The film “A Beautiful Mind” effectively portrays the life of a person living with schizophrenia and offers viewers several comments on the effects of mental illness without limiting the scope to simply this aspect. Being a genius does not preclude the possibility that someone has a mental illness such as schizophrenia, and such is the case in the character of John Nash, the mathematician and Nobel Prize winner portrayed in the movie, partially about abnormal psychology, “A Beautiful Mind.” John Nash clearly has schizophrenia and suffers from severe mental illness, as he experiences most, if not all, of the symptoms that are required to make a diagnosis of this mental illness. The symptoms the viewer of the film “A Beautiful Mind” notices include auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoid ideations, delusional thinking, and a distorted perception of reality, all of which help psychologists determine and diagnose schizophrenia.
It is worth noting that the viewer of the movie “A Beautiful Mind” observes how these symptoms of schizophrenia have an impact on various aspects of John Nash’s activities of daily living. His relationships with his family, friends, and colleagues are disrupted by the intrusiveness of the symptoms of his mental illness, especially because he is perceived as being so smart and the bizarre behaviors he exhibits are so incongruent with the perceptions that others had of him. The strange behavior provoked by his symptoms of schizophrenia seems even more difficult to understand because the onset of his mental illness occurs at a later age than is typical. Schizophrenia generally emerges in one’s late teens or twenties, but in Nash’s case, the onset occurs in his thirties. For a time, his family, friends, and colleagues attempt to ignore the symptoms of a mental health problem and insist upon Nash’s normalcy, but it becomes increasingly clear that Nash has a mental illness and needs to be evaluated for schizophrenia.
Parcher, the visual and auditory hallucination that comes to haunt and torture Nash, represents the Department of Defense agent who first engaged Nash’s services and intelligence to crack codes for the government in the film “A Beautiful Mind”. Parcher may have appealed to Nash’s sense of grandiosity by telling him that his work would be important for the country, but the culture of covertness and secrecy in the Department of Defense probably precipitated the first acute episode of schizophrenia that Nash experiences. It is not unusual for a visual or an auditory hallucination to be a distorted form of an individual or object that once had a certain significance, whether positive or negative, for the schizophrenia suffering individual.
Once he has begun his descent into the world of schizophrenia and goes deeper into mental illness, Nash has increasing difficulty relating to the people around him. Even before the onset of his mental illness, he admits that he is not a particularly personable individual, and he has always been more comfortable and satisfied with numbers and his work than with people. Nonetheless, he is able, before his illness, to forge several significant relationships, including a romantic relationship that leads to his marriage to Alicia. Over time, however, the increased frequency, intensity, and persistence of his symptoms prove to be incredibly distracting, and even dangerous, putting the people that he loves in difficult and unsafe situations. While experiencing a hallucination, Nash leaves his son, who he is bathing, in water by himself, and the child almost drowns. When he is not experiencing symptoms and when he can recognize that he has been hallucinatory, he feels terribly remorseful about such episodes. However, characteristic of schizophrenia, when he is in the throes of a hallucination or other symptom, he finds it impossible to distinguish between reality and the state into which he has entered. This state proves difficult for people, even those who love him deeply, to understand. When he is symptomatic, the power of the hallucinatory figures who haunt him, especially Parcher, encourage him to harm his loved ones, and it is as if he never knew or cared about them. This condition is especially difficult for his wife, Alicia, who is affected most by Nash’s illness and who is in the difficult position of making painful decisions about his treatment for schizophrenia.
Other essays and articles on other films can be found in the Arts Archives at Article Myriad •