The Man Who Knew Infinity is the inspiring true story of Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), a south indian mathematician who travels to Trinity College, Cambridge to work and make publications with G.H Hardy (Jeremy Irons). Srinivasa’s contributions to mathematics were nothing short of groundbreaking. He was the first to develop the hypergeometric series, solve a quadratic equation using his own method and create a formula for the partition of any number, which can be made to yield the required result by a series of successive approximations. At the same time he was faced with multiple hardships including poverty, discrimination and the first World War, all of which are explored in this movie.
In my opinion, this movie draws a lot of parallels to a similiar film released a few years ago; ‘The Imitation Game’. Both illustrations of a biopic feature a highly intellectual, yet unorthodox and understated male protagonist, working in Cambridge University, in a World War era, who is made to face significant barriers to obstruct his contributions to a scientific/mathematical field. The difference between ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ and ‘The Imitation Game’ is simple; one is good and the other is great.
‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ is a good film. It is inspiring because its story centers around two characters and their relationship; Ramanujan and Hardy. The film spends a lot of its time developing this relationship and exploring the lifestyles of these two individuals. The contrast in opinions between these two characters made the film good for me. For example, Ramanujan was a strong believer in god. He believed that god spoke to him regularly and gave him the knowledge he needed to make mathematical breakthroughs. In contrast, Hardy was an atheist and believed that mathematics without proofs was not mathematics. This dynamic was very interesting to watch and gave the film a kick of drama that it desperately needed.
‘Desperately needed’. These are the keywords that only make this movie just good, not great. This is due to a number of reasons. For one, apart from Hardy and Ramanujan, none of the other characters were memorable. They were used as pawn pieces to move the story along. In addition, this movie is basically an extended tour of Cambridge. Almost a fifth of this film is literally just shots around Cambridge, from the libraries to the dining halls. This was really unnecessary because it did not fit well with the rest of the movie, which is centered around the working relationship between Ramanujan and Hardy. All those shots showing off the 500 year old buildings in Cambridge made me feel like I was taking a university tour, not watching a movie.
Another flaw of this movie is to do with the mathematical accomplishments of Ramanujan. The mathematics presented, as groundbreaking as it may have been, was too abstract to fully appreciate. The characters frequently use dumbed down analogies to explain the significance of the maths, but I didn’t these to be effective. In contrast, ‘The Imitation Game’ did this much more effectively by using the backdrop of the World War.
Overall, ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ is a mediocre biopic. Though it does a good job in showing and building the relationship between Ramanujan and Hardy, nothing about this movie really compelled me. It was shot in a way to glorify Cambridge, the majority of the characters were forgettable, and the mathematics presented was too superficial to fully appreciate.