Cannes Film Festival 2023: “Marguerite’s theorem”, Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Ella Rumpf in the creative madness of math

If you’re allergic to math, don’t run away. Marguerite’s theorem is much more than a long boring demonstration drowned in numbers. Erase from your memories the painful memories of Pythagoras and Thales, it could be that maths also reveals itself in an artistic and playful light.

Following the journey of a young researcher at Normal Sup, Anna Novion’s new feature film presented at Cannes film festival offers an in-depth reading that reigns in this very closed environment. From the fall to the rebirth, from the search for the intangible to the curved lines, the portrait of this student, camped by the luminous Ella Rumpf, is a beautiful discovery full of emotions.

“The mathematician in slippers”

Head lowered, diaphanous face, determined gaze, shoulders hunched, Marguerite has no time to enjoy herself. As old-fashioned as her first name, Marguerite, only has an only obsession: to present his thesis in front of the jury of experts of the ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure). Because Marguerite is brilliant, she has been working for three years, and even since her childhood, on the Goldbach conjecture. A mysterious pyramid that turns out to be one of the oldest unsolved problems of the number theory and math.

Nicknamed by his companions “The mathematician in slippers“, Marguerite is, in spite of herself, the star of the amphitheatres. The only girl in this essentially male environment, she intrigues as much as she impresses. “A donation”, as his mother (Clotilde Coureau) calls him, who is also the pride of his thesis supervisor; Jean-Pierre Daroussin, very fair in the role of mentor.

When a journalist asks her about this mad passion for mathematics, it is all embarrassed of her hands that she answers: “I couldn’t live without it”. The framework is given, but the balance is fragile and the pressure is strong. The arrival of a new student as gifted as her (Julien Frison from the Comédie Française) will destabilize her. Everything changes during his presentation. An error upsets all his certainties and the building collapses.

Math as a creative tool

Violent descent into the abyss, Marguerite will have to deal with a register that is hitherto unknown to her. Not easy for this shapely head who sees everything from an arithmetic angle but who is not good at social or romantic relationships.

The actress Ella Rumpf, discovered in Severe by Julie Ducourneau, aptly invests in a completely different register. Much softer in appearance but inside it’s an incessant bubbling that borders on madness. His thesis director may repeat to him that‘”you have to create, take a step aside to make mathematics evolve”, Marguerite attaches herself to numbers and tirelessly draws vertiginous formulas on the huge blackboards.

Ella Rumpf in "Marguerite

It is however by falling and accepting the error that she will cross paths with other universes very far from hers. First there is Noa, her roommate, the superb Sonia Bonny who lights up the image with her solar sensuality, Mahjong players in a back room in Paris’s Chinatown, nightclub parties, an encounter with a unknown with whom she is going to resolve her relationship to carnal pleasure in a cavalier way.

Just the idea of ​​making divisions, I’m in PLS


Marguerite’s theorem

Little by little, Marguerite comes into the world. Creation is underway. Her posture straightens, her gaze lights up with other issues than bringing order to infinity. The birth of this fragile little being is underlined by Anna Novion’s staging. Initially very geometric, the frame lights up as Marguerite develops.I realized that there was a real parallel to be drawn between mathematics and artistic creation. What connects mathematics and achievement is the risk and the passion that sometimes make us willing to work for years without knowing if our work will find a way out. It’s a very personal film that evokes my relationship to creation”, confides the filmmaker

We are surprised to be moved by a mathematical formula, a successful bet that almost makes you want to go back to school.

Genre: fiction

Directed by: Anna Novion

Country: France, Switzerland

Duration: 1h52

Release: soon

Synopsis : The future of Marguerite, a brilliant student in Mathematics at the ENS, seems all mapped out. The only girl in her class, she is finishing a thesis that she has to present to an audience of researchers. On D-Day, an error upsets all his certainties and the building collapses. Marguerite decides to leave everything to start all over again.

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