Reviews & Ratings for
"American Experience" A Brilliant Madness (2002)

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Rich and human story behind A Beautiful Mind

Author: Joanne Huber (joanne_huber)
28 June 2002

A very good documentary, well-paced, balanced and focused on a interesting subject.

The film captures Nash's individuality, and opens a window into his thinking. I wouldn't say that his experience of schizophrenia is typical, but this is not a documentary on schizophrenia, rather it is a portrait of a man whose entire experience of life has been atypical. In this, A Brilliant Madness is a very solid piece of work, in its own right.

However, it is impossible not to view it in relation to Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind. While in some ways this is a bit distracting, it means the film plays out on another level: as a lesson in media manipulation and the power of stigma. Apparently, the makers of A Beautiful Mind felt people could only overcome their feelings about mental illness if the rest of the story was clean cut Americana. (Let's face it, the original ad campaign was meant to deceive people entirely, as to the focus of the film. I know this has been defended as "bringing the audience into Nash's reality", but suspect the motivation may have originated in marketing) A Brilliant Madness reveals much (but not all) of the true complexity of Nash's story, while making all the same anti-stigma points that A Beautiful Mind was lauded for.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

a beautiful mind

8/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
19 May 2013

I love the message of this documentary, "A Beautiful Madness," which tells the story of mathematician John Nash: take into account the thoughts and imagination of those perceived as different; they often have stunning insights.

The documentary tells the factual story of John Nash, whose story was told in "A Beautiful Mind" starring Russell Crowe. That film, however, took dramatic license - some say too much, as compelling a film as it was.

It's a fascinating look at the mind of genius touched by paranoid schizophrenia which, for a time, stopped his wonderful career. Nash's story is inspiring as well because ultimately he overcomes his problems and succeeds, going on to win the Nobel Prize and resume his career.

It was most interesting to see the interview with Nash which goes through the entire documentary, and to hear both his sons, his colleagues, and his wife speak about him.

Another excellent "American Experience," one of the best.

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Correcting the record...

9/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
16 May 2012

As a retired history teacher, I am VERY hard on historical films. Often, I notice how the story in the film and the real life tale diverge--and family members who see historical films with me are often regaled with how irritated I am that the film stretches or completely ignores the truth. I am insufferable in this regard, as I consider history to be sacred--and I HATE when movies ignore the facts. Heck, when I was teaching, I would often show films like "Pocahontas"--and would use it to explain to the kids how the true story is no longer even recognizable in the film. While "A Beautiful Mind" is not as bad as this Disney film, it also took huge liberties in portraying the life of the famous mathematician, John Nash. And because of this, I was VERY happy to see "A Brilliant Madness"--a documentary that attempts to give the true story of Nash's life.

I wasn't the least bit surprised that this episode of "The American Experience" was exceptional. After all, the show is almost always exceptional--and the folks who make these shows love history and rarely make obvious mistakes in the narrative. Here, they present a MUCH more balanced view of Nash's life. While it is not exactly a 'warts and all' biography (it doesn't mention his sex life and all his odd behaviors), this isn't a bad thing as there really isn't a need to know EVERY intimate detail. But, the major facts are correct--and I am glad to see it. Well worth seeing and ample proof that you don't need to twist the facts in order to tell a compelling tale. And, the best part about this is that Nash himself gets to talk about his life!

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what A Beautiful Mind left out

9/10
Author: anakin_99 from Seattle
7 February 2003

A Brilliant Madness is an excellent documentary on the life of John Nash. It fills in the blanks and shows the true facts of Nash's life in which the details are more compelling and interesting than what was revealed in A Beautiful Mind. A Beautiful Mind was of course a great movie to show cinematically how schizophrenia can affect someone even as brilliant as Nash. A Brilliant Madness discusses things like the child he had with an earlier girlfriend and then abandoning them. Also his trips wandering Europe asking to give up his US citizenship. Most interesting was that they left out of A Beautiful Mind that his wife divorced him and then remarried decades later. If you liked A Beautiful Mind, I highly recommend seeing A Brilliant Madness. Both films compliment each other well.

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Fascinating and so different from that other movie!

8/10
Author: rogeride from Boston, Ma
3 July 2002

This video treatment of John Nash's story is compelling and fascinating, and that would be enough by itself, but what makes it so much more interesting is how different it is from the story told in A Beautiful Mind. The differences are often so marked, that the story told in this film is overshadowed by them. Now I am not sure what to believe: was there a nonexistent roommate named Paul Betanny or is he a figment of a screenwriter's dementia? In this telling, there weren't even voices until after a second institutionalization. The game of "go" in the Howard film was, in what may be actual fact, a game using "go" pieces that was referred to as "Nash" at Princeton, and one can easily guess who actually was master of that game. It's understandable that folks would want to present a tidy story with development and all the other elements that we like in a film, but the story presented in A Brilliant Madness, while not quite so flashy in the hallucination area, is much more interesting, and the human dynamics presented are more complex and finally more believable. An hour well-spent, this.

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