Peer Review ::
The Proof is in the setting
When Proof director John Madden opened a post-screening Q & A with a question of his own—”How many of you were involved in the making of the film?”—a number of hands in the downtown Chicago cinema went up. They had to look fast to see those hands, or the faces they belong to, in the film, based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning play by David Auburn, AB’91, but they were treated to views of the quads, Gothic classrooms, the Midway, and the surrounding Hyde Park neighborhood well worth the wait—the campus filming took place almost two years before Proof’s mid-September release.
For the director, the film and play are “essentially about family—which all the great American plays are.” Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow, above, with Jake Gyllenhaal, on a porch at 48th Street and Kimbark Avenue) is afraid that she may have inherited her late U of C mathematician father’s (Anthony Hopkins) madness as well as his genius. It is also a mystery story with a set of interwoven questions: Who has written the proof that has been locked in the professor’s desk? Is Catherine a reliable witness of her own life?
Madden, who previously directed Paltrow in the play’s London production—”where we did it virtually without a set,” using only a deck to represent a Hyde Park porch—knew that the film version would expand the physical settings but wanted to keep to the timetable of the play, in which everything is framed within one September week. By keeping the film “in this little envelope of time that Catherine’s stuck in,” Madden said, he tried to bring viewers “into the narrative in her head.”
Through it all, the play’s signature wit remains intact, although it’s doubtful if audiences beyond the 60637 and 60615 ZIP codes will laugh quite so heartily at one professorial one-liner: “You’d actually want to live in Evanston?”