Max (Sean Gullette) sees everything in terms of numbers in this distressing existential horror story (1998) that's also a science fiction thriller. He spends all of his time feverishly searching for order in chaos—analyzing the stock market and scrutinizing the digits of pi for patterns. We're sucked into his spiraling self-destruction—or messianic self-sacrifice—as he passionately argues about the value of mathematical and numerological studies with his former mentor, who's given up his own research after suffering a stroke. The structure of this seductive black-and-white movie about alienation resembles the dominant motif—series of numbers—especially in montages that stress discrete shots of symbolic and abstract images even as powerfully logical associations seem to be forged. Images of an oppressive New York City occasionally dotted with natural beauty—trees, a leaf, a neighbor's face—also appear abstract with their obvious grain and radical chiaroscuro. Against this coldly compelling backdrop Max is stalked by fanatical cabalists and power-hungry financiers, whose determination to manipulate him suggests that he may be on to something. Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky.

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