JOHN: Well, Martin Hansen. It is Martin, isn't it?
HANSEN: Why, yes, John, it is.
JOHN: I imagine you're getting quite used to miscalculation. I've read your pre-prints, both of them, one on Nazi ciphers, and the other one on non-linear equations, and I am supremely confident that there is not a single seminal or innovative idea in either one of them. Enjoy your punch.
John does not hold back with his assessments, and he tells his big competition in his grad program, Hansen, exactly what he thinks of his work. Ouch.
HANSEN: Gentlemen, meet John Nash, the mysterious West Virginia genius. The other winner of the distinguished Carnegie Scholarship.
Yup, that's right, our main character is a super genius. Sure, he's pretty awkward, and doesn't seem to know how to interact with other people without insulting them half the time, but he's a genius at academic stuff.
CHARLES: Seriously, John, mathematics…mathematics is never going to lead you to a higher truth. And you know why? Because it's boring. It's really boring.
JOHN: You know half these schoolboys are already published? I cannot waste time with these classes and these books, memorizing the weaker assumptions of lesser mortals! I need to look through to the governing dynamics, find a truly original idea. That's the only way I'll ever distinguish myself. It's the only way that I'll ever…
John is pretty committed to his studies, but that doesn't mean he's interested in going to class. In fact, he thinks of coursework as a distraction from looking for the one big idea that will set the mathematical world on fire. His professors are less than impressed. Well, until he ends up coming up with that big idea, and then all is forgiven. But that takes a little while.
SOL: Hey, Nash, I thought you'd dropped out. You ever going to go to class or…
JOHN: Classes will dull your mind. Destroy the potential for authentic creativity.
SOL: Oh, I didn't know that.
HANSEN: Nash is going to stun us all with his genius. Which is another way of saying he doesn't have the nerve to compete.
John's fellow students are also less than impressed by John's class-cutting ways. As you can see, John so doesn't care.
HANSEN: And I've got two weapons briefs under security review by the Department of Defense.
JOHN: Derivative drivel.
HANSEN: But Nash achievements: zero.
JOHN: I'm a patient man, Martin. Is there an actual question coming?
HANSEN: What if you never come up with your original idea? Huh? How will it feel when I'm chosen for Wheeler and you're not?
John's big rival in his graduate program, Hansen, kind of taunts John for his arrogance in thinking his search for a big idea is more important than what Hansen and others have doing while at Princeton. And of course, just to twist the knife, he tries to get John to consider the consequences of never finding that big idea.
PROFESSOR HELINGER: You do realize this flies in the face of a hundred and fifty years of economic theory?
JOHN: Yes, I do, sir.
PROFESSOR HELINGER: That's rather presumptuous, don't you think?
JOHN: It is, sir.
PROFESSOR HELINGER: Well, Mr. Nash, with a breakthrough of this magnitude, I'm confident you will get any placement you like.
Lucky for John, he does eventually have that big light bulb moment, and he indeed lights the world on fire with it. As a result, he gets his choice of lab placements, and his career seems pretty much set on an ideal path. That is, until he realizes he's sick.
JOHN: It's a problem. That's all it is. It's a problem with no solution. And that's what I do, I solve problems. That's what I do best.
DR. ROSEN: This isn't math. You can't come up with a formula to change the way you experience the world.
JOHN: All I have to do is apply my mind.
DR. ROSEN: There's no theorem, no proof. You can't reason your way out of this.
John is so confident in his own brains that he believes he can solve the problem of his own mental illness without doctors or drugs—you know, just using reason. He's solved all his academic problems this way, so why not his personal ones? Dr. Rosen does not see things the same way, as you might imagine, since John's mind is kind of the whole issue here.
TOBY KELLY: Did you just solve Riemann?
JOHN: Well, what do you think?
With Alicia's help, John manages to get better and gets back to work. Here, a student has noticed him in the Princeton library working on (and apparently coming close to solving) a super difficult problem.
JOHN: My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional, and back. And I have made the most important discovery of my career. The most important discovery of my life. It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logical reasons can be found. I'm only here tonight because of you. You are the reason I am. You are all my reasons.
We have to pause here and just marvel at how much John has grown here. Remember that guy who cared only about ideas and not a bit about how he was making others feel? Well, that dude is apparently gone—gone and replaced by a guy who basically says that without love, everything else would be a big flaming trash heap.
Okay, he doesn't say exactly that, but you get the point: he's giving love some big time credit for helping him find meaning in life, and that's a big change from how he starts out.