One of Integral Man’s most impressive and paradoxically least artistic shots is a staggering time lapse look at the multi-year process of building Stewart’s home. A symbiotic marriage of concrete, wood, glass, and the natural beauty of the woodlands surrounding it, Integral House certainly wasn’t easy to build and to spend time within its walls is to see a labour of love fully realized. Stewart personally interviewed his architects and made two simple demands for the house: it had to have curves and there had to be a performance space. Outside of those two demands, Stewart saw the construction of his $34 million home as a collaborative effort, and one where he was willing to take chances most clients would have shied away from. When it was completed, the home played host to many benefits put on by Stewart for various organizations. The musicians that passed through its doors loved playing there because many likened it to performing within a living instrument.
Clement spends a great deal of time getting to know Stewart throughout Integral Man through a series of interviews conducted over a formative period of time in the mathematician’s life, and while the audience will almost immediately like the decidedly not-crazy mastermind behind such an unusual property, the emphasis is placed on getting to know the home owner’s thought process. It’s not hard to see the obvious, basic links between mathematics, architecture, engineering, musical composition, and performance. Without math, none of those other things would exist, so Stewart’s house becomes a reflection of a man who constantly followed his interests until he found a way to display them all at the same time. While his textbooks have netted him millions and made him an internationally known figure, there’s a sense that Stewart is prouder of his new home than any of his past accomplishments. There’s a piece of Stewart in every aspect of his home, and it’s for this reason that Integral Manfeels like something intimate and profound rather than a guided property tour.
Integral Man isn’t only about the construction of Stewart’s abode and why it has been so intricately designed, but it’s hard to talk about the film’s later moments without potentially spoiling the film. What happens with Stewart and the property can easily be Googled if you so wish to find out, but I would argue that the story of Integral House is more appropriately told from the perspective of Stewart and his architects as shown in Clement’s film instead of in a news article. Around the film’s halfway point a personal wrinkle in Stewart’s life presents itself, and Integral Manbecomes a very different sort of documentary.