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Francesco Di Leva
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"Morte di un matematico napoletano" translates to English - "Death of a Neapolitan Mathematician". This film serves as a reminder that a mental illness can strike anybody, regardless of social status or intellect. Also, if you do not have an appreciation for the field of Science or Mathematics, then this movie is definitely not for you. This movie in some way is analogous to the the recent cinema masterpiece "A beautiful mind" which is not only fulfilling but educational in the sense that it allows the normal public to appreciate that because someone is a genius, does not preclude them from being vulnerable, whether it is emotionally or socially, even if they are an elite member of society. Yes, Elite!!!!!. In general, mathematicians have not been given that same deserved homage as given to all other important academics, being a far outcry when compared to that given to high profile sports personalities. They are quiet achievers and often the most lateral thinkers of any breed of academics (without overlooking other professions with this comment), while they remain very modest. Yet every other science uses mathematics as a tool in one form or another, not forgetting computer science. Adding insult to injury, there is no Nobel prize awarded in Mathematics either, so any mathematician that has received recognition for such a prize has received it under another category such as in the field of economics or perhaps physics, in showing relevance to those areas.
This movie can be disappointing purely because it gives the audience the impression of being fictitious, which is definitely not the case. Although some of the scenes may have been improvised to add flavour to it's screen display. It is actually based upon the real life of the genius Neapolitan mathematician - Renato Caccioppoli who sadly committed suicide in 1959 (brilliantly performed by Carlo Cecchi). It is not a movie which can be taken lightly, otherwise you will easily miss the point. You really have to follow it carefully and it helps to know something about the academic works and life of this great charming genius of the 20th century to appreciate it's full effect. I notice that the movie does not strongly stress the biographical features of Renato Caccioppoli such as the influences he experienced with Ernesto Pascal and that of Mario Picone. I do not recall any mentioning of his works to at least identify the character for his important published works such as on integration (area of mathematics). There was so much in the life of this genius which was not highlighted by this movie, which could have made it of superlative quality. But in all fairness, I guess that the essence of the movie was not so much on his life but on a man suffering in silence where others in similar predicaments can relate to. This was emphasized more towards the later part of his life where he had become very isolated, depressed and turned to drinking, as he did not fit in and lacked the compassion and understanding of those around him.
This movie can in itself be a thriller in judgment as the agenda is very grey, hence very open to interpretation. I strongly believe that the brilliance of director Mario Martone purposely planned it this way, while simultaneously trying to deliver to the general public and beg the audience to see another side of a genius who was also a victim (like Vincent Van Gogh, Ernst Hemingway, Alan Turing and Ettore Majorana)while striving for their sanity. The mind of a genius can be a lonely battler where they live in a world that often tries to unintentionally empathise them the wrong way.
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