MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Bank (2001)
Robert Connolly
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A brilliant young mathematician (aren't they all!) uses chaos theory to develop a mathematical model that predicts the stock market in this Australian thriller (co-produced by Axiom Films) .

I love the opening scene in which the we see the hero as a young boy. A bank representative visits his class at school and tries to explain the importance of retirement investments to a buch of 10 year old kids. The idea of interest is explained (explicitly, including the general exponential formula). The young actor does a great job of looking as if a light has gone on in his head...he gets it!

I love the credits and other computer graphics sprinkled throughout the film. Fractals, graphs of functions and formulas fly by in a very attractive way. Whoever they got to do those did a great job too.

In most other ways, I'm afraid, the film struck me as relatively mediocre. The professional critics seem to have given it good write ups, but it just wasn't to my taste. Of course, it was nice that the hero was a mathematician and gets to babble about things like fractals, but I'm one of the few people in the world who would consider that to be an especially wonderful thing in itself. Most other people will look for acting, direction and (mostly) an interesting plot. The acting and direction were both okay, but not at all inspired. The movie attempts to surprise with "plot twists", but these twists had very low curvature. (That's my mathematical way of saying "I could see them coming a mile off".) The plot, in fact, seemed to develop very slowly. Moreover, the movie was about good and evil, the little guy beating the big industry, etc. These ideas can be developed into a good movie, but for me at least, some sophistication is required. Here it was a bit too simplistic: the bank is evil (their greedy loan practices are equated with the death of a little child and a poor farm owner) and the "little people" are good but oppressed. There are some subtle and interesting points to be addressed here, but the movie doesn't even try.

The idea that chaos theory will allow us to predict the stock market shows up commonly in mathematical fiction, it seems. Allow me to point out a problem with this idea. Chaotic systems are sensitively dependent upon initial conditions. So, you need to know everything about the state it is in now in order to be able to say what will happen next. Since there are always lots of things we don't know about the people who are affecting the stock market (traders, investors, etc.) if it really were found to be a chaotic dynamical system in the mathematical sense, there would be no practical way it could be predicted effectively. (Sorry!)

Check out the film's official homepage to see some previews with funky moving fractal images.

More information about this work can be found at us.imdb.com.
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to The Bank
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Last Enemy by Peter Berry (Screenplay) / Iain B. MacDonald (Director)
  2. Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne
  3. Risqueman by Mike Wood
  4. Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich
  5. The Cambist and Lord Iron by Daniel Abraham
  6. The Finan-seer by Edward L. Locke
  7. A Fable for Moderns by Lord Dunsany
  8. All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen
  9. Improbable by Adam Fawer
  10. The Chimera Prophesies by Elliott Ostler
Ratings for The Bank:
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 (2 votes)
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Literary Quality:
2.33/5 (3 votes)
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Categories:
GenreAdventure/Espionage,
MotifCool/Heroic Mathematicians, Future Prediction through Math, Romance,
TopicChaos/Fractals, Mathematical Finance,
MediumFilms,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)