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Rites of Love and Math (2010)
Edward Frenkel / Reine Graves
Highly Rated!

UC-Berkeley mathematical physicist Edward Frenkel wrote and stars in this short film about a mathematician who is determined to kill himself after he discovers the formula for love.

The film is inspired by Yukio Mishima's The Rite of Love and Death and has been well received at international film festivals, but I fear it is destined to be interpreted differently than Frenkel intended.

Frenkel has been quoted as saying, "Our film is about truth. The formula is representative of the truth about the world, which is what I think about mathematics...I think there's a stereotype in the culture. Films like A Beautiful Mind and Pi show mathematicians as social misfits, people on the fringe of mental illness or mentally ill. When I look around my colleagues, I don't see that."

I could not agree more with his concerns about stereotypes of mathematicians in popular culture, but I do not think a story about a suicidal mathematician who carves a formula into his lover's body (as he apparently does in this film to preserve his discovery) is likely to correct anyone's misimpression about mathematicians being mentally ill!

And, I'm not the only one who is failing to appreciate what Frenkel intended as a poetic metaphor about the beauty of mathematics. Prior to its Berkeley opening, the film was the subject of complaints that its portrayal of a male mathematician arguably abusing his passive female lover was sexist and offensive. This prompted the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute to withdraw their sponsorship, despite Frenkel's defense that the mathematician character represents all mathematicians (male and female) and the actress in the film represents not a person but the concept of truth itself (which, in fact, is the translation of her Japanese name).

I should admit that I have not yet seen the movie, and so am basing this entire description only on various written sources I have encountered. If you have seen the film, please correct any errors in my description, vote on its literary quality and mathematical content, and write to me with a better description. (Thanks!)

Rites of Love and Math - the Official Trailer from Edward Frenkel on Vimeo.

More information about this work can be found at
(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 Rites of Love and Math
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. What Are the Odds? by Justin Spitzer (writer) / Matthew Tritt (director)
  2. The Housekeeper and the Professor (Hakase No Aishita Sushiki) by Yoko Ogawa
  3. Alphabet by Chelsea Spear
  4. Morte di un matematico napoletano by Mario Martone (director)
  5. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  6. The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks
  7. Elegantly, In the Least Number of Steps by Monica McFawn
  8. Buried Alive at the End of the World by Blair Bourrassa
  9. Stay Close, Little Ghost by Oliver Serang
  10. The Capacity for Infinite Happiness by Alexis von Konigslow
Ratings for Rites of Love and Math:
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:
4/5 (6 votes)
Literary Quality:
5/5 (6 votes)

TopicFictional Mathematics,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)