounters he has in his mind with this agent and others have the aura of a detective movie, showing that Nash is replaying films he has seen and that these serve as the inspiration for his visions. In a way, that serves as another pattern in his mind, linking what he saw in the theater with what he believes is happening to him. Nothing comes out of whole cloth but always comes from experience and is then reformed in a form it did not have in reality.
In this way, the film shows the viewer the kind of world experienced by the schizophrenic and why this world is disorienting and even frightening. If the individual gains awareness of what is happening to him or her, that fact also adds to the fear because of the realization that the individual's mind is what is doing this to him or her, very much the say a cancer sufferer may deplore the fact that his or her body seems to have turned on them when they need it most. It is interesting that when Nash receives the Nobel Prize, he makes a comment about his madness, as if it might have been a key element in his mathematical ability as well and as if without it he might not have achieved as much as he did. There is no way to answer this question and no way to know if the madness helped him or held him back from something even greater. His statement alone might be seen as an attempt to find another pattern and impose it on his life to make sense of what happened to him, when in fact there may be no sense to it at all.
Indeed, the film itself crest a pattern to make sense of what happened to Nash, a pattern that a.O. Scott in the New York/Times notes is largely specious. The filmmakers have made their main character a much nicer person than the real Nash ever war and have simplified not only his life but the political and social dimensions of the time. This effort makes the sotry seem more direct and simple than it was in life, eliminating Nash's liaison with a woman before his wife and the son he left behind, avoiding the truth about his troubled sexuality and the disgrace it caused when he was fired from the RAND Corporation, and even the fact that his wife divorced him when she could not cope with the way he changed because of his illness (Scott paras. 1-8). These other elements need to be considered in order to understand the life of this man and also to understand the nature of his illness and the real changes it brought to his life. What Scott says also makes it less likely that one could see the illness as a source for Nash's mathematical accomplishments because his accomplishments, those for which he received the Nobel Prize, were all made when he was still a graduate student and so before the onset of his schizophrenia. The film gives a better image of mental illness than some films do and suggests some of the complexities as well, but the real story shows even more complexity and greater ambiguity, all of which add a good deal to any effort to understand the disease, its effect in this single case, or the life of the man who suffered from it. Schizophrenia is a more complex illness than the film shows, but what the film does suggest is that it can happen to anyone and that they remain human and in need of understanding.
Howard, Ron. A Beautiful Mind. Universal Pictures, 2001.
Scott, a.O. "From Math to Madness, and Back." The New York Times (21 Dec 2001). May 5, 2008. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0CE7D6103EF932A15751C1A9679C8B63.