a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|In this wonderful short film, a mathematician desperately trying to correct a hole in a proof falls in love with a baker. He uncharacteristically begins taking baking lessons from her but returns to his work heartbroken. Then, an unexpected visit from the baker's co-worker inspires him to solve both his mathematical and romantic dilemmas.
Because of a great combination of writing, directing and acting talent, this film seems very "real" to me. The mathematician really looks like someone working on a math problem. The interpersonal relations are quite believable. Seriously, in comparison with several other films I have watched in recent months, this one stands out for its verisimilitude.
The story is not deep, surprising or particularly emotional, but it is cute. Normally, "cute" is not much of a compliment from me, but here I mean it in the best possible way.
The character of the mathematician displays some characteristics of the classic mathematician stereotype. He appears a bit anti-social, but I think the scenario makes it quite believable that he would be behaving in this way not because of some mental deficiency but rather because of the situation which demands his attention. (That situation, realizing there is a flaw in a proof just before having to make a presentation on it at a conference, sounds believable and really would be very stressful.) Still, comments from a co-worker suggest that the main character may not "get out" much, and so his apparent naivete around the women at the bakery may be meant to indicate that he really is inexperienced with love as well as with baking.
The mathematician's quantitative approach to bread baking is reflected by his attempt to summarize the lesson in the form of an equation (to which the instructor insists he add "love") and his inquiries about exactly what temperature the water should be and the necessary ratio of yeast to water. When learning how to bake quiche, he takes special note of the number of flutes in the edge of the crust and remarks that the broccoli displays a "Fibonacci spiral".
We see a little bit of his research, though not enough for me to have any idea of what it is he is trying to do. On the board he has written a formula for π(z), a degree 16 polynomial in the variable z. He looks at it unhappily and tells another mathematician "It's isomorphic and automorphic to the...well, it's supposed to be..." (This sounds quite like a mathematician talking, except for the fact that we do not talk about anything being "automorphic to" something!) The colleague suggests he try to prove it, whatever it is, using a compass.
FYI: This movie appears to be available for free online at Vimeo.com!
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|(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.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)