A Beautiful Mind , starring Russell Crowe as real-life mathematician, Nobel Laureate and schizophrenic John Nash, is a realistic adaptation of schizophrenic behavior. For the purposes of clarity, “Nash” will refer to real-life schizophrenic behavior. “Crowe” will illustrate the film’s adaptation of Nash’s schizophrenic behavior.
Discrepancies arose while researching John Nash’s life story and schizophrenia while comparing to the film. In the film, Crowe begins to suffer from visual and auditory hallucinations. In real life, Nash did not present with visual hallucinations, only auditory. This is consistent with most documented findings of schizophrenia.
When asked to complete and report on top-secret observations of Russian activities, Crowe is found and chased among gunfire. Crowe becomes paranoid and delusional. Accurate to real life schizophrenia, delusions are unrealistic obsessions often coupled with paranoia. Best friend and college roommate, Charlie, and Charlie’s niece, Marcee, are figments too. Both Nash and Crowe grow tired of their hallucinations and choose to ignore them because they are not real. Hallucinations are sometimes friendly, sometimes evil. Crowe’s son almost drowned in the bathtub because he thought “Charles was watching him”.
The film is a good educational tool to obtain a rudimentary knowledge of schizophrenia. As a feature film released in theatres, A Beautiful Mind broadened exposure and understanding of schizophrenia to people who may not be aware of the nature of this disorder.
Schizophrenia is a misnomer for the characteristics presented in multiple personality disorder. This generalization by people ignorant to psychology and medicine is common. The film accurately explains paranoid schizophrenia to people who may have before confused the term “schizo” with split-personality. The prefix “schizo”, as I understand it, derives from latin and means “split”. This knowledge could sway someone unknowingly to think of schizophrenia as a multiple or split personality disorder, which it is not.
Schizophrenics should be consistently medicated for the duration of their illness. Crowe ceases his medication due to undesired side effects. Upon his re-entry to teaching, he admits to have started “new medication”. Consequently, Nash did not regularly take medication for his illness after 1970. This practice is not recommended for schizophrenics for fear of relapse within a year or two. Ron Howard, director of the film, admitted that Crowe’s line about new medications was added to the script in order to disclaim any message that schizophrenics would be able to function normally without their antipsychotic medication. Smart move, I think.