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Domaine [Domain] (2009)
Patric Chiha (screenplay and director)

This subtle, slow and depressing French film concerns the relationship between a homosexual teenager and his alcoholic aunt. She is a math professor whose research is connected to Gödel's Theorem, and clearly one of her nephew's favorite people because of her passion and intelligence. However, the pressures of life and work, and perhaps something about the mathematics as well, have her in an emotional downwards spiral. It is this self-destructive cycle that is really the center of attention in the film.

To me, the interesting question is why Chiha chose to make the character of Nadia a mathematician. If the goal was to provide a vehicle for Béatrice Dalle to be vaguely sexy and very moody, that could have been achieved without bringing math into it. To some extent, it is an easy way to make her character seem deeper and smarter. Perhaps also, we are supposed to believe that math makes people crazy or depressed. (There was a brief reference at the beginning of the film to Gödel's psychological problems near the end of his life.) Or, maybe the film is actually trying to say something about math itself and its connection to reality. If so, then that message is in this soliloquy delivered by suicidal Nadia from a rehab center in Switzerland:

(quoted from Domaine [Domain])

I'm counting the days, but its not mathematics.

Last night I thought how strange it is to have stopped working. Mathematics were my greatest joy. I thought they were a way to create order out of chaos. I thought chaos was an illusion, with structures hidden behind it.

There was so much left to do. Gödel's theorem to integrate, but I didn't. I'm not lazy, but I lost my concentration. Everything was in disorder. I'd get an idea and run to my desk. But the blank page erased my idea. Where did it go? It vanished without a trace. And I'm sure it was a good idea.

It's difficult to maintain a thought and express it clearly. Talk, talk, talk. You must say something consistent to be heard. I master nothing but abuse everything. Because I have a frightening memory and nothing to transmit. Serving no purpose, serving no purpose. You clean your room, wash your bathtub, give old clothes to the poor, but that's not serving a purpose.

At some point you can no longer tidy, disorder is permanent. I can no longer find words to express it. Mathematics are no salvation. Useless, totally useless. Gödel is useless. Quantity and order are useless.

(Note: I got the text above from the subtitles. I'm not sure what was meant by "Gödel's theorem to integrate" or if it made more sense in French.)

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Domaine [Domain]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Belonging to Karovsky by Kathryn Schwille
  2. Morte di un matematico napoletano by Mario Martone (director)
  3. Les Particules élémentaires [Elementary Particles] by Michel Houellebecq
  4. Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
  5. Continuums by Robert Carr
  6. Agora by Alejandro Amenábar (writer and director) / Mateo Gil (writer)
  7. Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight by Lauren Gunderson
  8. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
  9. The Embalmer's Book of Recipes by Ann Lingard
  10. Beyond the Limit: The Dream of Sofya Kovalevskaya by Joan Spicci
Ratings for Domaine [Domain]:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
3/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

MotifInsanity, Academia, Female Mathematicians, Math as Cold/Dry/Useless, Gödel,
TopicLogic/Set Theory,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)